Monday, September 04, 2006

RIP Steve Irwin
The League will really, really miss you, Crocodile Hunter

Monday morning, Australia time and late Sunday evening AZ time, I started seeing reports that Steve Irwin, better known as The Crocodile Hunter, had died.

You can read more here.

I guess it should come as no huge surprise to anyone familiar with Irwin's television program that he died in the field while taping a new program.

I remember first hearing about Irwin from college-pal Manzo, who tried desperately (despite having indulged in one too many cans of "Sportz") to explain that there was this new guy on cable who tackled live reptiles. A few months later I remember spending hours and hours on Jan. 1, 2000 watching a Crocodile Hunter marathon as I tried to get over Dec. 31, 1999. I was already hooked on the how.

Early on I lost track of how many hours of television I watched of Steve leaping into the water after man-eating crocodiles, wrestling them and then moving them either to safer environs or to the Australia Zoo.

Irwin wasn't just a thrill-seeking adventurer. His program was educational, and he was always most interested in ensuring his audience understood the complexities of the animal kingdom and the wonders of nature. His boyish awe in the face of everything from a walking stick to a brown bear was contagious, and I found myself tuning in week after week for years.

As much as I'd been a "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" fan as a kid, Steve was the logical extension of the school-book lectures, explaining the wilds to his viewership as he handled animals himself.

If you watched long enough, you knew Steve was the enthusiasm, but long-suffering wife, Terri, was the patience that balanced out the act. Terri became more and more integral to the show, narrating and stepping in from time to time (usually to handle cuddlier animals or remind Steve NOT to handle the deadly cobra, etc...). And, just when I moved to AZ, Steve's tiny daughter began making appearances in episodes taped at the zoo. And, of course, Jamie and I went to see "Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course".

The world didn't just lose a great TV personality when it lost Steve Irwin on Monday. We lost a terrific conservationist and a spokesman for a greater balance of man and the rest of the beings with whom he shares his planet.

So long, Steve. I'm going to miss you. Hopefully you can work out a deal with The Man Upstairs to corral animals up there.

From CNN: He is survived by his American-born wife Terri and their two children, Bindi Sue, born 1998, and Robert (Bob), born December 2003.

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