You're driving down the interstate and all of a sudden traffic grinds to a halt. Around the curve ahead of you the lights from emergency vehicles shines through and reflects off the glass of the line of cars ahead of you. Slowly you begin to inch forward and eventually come up on the terrible sight. Guard rails are smashed in and deep black skid marks line the pavement. It's a massive six car pile up. Glass is strewn everywhere, pieces of plastic that were once bumpers are scattered about, some disturbingly far away from the scene of the actual accident. Somehow an entire door lies almost 75 yards away. And then there are the cars themselves. Heaping burned-out piles of wreckage with their metal frames contorted into nearly unrecognizable forms. It looks more like a 5000lb bomb has obliterated the vehicles than anything else.
That scene is sort of like Charlie Sheen's life right now. First came the news of his absolutely incredible, off-the-wall, heinous hookers-and-blow party in which he brought a briefcase full of cocaine to entertain himself and his guests. Then some rant about wanting to start a family of prostitutes. And of course he followed it up by going on multiple national TV and radio shows attacking his writers, producers, the network... everyone. The same group of people who made him the highest paid actor on TV. His logical response, to demand a raise in order to return.
Oh the temerity of it all.
Now, we've seen Hollywood meltdowns, tomfoolery, and shenanigans. Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan all come to mind as spoiled Hollywood starlets who just didn't get when the line had been crossed. But Sheen? The man takes it to a whole other level. In one amazing month he has single handledly rewritten the book for bad celebrity behavior. Like Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump, Sheen has set the bar at an impossibly high level for his fellow celebrities. No longer will a simple drunken DUI stop, followed by a rant laced with anti-semitic remarks like Mel Gibson's be enough to warrant our attention.
The incredible thing? Sheen might only be getting started. Today he opened a Twitter account and in just about 6 hours, had gained an astounding 500,000 followers. I'm no Twitter expert, but that's got to be some kind of record. What he'll use that account for? Who knows, but at the rate he's gaining followers, he's going to have an unprecedented level of access and a ready audience for any future meltdowns.
So where are failing Hollywood Starlets and angry Hollywood actors going to go from here? In the game of the great one-ups-manship, Sheen has redefined the term meltdown. In the process, he's also made himself the butt of every joke and an image of both national hilarity and scorn.
In trying to figure out exactly which tone I should take with tonight's note, I've spoken with a lot of friends and the reactions to Sheen's situation are incredibly varied. There is of course the typical feeling of grief, disappointment and concern over Sheen's behavior. There is also another side that simply chooses to accept what has become better comedy than anything else on TV, scripted or otherwise. Charlie Sheen the actor has found a way to outdo his own acted comedy on Two and a Half Men - by being himself. Another friend thought I should point out how the media can latch onto something and destroy someone' life with it.
He has a point.
We in the media can ruin lives. Or at least significantly alter them, be it for better or worse. I never went to school for journalism, but I know that the media has a responsibility to it's readers (or listeners or viewers) and to greater society. I know that even though my readership is minuscule, I too play a microscopically small part in that as well. When I penned my piece on Miguel Cabrera I didn't choose to belittle him or make light of his actions. I chose what I thought was the morally correct way to view the situation.
Since then Cabrera has gone on to apologize for his actions, and recommit himself to working on his alcohol problem. In short, he did the chose the standard, and probably correct course of action. That should be good for his image and the teams. More importantly, provided he is sincere in those words (and who am I to say he isn't?), he did the right thing by his friends, family, and ultimately, himself.
Sheen on the other hand... well...
The media not only has a right to report on behavior like Sheen's, but it's also the media's responsibility. That doesn't mean the media doesn't overstep it's bounds at time, of course they can. The media world, especially that of the mainstream media, is built on the 24 hour news cycle. Making the most of a story and using it up. If that means the people actually involved in the story ges chewed up and spat out, then so be it.
Still, no one is forcing Sheen to continually stick his foot in his mount and make himself appear more and more crazed. He's doing all of this of his own volition. In that regard, I don't blame the media at all. Sheen is doing the absolute worst possible things, precisely the opposite of what any agent or imaging executive would instruct their client to do. All of which plays a role in why he's become such a derisive figure.
For the people who have fallen in love with Sheen, and I am admittedly one, it's incredible to see a celebrity of any stature act with such open and blatant disregard to the rules and values of society. It also makes Sheen incredibly endearing because you just don't get anyone that open and honest. He doesn't care what you think of him, his drug use, or cavorting with prostitutes. It's his life, he's the greatest thing going, and you know what, screw you, he deserves a raise.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, acts like this.
If it were you or I at our regular jobs, we'd not only have been fired, we'd probably be in jail awaiting charges on felony possession with intent to distribute - and looking at the prison time that follows. I'd like to try and come up with an athletic comparable, but let's be real, nothing even comes close. We can look at baseball players who've ruined their careers with drugs, of whom Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden are likely two of the most prominent to come to mind. But their actions paled in comparison to those of Sheen.
In the end, even if you enjoy untold numbers of gut-wrenching laughs about all of this as I have, there are real people being effected by all of this. Sheen has children who depend on him and look up to him. He seems ambivalent towards them or the negative attention they'll receive as a result. His co-workers, most of whom probably aren't making more than fifty thousand a year, much less the two million dollars per episode like he is, are now out of a paycheck.
It's sad to see what drugs can do to a person. Ultimately this will cause real and irrevocable harm to a lot of people, and that is definitely tragic. Unfortunately, I'm also a human being with some less-than-ideal character flaws of my own. One of them is finding the whole thing absolutely hilarious and wanting more.
Maybe that makes me a bad person. But hey, I'm just being honest.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.