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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Bad' Guys Die Too

I'll always look to last summer and the passing of Michael Jackson as a perfect example of the phenomena known as "convenient amnesia". At the time of his death, MJ was at the ultimate depth of his fall from grace. He was a drug addict. He was an accused pedophile. He was selling his home. He was forced to go back on the road for one "last" tour, not because he loved to perform, but he was financially obligated to.

He was the butt of jokes. two of my personal favorites were the Katt Williams, "Excuse me Mr. Jackson" (check it our here), and South Park's "Mr. Jefferson" episode (here).

Yet, when he died, it was hard to find anyone willing to bring any of the character flaws up. Not publicly. Instead, it was all nostalgia. Playing MJ records at family reunions. Funeral on network television. The bootleg man had his greatest hits on sale.

Collectively, we decided to forget everything we knew that made him a pariah in the first place.

Fast forward to July, 13 2010. George Steinbrenner passes, and it the sports world does the same thing. The NY Yankee owner, notorious for mistreating employees like trash, breaking rules, invading privacy, and being banned from Major League Baseball TWICE, was treated w/ nothing but reverence and high regard by everyone in the media. Even some of those whom he treated terribly. I'm staring at you, Dave Winfield.

Yesterday, Oakland Raider great Jack Tatum died from a heart attack at 61 years of age. Tatum was the epitome of the bad-ass Raider image. Intimidating player on the field, unapologetic killjoy off of it. He's most famous, or infamous, for his hit on New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley that left him paralyzed.

Then again, it wasn't so much the hit itself, but the fact that he refused to even give the slightest hint of remorse in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades after it happened. The man he left paralyzed died a few years back without any acknowledgment from Tatum. Tatum was damned proud of that fact too.

What does it all mean? I don't know. I'm no Buddhist, but I can see some karma in the way that Jackson, Steinbrenner, and Tatum lived their lives after there "bad"character was revealed. We know of MJ's problems. Steinbrenner suffered physically and mentally in his latter years, so much so that when the Yankees won the World Series last year, he couldn't "appreciate" it. Tatum lost toes on his foot, and suffered from diabetes until his heart attack took his life at a young 61.

Still, does it matter? We'll remember each of these guys the way we want too. I'm like most, I don't like speaking ill of the dead. But I'm not going to celebrate certified assholes just because they did the one thing all of us are guaranteed to do with our lives.

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