Are they gone yet?
Have the last polar-bear-suited protesters packed up their picket signs, the last TV cameras captured that last foot of film, the last Klondike and Snow fans finally left the Denver Zoo?
Good. Maybe Denver will now come out of hibernation.
Maybe the town will wake up to the real stories out there.
Goodbye and good riddance, Klondike and Snow.
If only we could write off this past year of polar-bear mania as a bad dream, a mass hallucination in which the entire population of Colorado became obsessed, past the point of sanity, with two white furballs.
But the truth is far more grizzly. It would be impossible to dream up the endless amounts of attention accorded Klondike and Snow, from their birth (okay, okay, hand-raised cubs are rare) to their first walks to last week's almost round-the-clock coverage of their imminent departure for Florida. The crates they would fly in. The frozen fish they would snack on. The zoo personnel who would accompany them. The sobbing children they would leave behind...and, of course, the gaping holes their departure would leave on TV newscasts.
You would have thought the zoo was exiling them to Siberia (where, come to think of it, they'd feel right at home) rather than sending them to Orlando, vacation capital of the Sun Belt. Judging from the ubiquitous cameras that captured Klondike and Snow scampering out of those custom-built crates and into their new home at Sea World, however, the bears aren't going to waste a minute on nostalgia.
The same cannot be said for the deluded folks who've already wasted much of the past year on the bears--visiting them, writing poems about them, dressing like them, passing petitions about them in the vain hope that a section of the abandoned Stapleton airport could be turned over to the bears.
In an eleventh-hour effort to cling to the cubs, the Zoo Two-Save Our Bears Foundation rallied ten days ago. Only fifty supporters showed up.
"This is a pretty apathetic town," disappointed Zoo Two founder Rachelle Blake complained to a reporter. "We could never have the Million Man March here, because there aren't a million people to get off their duffs to do anything."
Brave words--and not particularly perceptive ones--from a person wearing a polar-bear outfit. Given a reason to get off their duffs, given some solid information rather than warm-and-fuzzy feel-good stories, Denverites could no doubt be moved to action. (And no fair substituting dead-dog stories, either.)
Instead of another profile of two polar bear cubs who passed the cute stage months ago, news outlets could profile a man who actually attended the Million Man March and report on what he's done in the weeks since that trip to change his life and the lives of those around him.
Instead of another story about how the two polar bear cubs have never seen live fish, they could talk about children who live in public housing only a few blocks from the zoo--children who have never seen live fish, either.
Or they could talk about one of the Democratic Senate candidates, who might not look like a particularly live one, either, but who is racing for a seat that deserves the attention.
Or they could cover a kid in one of the Denver Public Schools' magnet programs who, like those two lovable cubs, is about to be booted out of the only home he's known.
Or the faithful Broncos season-ticket holder who's suddenly looking at paying a hefty premium for seats at a new stadium as thanks for his loyalty.
Or the longtime LoDo business owner who finds himself crowded out not just by Rockies fans, not just by Planet Hollywood, but by plans for a new sports arena that might work better at that abandoned airport the Zoo Two folks had picked out for the bears.
Or the would-be MarkAir passenger, who was suckered in by an airline that almost got $30 million out of Denver and is left holding a worthless ticket. He'll probably never get to Orlando.
Or the homeowner living next to the former Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons plant who now finds that his toxic neighbor may bury and grass over tons of deadly contaminants. (Compared with that, Sea World is a natural environment.)
Or, for that matter, they could do a story about Lewis and Floorwax.
Yes, them. The take-no-prisoners radio DJs found themselves held hostage by political correctness when the Fox proposed adding Klondike and Snow to a billboard lineup that already includes the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer and O.J. Simpson. On one billboard, the station wanted to depict Klondike and Snow in electric chairs, with the slogan "Listen or the bears get it." On another, it wanted to show Lewis and Floorwax draped in white bearskin coats and wearing gold necklaces that announced, "I was Klondike, I was Snow."
The billboard company rejected both ideas.
The Fox got the message. "Don't mess with the bears," says Fox exec Jack Evans. "The bears are sacred."
Unlike, for example, the Pope--whose face has also graced Fox billboards.
"Let's put this in perspective," Evans says. "I can only imagine what will happen when John Elway retires."
In the meantime, the Fox is holding no grudges. Last week it sent the zoo a care package designed to ease the bears' trip to Florida, complete with Groucho Marx glasses for disguises and little bottles of tequila.
Which, with any luck, the zoo's staffers saved for themselves, to consume once the last polar-bear-suited protesters packed up their picket signs, the last TV cameras captured that last foot of film, and the last Klondike and Snow fans finally vacated the premises. They'd earned a celebration--along with a few hundred thousand dollars from bear memorabilia sales and a hefty helping of cynicism about the way the public picks its heroes.
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