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Apologize now before it’s too late

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By Barry Smith

I’m sorry.

I am so, so sorry. I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

I will never do such a thoughtless, selfish, embarrassing thing again in my life. I’ve learned my lesson, and am ready to dedicate the rest of my days to making sure that I do my small part to make the world a better place.

What’d I do?

I don’t know. Probably something. And if I haven’t done anything to merit such an obviously heartfelt and sincere public apology, well, then I’ve got one coming.

It’s better to get the apology out of the way as quickly as possible, I figure – perhaps even anticipate the need to apologize publicly – because it’s obviously the best policy, proved over and over again by people in the public eye.

The most recent example is Pete Rose. (At least, he’s the most recent as I write this. Heaven knows, by the time this column hits print there could be a half-dozen famous people who have done something worthy of a public apology.)

Rose, of course, was banned from baseball for betting on it. He’s denied it, oh, about as often as he used to get a base hit. But now, in his second autobiogrophy, he’s admitting it.

Bingo. That’s supposed to clear the way for him to be reinstated and put him back on the path toward the baseball Hall of Fame.

The problem with Pete is that he didn’t really apologize. And it came 14 years too late.

I figure if he admits his sins and says he’s sorry for another 14 years, well, maybe the public’s perception of him will change. That will come too late for the Hall of Fame, though.

Everyone knows that the bigger the celebrity, the faster you have to come clean.

Arnold Schwarzenegger got elected governor of California despite some last-minute revelations that he groped women. He issued a blanket apology, so to speak, and said something to the effect that he probably wouldn’t have done such things if he’d known he was going to grow up to be governor of California.

If he’d denied his actions or tried to defend them, he would have looked worse. But people tend to forgive, as long as you promise never to do something like that again.

In the case of Michael Jackson, well, I don’t think he’s going to be running for office. The allegations against him of child molestation are quite serious, so he went on “60 Minutes” to say … the wrong thing.

He said he didn’t really have a problem with taking children into bed. Nothing sexual, Michael says, just warm and cuddly stuff.

The rest of America was creeped out. Jackson admitted just enough to give us reason to believe the guy is truly frightening and doesn’t really understand what all the hubbub is about. Perhaps he’d forgotten for the moment that he’d previously been accused of child molestation.

It’s kind of like a guy on trial for drunk driving saying he doesn’t see a problem with having a few drinks and getting behind the wheel, as long as he doesn’t hit anybody.

Jackson also got some bad PR for dangling his baby over the balcony of a hotel. Now, along comes Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, who was feeding a chicken to a crocodile with one hand while clutching his infant son under his other arm.

“It’s about time Bob got out there,” said Irwin. I assume Bob is the name of his month-old baby, not the crocodile.

Anyway, that was probably how Irwin was raised. And there was a time dads would push their sons off the end of the boat dock to see how fast they learned to swim. Today, that’s considered child abuse.

The thing Irwin didn’t take into consideration is that he’s a celebrity (at least among people who watch Animal Planet) and that exposing your son as potential crocodile bait is going to be frowned upon by the TV-watching public.

So Steve should have said, if he hasn’t already, “That was a really dumb thing to do. It’ll never happen again. I’m sorry.” People will excuse him and go on with their lives. I mean, it wasn’t like he actually fed the kid to the croc.

Kobe Bryant admitted the sex but denied the crime. The jury hasn’t even been picked on that one yet, but it didn’t stop Denver fans from chanting “Guilty! Guilty!” on Wednesday night. Anything to win a basketball game, apparently.

Then there is Britney Spears who, oops, got married in Las Vegas and then had the marriage annulled 55 hours later. It’s apparently a Nevada record, at least among celebrities.

Here’s how the petition for annulment read: “Plantiff Spears lacked understanding of her actions to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage.”

That’s almost as good as “I’m sorry.” As many of us can attest, being too drunk to remember what happened is an affirmative line of defense against most dumb actions that aren’t actually illegal. Except that Spears maintained she wasn’t drunk.

OK, all that leaves is just plain dumb.

Perhaps Britney could apologize for that – unless you believe her 55-hour marriage was actually a brilliant publicity stunt.

In that case, the apology at the top of this column is on behalf of the media everywhere.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Reach him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.