1 August 2006
Before ‘The Crocodile Hunter' came along, I found animal documentaries terribly boring.
The intellectual/academic presenters with monotone voices have long been the subject matter for comedians to take off; suggesting nature programs are totally unstimulating. Then along comes a young Queenslander who, in his own larrikin and passionate way, takes the same subject matter and revamps it in a style that leaves audience members totally captivated. Nowadays, I learn about the Animal Kingdom sitting on the edge of my seat.
There is no doubt that Steve Irwin is one of the most successful Australians today, commanding a regular worldwide audience of many million. Yet from my perspective, Steve's greatest success is not his popular television show, his award-winning tourist destination ‘Australia Zoo, the millions of dollars these and other Irwin-activities generate, and not even the massive contribution he has made to conservation in Australia and around the world. The one thing I celebrate Steve for is his dedication to his family. Each time I have seen Steve interviewed on television, it becomes quickly apparent to viewers that here is a man who is dedicated to his family. Despite his passion for crocodiles and, of course his dog Sue, he openly declares his love for Terri and his kids more than anything. Hardly a show goes by in the multi-million dollar ‘Crocoseum' at Australia Zoo where Steve does not make mention of his children, Bindi and Bob. It's not uncommon for Steve to shake the Australian macho image and let a tear or two fall when talking about the loves of his life. Here is a man who knows what he believes in. His passion is obvious to all and he is not ashamed to let it show.
I first realised the impact Steve was having on ordinary Australians when my own father (Fritz) bought season tickets to Australia Zoo for himself and his grandchildren. Each time Steve is in town performing, Fritz goes to see his performance. He does such a great PR job in raving about Australia Zoo; he became a volunteer – not to help the animals as such, but just to share his excitement with the tourists who go there from around the world. I have had the privilege of accompanying Dad and my kids to see Steve's crocodile show on a number of occasions now. Each time Fritz has walked out saying to me, “That was the best performance yet.” Like so many tourists, my dad is totally captivated. Why?
There is something attractive and contagious about enthusiasm. Exuding confidence in the face of real danger and reflecting a genuine sense of self-worth is something that seems to come naturally to Steve Irwin – an unpretentious, lovable character. Not that we are all to become charismatic showmen, but rather when we openly stand up for what we believe in, and live life with passion, we contagiously spread riches that no person can steal, no moth or rust can destroy, and no lifetime of spending can exhaust. What are you known to openly and passionately stand up for? Anything contagious worth spreading?