What a year 2004 was. It's not likely anyone will compare it to, say, 1943, a key World War II year; or, for that matter, some of the years of the 1960s, when American society felt paradigm shifts. But some of the events will be more than just memorable moments. They'll be changes in direction. That's always the measure of history.
For example, Britney Spears' wedding. We're often tempted to start a "year in review" with an international event, something that touched us and people from around the world. But the Spears wedding made people across American generations say, "Damn." And that doesn't happen very often in a culture. When you hear someone say, "Damn," pay attention.
It might be historical. It might have been even more pivotal if we could remember the name of the dude she married. Nonetheless, the marriage must be noted.
How about Bob Huggins' DUI? Who saw that coming? Again, that's a criterion for an historical event. We historians call it "the whiplash factor." For example, you could say Rush Limbaugh got caught drunk and the reaction would be, "So?" Because you expect it from him. He's a dope fiend. But University of Cincinnati men's basketball Coach Bob Huggins is a role model in the community, leading a program so clean of criticism that colleges across the country hold it up as a model to copy. So when the Huggins announcement came, people said, "Huh? No way." Your head goes from left to right real fast — like, whip. "What? Huggins?" That's whiplash. And that will always get you history.
I know. Other less studied writers will do their little year-in-review pieces with the predictable, boring stuff like, say, Bush won Ohio and therefore re-election. Blah, blah. I can tell that story in 10 words: It rained all day. Republican suburbanites have SUVs and Gore Tex clothes. Urban folk take buses to polling places miles from their homes. Bush wins. No mystery. Again, no whiplash.
Or they'll yap about Mike Allen and Miss Becky. Who gives a rip? Rebecca Collins wanted some peter and Mike Allen was a slug who had one. They hooked up. What? That should be in some history book? Or in some college-educated columnist's year-end piece? C'mon. Republican leaders are moral zeros. We know it. Remember House Speaker Newt Gingrich? He quit because he was about to get attention for leaving his wife for a young Congressional staffer he was banging. That was the second wife he was leaving. In fact, when he left his first one, he broke the news to her in the hospital when she was battling cancer. So, no, the Allen story was not a surprise.
Or the Reds' and Bengals' poor seasons. History? Yeah, right. They always suck and always will. Deal with it. It might be irritating. Some people might think it's even funny. But it's not something worth writing down.
But Xavier's Elite Eight run. Now, that's history because they were 10-9 at midseason. So their achievement was remarkable, memorable and something you should shove down Bearcat fans' throats every day you see one. Because in sports, there is no graciousness or bigness. It's a finger-in-the-face deal. A smirk of superiority. So, yeah, that's history.
Now, sending Martha Stewart to live with women in a farm prison? I'm not sure it's tremendously newsworthy. But it seems like a good thing to do to her — not necessarily because she did some inside trading. More because of her sucky television show. I'm not saying it's a crime, but it at least deserves punishment. If the federal government is willing to do it, I say have at it. I mean, just picturing her sleeping in a row of cots is cool. So I'm putting it in here.
Again, I could put in some of the usual stuff, like Democrat Todd Portune winning re-election to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. But only an idiot would have voted for that old Republican dude without an idea in his head. So Portune, the best commissioner Hamilton County has seen in decades, coasted to an obvious victory. Again, no whiplash.
Now, you tell me on this next one. Ohio has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs under the leadership of Republicans, both in George W. Bush's first term and in years of Republicans running the state government. So with working and poor people losing their jobs in a parade, what in the hell were evangelicals doing voting for Bush? Just last week unemployment increased in Ohio even as it decreased slightly nationally. In fact, Ohio has the worst economy in America. So how would Christians vote for Bush and screw poor people? Are they asleep when their preachers tell them to help the least among us? That paradox fits in a column.
How about media? Anything happen this year? Well, at least we should mention some quick takes, like Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes losing his rock-jock gig. Say hello to Jerry Springer, who starts a liberal talk show sitting in Dusty's chair. Thank God for Air America Radio. It's growing and coming soon to Cincinnati.
We all learned this year that Buffalo wings are really chicken. Thanks, Jessica Simpson.
Now, real fast. The snow last week was deep. Check. I moved. Check. Ray Charles died. Check.
What else? Napoleon Dynamite wasn't just the best movie of the year. It's the finest piece of cinema art ever. Freakin' idiots. The rise and fall of Bennifer: she ditched Ben Affleck and went back to her roots by marrying a fellow Puerto Rican, Marc Anthony. And did it on the "down Lo." By the way, who's going to pimp my ride? I've got a 1983 Plymouth Reliant. C'mon, MTV. Pay attention to me.
Red Socks won. Whiplash, but I don't care. Hurricanes hit Florida three times. Move, people.
I'm done. Happy New Year.
PUTTIN' OUT THE BONE appears monthly.