Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin: 1962-2006

The list of my life heroes is strange and varied, and oddly doesn't contain anyone in my chosen field of theatre. Rich Mullins, who lived God's will for artists so clearly. My brother Peter, who gave me a flashlight years before I knew I was in the dark. Darrell Green, whose speed on the football field is dwarfed by his swiftness to lift up children at risk. And Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.

Steve was killed today while filming a documentary off the Great Barrier Reef (CNN article). A stingray's barb, usually just an annoyance for a scuba diver of Steve's vast experience, pierced his chest. He leaves behind his wife and partner Terri and two children, Bob (3) and Bindi Sue (8).

Karen and I are just completely devastated. We feel like we've lost a brother.

At 44, Steve has done more for wildlife conservation and education than anyone I can think of. There are Marlon Perkins, Jack Hanna, and Jacques Cousteau, but Steve's charisma and prolific documentary output single-handedly fueled the creation of an entire cable network, Animal Planet, while re-envigorating the Discovery Channel. What Animal Planet will do without him I can't imagine.

Hidden beneath the schtick and the "crikey!"s was a keen scientific mind. Steve published many scholarly articles on reptiles around the world, and was an internationally-renowned expert not only on crocodilians but on monitor lizards. There are several species of animals on multiple continents discovered, named, and first described by Steve Irwin. And let's face it, he was great television. The khaki shorts, work boots, crooked nose, and that unruly dirty-blond mullet were undeniably charming. A photogenic family didn't hurt: Terri, his beautiful wife, a match for him physically and mentally. Bindi Sue, named for a crocodile and a dog, the image of her father right down to her courage and too-wide smile. And little Bob-Bob, all curiosity and potential. But entertainment value and wildlife expertise are not the main reasons he's one of my great heroes. Steve was my hero because of the complete lack of shame he had in being as passionate as his body could contain and express.

I take this from the life of Steve Irwin: love something, learn about it, practice it, and share it, and do all of these things with every ounce of your being all the time. If my enthusiasm and passion for theatre, music, or even my faith seems to come on a bit too strong at times, remember that it is a pale reflection of my hero Steve Irwin's passion for wildlife conservation.

For you, Steve:

Crocs rule!


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