I’m not going to mock Steve Irwin’s death, but I have to say it’s not all that sur­pris­ing. The man made a career out of chas­ing down ani­mals — some of them quite dan­ger­ous — and get­ting as close to them as he pos­si­bly could. He had a way of insist­ing he wasn’t harm­ing them, but he was putting them under stress. (As Cartman had it, it really pissed them off.)

Apparently he was doing some pro­mos for another upcom­ing kids’ pro­gram dur­ing down­time at the Great Barrier Reef when he swam too close to a sub­merged stingray. It seems there was video­tape cap­tured of Irwin pulling the barb out of his chest, which is more than a lit­tle creepy.

I have to admit to enjoy­ing his var­i­ous pro­grams over the years, but it’s always been a sort of queasy enjoy­ment, a bit of a guilty plea­sure. While I like the way he (pre­sum­ably) raised aware­ness of nature’s diver­sity and respect for the var­i­ous crea­tures in the world, I’ve always thought his method­ol­ogy was a bit … extreme.

The weird part about it was that a stingray is what did him in. Not an exotic, poi­so­nous snake, arach­nid, jel­ly­fish or such, but a rel­a­tively shy, not par­tic­u­larly aggres­sive crea­ture. Evidently the barb per­fo­rated his heart.

It’s akin to an explo­sives expert, some­one who’s worked all his life with nitro­glyc­er­ine, TNT and plas­tique, being run over by the crosstown bus.

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