Think back 50 weeks. Think hard. Can you recall how 2011 began? Do you remember the epic absurdity that kick-started a year described by nearly everyone as one of the most significant spans in recent memory? That’s right: Birds fell straight from the sky. Fish and crabs turned up dead.
How amazingly ominous the global Aflockalypse turned out to be. Could there have possibly been a more appropriate beginning to a year marked by such remarkable, everlasting turmoil?
Fifty weeks since the End of Days seemed nigh, we’re coming quickly upon the final moments of a year that brought us more hard news, light nonsense and Internet-addled excitement than we could ever have predicted would fill our 24-hour, attention-deficit media cycle. Just think: Osama. Occupy. Pepper Spray. Greece. Tsunami. Royal Wedding. Winehouse. Jobs. Egypt. Arab Spring. Phone Hacking. Norway. Gadhafi. Sandusky. Weiner. Sheen. Trump. Cain. Casey Anthony. Tebow! All in one year.
It’s likely you remember all of those stories, and it’s likely you’ll see most or all of them on every single news organization’s boring ol’ Top 10 Stories of 2011 pieces. So we thought we’d remind you of some stories you may have forgotten took place in 2011, stories that have justifiably been trumped by the big stuff. Consider this the memory test portion of an exit interview from the greatest job you’ve held.
The first viral story of 2011 belonged to an eagle-eyed Columbus Dispatch videographer and a down-on-his-luck voice-over artist. Put it this way: For the past year, mentioning the name “Ted Williams” conjured up an image of a (hopefully) former addict holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road, not one of the greatest (cryogenically frozen) baseball players that ever lived. Quite an accomplishment. Two days after the Dispatch‘s video captured the attention of the Internet’s force for good, the Cleveland Cavaliers offered Williams a job and a home. MSNBC offered him work. So did Kraft Foods. He landed on the Today Show on January 6th, three days into his newfound fame. But it all soon unraveled. Williams, who said he had been sober since mid-2008, began drinking again when the media spotlight shined too bright. After a talk with Dr. Phil, Williams checked himself into rehab. Then he checked out 12 days later.
In May, with the media attention gone, Williams checked back into a rehab facility, citing emotional problems, not addiction. Since then, the Cavs retracted their job offer. Book and television deals negotiated while the going was good were also rescinded. There is one bright spot: New England Cable News announced in November that Williams would be the official voice of its cable channel.
Back in August, an 18-year-old Olympic skiing hopeful named Robert Vietze pissed away his chance at medal glory when on a red-eye JetBlue flight he R. Kelly’d the leg of a young girl. Less than a week later, French actor Gerard Depardieu took the same cue on a Paris-to-Dublin flight, defied a direct order, yelled “I want to piss, I want to piss” and urinated on the floor of the aircraft. The best part? A CityJet spokesperson said “It all happened with courtesy” when questioned by the media. Cyrano, at least, had a sense of humor about himself and the incident — he poked fun in a video plug for the next installment of the Astérix series, which is scheduled for 2012 release. Heh, release.
It was supposed to be a day for Rupert Murdoch and his son James to answer for their perceived sins in the phone-hacking scandal that justifiably captivated the world. But all of that was tabled, quite literally, when the inquisition at the UK Parliament took a turn for the dramatic. A man calling himself Jonnie Marbles interrupted the hearing and attempted to hit Murdoch in the face with a plate of shaving foam while shouting, “You are a greedy billionaire.” Murdoch’s wife, Wendi, came to her hubby’s defense by taking a swing at the foam attacker. Marbles, real name Jonathan May-Bowles, was sentenced to six weeks in jail, and his last tweet before heading off to the clink was an “lol” in reply to @hypervocal.
Before there was Anthony Weiner, there was Chris Lee. The Upstate New York Republican resigned in disgrace back in February after Gawker published relatively bland and sexless emails between the buffed-up 46-year-old and a woman looking for company. Lee bowed out without even a defense, which at the time was curious. It turned out that there was more Gawker investigating to be done — Lee was looking for a few good transgendered persons. Too each their own. We didn’t take exception to his Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hypocrisy as much as with his Craigslist skills and broke down his biggest transgressions: he used his real name, he sent an unprovoked shirtless pic way too early (nice try, Swayze) and in his biggest fantasies involving anonymous rendezvous, he’s a lobbyist. How dirty. Oh, and the race to fill his seat gave us the real-life Jack Klompus. Jerry, take the pen!
In the Middle East, they rioted for freedom, for liberty, for democracy. In Greece, they’re fighting for their pensions, for their jobs, for their future. In the United States, they’re protesting income inequality, a rigged system, a sense of unfairness. In Canada…HEY, WE LOST THE STANLEY CUP! FREAK OUT! The only upside to this shameful episode was how captivated we all were by this incredible, instantly iconic image shot by Getty Images’ Richard Lam. The “kissing couple,” later identified as 29-year-old Australian Scott Jones and his Canadian girlfriend Alex Thomas, weren’t having a sexy, exciting time as much as the photo simply captured a man aiding his injured girlfriend in a truly confusing scene.
But there’s so much more…which unheralded stories will make the Top 5? One spoiler: Two dudes, pretending to be lesbians, trying to change the Arab world one blog post at a time.
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