Monday, September 04, 2006

The death of a salesman

I woke up this morning and flipped on the news like I always do and much to my dismay, learned of something very sad. Steve Irwin, a.k.a the Crocodile Hunter, has died.

Now normally I wouldn't even bother posting about this and I'd leave it up to the news but I think there's something that ought to be said. And convieniently for me, this is my blog and I can do just that right here, so here goes.

In 1985 the Discovery Channel was born. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel in a time when watching the Discovery Channel got you called a nerd or geek. As it aged, new series were developed (like Animal Planet) and the Channel grew stronger and even more interesting to me and attracted the even the "cool" kids who started watching it not so much for the educational value but for the entertainment and thrill seeking value.

How did a network that was once labeled as "nerd fodder" spin itself around to captivate audiences that were too cool for school? Simple. Hire a salesman.

Steve Irwin had the unique charisma, experience and craziness that allowed him to jump in to peoples' living rooms and keep their eyes glued to the TV wondering what he was going to do next. People began watching for the entertainment. The shock factor. They forgot they were watching EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION.

Both Steve and the Discovery Channel knew that this was the way to connect to the youth of today who expected nothing less than watching extreme sports and had little time for traditional documentaries. And in my opinion, if that's what it takes to educate our youth - this concealed and covert learning, then that's what must be done. And Steve did just that, perhaps better than anyone. He may have done some questionable things at times, but I ask you who hasn't? You just don't have a camera pointed at you 24/7 to capture them.

The buzz on the Internet is that Aussies found Steve to be a little embarrassing. Some Americans found him to be too in-your-face and viewed him as a fad that would surely fade over time. In any case, Steve Irwin would rampage his way to becoming a cultural icon for what he did. And it's what he did to our society that I wanted to point out.

He sold education; packaged and marketed for today's culture. He taught us that learning can be fun and extreme at the same time, so long as you don't try this at home. And for that, we will miss him.

At just 44 years young, Steve is survived by his American-born wife Terri and their two children who will no doubt carry on his life's work of helping animals and promoting wildlife education and preservation.

Thank you Steve. Thank you for covertly educating tomorrow's leaders- whether they knew it or not.

Rest in peace Croc Hunter.

A tribute to Steve.

Steve in action.

And one of my personal favorite commercials.