Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Blame Game

By Michael Henningsen

JANUARY 20, 1998:  So, after reading countless newspaper stories, a Time magazine article and struggling through an entire hour of the Geraldo Rivera Show featuring a live remote from Aspen, Colo. with a special correspondent to the National Enquirer, this is how I understand it: Especially in Michael Kennedy's case, the ski patrol, skiing itself and perhaps even the tree are to blame for his death, the latest "Kennedy tragedy" as many media outlets have taken to calling events like Teddy's "mistake" at Chappaquiddik and Michael's alleged five-year affair with the underage family baby-sitter.

People mountain bike, play stick ball, eat at Denny's and ski at their own risk. In fact, you can't buy a lift ticket these days without a detailed disclaimer stuck to the back of it. There are numerous signs in place all over most ski areas--Aspen included--that say things like, "Ski with caution" and "Maintain control at all times." The point is that skiing didn't kill Michael Kennedy; playing football on skis after the mountain had closed for the day killed Michael Kennedy. I'm not making light of his death, which is without a doubt a tragic loss for his family, friends and associates, but grumbling from the Kennedy clan (passed generously and quietly to the media) about skiing suddenly being so dangerous and the ski patrol at Aspen showing a reckless disregard for the safety of skiers is pitiful and ridiculous. Skiing isn't dangerous because a Kennedy died, it just is. And what about the Kennedys' reckless disregard for the terms, conditions and rules agreed to when they purchased their lift tickets? The ski patrol cannot be faulted for having repeatedly warned against the Kennedy's annual ski football game--personally, I'm surprised that one of 'em didn't die sooner--or be held responsible for anyone's decision to defy all reason and rules, even if that person happens to be a Kennedy.

Same goes even if that person happens to be a Bono. The entertainer-turned-political-entertainer made a conscious decision to break the rules and blaze his own trail through the woods, resulting, tragically, in his own death. I'm not saying that Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono deserved to die because they were engaging in stupid, reckless behavior. But I am suggesting that it was no one's fault but their own.

Both deaths have been treated with the same drama the media continually use to twist celebrity tragedy into soap operas. This time it's thinly veiled beneath Geraldo and other ambulance chasers' assertions that "If we can save just one life by enlightening the public to what a dangerous sport skiing is, then we're heroes." Bullshit. Lots of sports are dangerous. So is driving to work and taking a shower. But, more often than not, if people follow the rules and make a concerted effort not to behave stupidly, accidents tend to be relatively minor.

Unfortunately, the only lesson being taught by the media here is that no matter what famous people do, it's someone else's fault. Therein lies the real tragedy.


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