Labor Day stories that make me ask, "What the @%&*?!'
On Sunday I learned from a local news broadcast that Chargers linebacker Steve Foley was shot three times by an off-duty Coronado Police officer in front of Foley's Poway home, that his injuries were not life-threatening and that, thank God, the Chargers are deep at linebacker. I actually already knew the third of those three facts. I already knew that the Chargers are deep at linebacker because football matters to me. In fact, I only really paid attention to the other two facts because they concerned a football player.
I wasn't really all that shocked to learn that Foley, a man with an extensive arrest record who, last April, was charged with resisting arrest and battery on a police officer, got shot three times by an off-duty cop who reportedly tailed him and a young woman for some 10 miles or so as they careened around state Route 163 at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour at 3:41 in the morning eight days before the start of football season. These things happen. What I was somewhat shocked by was the fact that the story of his shooting by a cop in civilian clothing who chased him in an unmarked car half-a-county outside his jurisdiction was followed quickly by a reporter pointing out that we still have hope for a decent season because the Chargers have plenty of linebackers to go around.
In fact they do. You can't swing a dead cat around the Chargers' locker room without hitting two or three Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers. Shaun Phillips will start in Foley's place and all will be right with the world. And although I still haven't made up my mind about whether our news media's woeful shallowness shapes our collective character or merely reflects it, I have decided that at least some of us, myself included, have our priorities way out of whack.
I hadn't had time to ruminate upon that conclusion when yet another bit of newsiness leapt upon me. Steve Irwin, well-known Australian conservationist, crocodile taunter, baby dangler and ambassador of funny accents, died filming his latest self-promotion off the Great Barrier Reef when a stingray jabbed a hole in him. Irwin, 44, was filming a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest." Bear with me. I know there is nothing funny about a man perishing in his early 40s leaving a wife and children behind. It's not funny, not exactly, but it's ironic to the point of mighty damn close to funny.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he was "shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's sudden, untimely and freakish death." Now, maybe this is just me, but what could be less sudden, untimely or freakish than Steve Irwin getting killed by a wild animal? I've seen Irwin stick his arm down a hole to grab a venomous snake. I have seen him pick up lizards and bugs and spiny things and chupacabras and whatever else kind of vile critter stalks the Outback with his bare hands. I have seen him bait full-grown crocodiles with his half-naked infant. Steve Irwin was a nut job. The fact that a sea creature equipped with a poisonous barb finally took him out seems to me rather un-sudden, actually fairly timely and not the least bit freakish. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it.
I know one thing for sure-I'm not getting impaled by a stingray barb because I don't go where stingrays live. I don't go in the ocean. Things live there that can kill me. So I stay in my own neighborhood. Let a stingray try to sting me in Hillcrest. Bring it on.
But while I don't have much to fear from stingrays, apparently there are other types of predators I should watch out for. You see, I learned one last bit of news before the weekend was over and it pissed me off. I learned that a friend of mine-call him "Lance"-a man I have known for many years, a man whom I respect as a neighbor, an associate and an artist, got beaten up on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest several nights ago by two men laying in wait for an opportunity to pounce upon an innocent passerby. Lance, an accomplished performing artist who pays the bills as a hairstylist, would want me to tell you he's gay. His orientation is a part of who he is. He might not want me to tell you that he is also one of the kindest men I know, but I just did.
Lance goes about 150-pounds soaking wet and holding a brick. Lance sings, dances and cuts hair. Lance is the least offensive person nature can produce, and two thugs beat him up on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. That pisses me off. That really pisses me off. That really, really, really pisses me off. I can handle living in a world where linebackers get shot three times in front of their homes. I can handle television personalities getting impaled by stingrays. But I cannot handle random attacks upon people in my neighborhood.
Now, there are news stories and there are facts. I haven't any real opinion about news stories like Steve Foley or Steve Irwin or linebackers or stingrays or anything else. Journalists have to care about the news. I'm not a journalist. I don't even own a journal. And, anyway, I don't need to care about things that happen off the Great Barrier Reef or the Great Poway Cul-de-Sac. But I do have to care about things in my own neighborhood, and it is my opinion that if you find yourself feeling an urge to inflict violence on a defenseless stranger because of what you suspect he might do in private, then you need to stay the hell out of my neighborhood, and that's not a news story-it's not really even an opinion. It's a fact.
Tony Phillips blogs at www.fifthavenuegazette.com. Write to email@example.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com.