This Labor Day was marred by the sad news that Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter we all loved so much, had died. Most assumed he was mauled by those crocs he learned to tame, but the truth was even weirder. He was stung by a stingray in what amounts to a freak accident.
Irwin was beloved by kids and adults all over world, not just in his native Australia, which is paying tribute to him in countless ways this week. Swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, Irwin swam over a ray that then stuck its barb into his chest and heart. Irwin pulled the jagged barb out and died.
Irwin helped bring attention to Discovery’s Animal Planet, the show he was filming on Monday when he died. He was known for getting perhaps a bit too up close and personal with animals, showing a brave side that made for exciting TV.
Irwin showed us that it is possible to step into dangerous situations as long as you know when to pull back; his dying from a stingray had nothing to do with his taking risks. Many experienced divers swim around stingrays without incident. Whether Irwin was dangerously close, though, is a matter that will be uncovered soon enough.
Irwin, like the Grizzly Man Timothy Treadwell, was one of the few of us who died doing what he loved. He got a rush out of living close to the edge. He leaves behind a family, though, and moments like this make us all stop and think whether anything is worth it if it really does risk life and limb.
Irwin made headlines a while back for holding his infant son in one hand and feeding a croc with the other. Always with the “do not do this at home” warning. Because of that, Irwin’s behavior was under scrutiny. This could mean that a lot of smug people will step forward and say, “See, I told you so. It was only a matter of time.”
People die in varying degrees of horribleness every minute of every day. Irwin had a better chance of dying in a car crash or being shocked by a blow dryer than he had at being stung by a stingray. Hopefully the “I told you so’s” will evaporate and leave behind the essence of Irwin – a man who wanted to be friends with nature. If he couldn’t be friends, he wanted to co-exist.
As he once said in an interview, “I think I’ve actually got animals so genetically inside me, that there’s no way I could actually be anything else. I think my path would have always gone back to, or delivered me to, wildlife. I think wildlife is just like a magnet and something that I can’t help.”
The big question is whether or not Irwin’s wife will let the footage of his death be released for public viewing. Since it was all caught on tape and is supposed to be riveting and graphic, many news programs will be begging to get permission to use the footage. It would be the “get” of the year. But, really, the man’s given us enough entertainment. Let him rest in peace.