There may be lots of ways to characterize 2009 — the early signs of economic collapse gave it something of an apocalyptic air — but it was a series of heedless acts that really marked the year. And for that eye-catching category, a new award is unveiled — since so many people seemed so hell-bent to earn one.
So without further adieu, here are the winners of the Hubeys, an award that singles out those individuals engaged in acts of astonishing hubris who helped peg 2009 as the year of the public apology. Congratulations, you’re in select company.
Tiger Woods (Big Cat Division): Who would have thought that the golfing great, famously known for his icy-cool demeanor on the course, would be so brazenly red-hot off it? Or as the world now sees it: one small car crash, one giant leap backward for this man.
Nearly a dozen women have come forward with allegations of romantic and extended trysts with the married Woods, a scenario that has the once-proud champion buried so deep even the celebrity television hounds can’t find him. And given that his multiple handlers worked so hard to craft an image as a profile in class and professionalism, it’s a wonder that someone in his lofty position would be so clueless and (previously) untroubled.
It would appear now that about the only place Woods left his clubs in his bag — metaphorically speaking — was when he was playing a daily round in front of his adoring fans. His sponsors are beginning to depart almost as fast as golf crowds in a thunderstorm, and Woods’ pleas for privacy are feeding a tabloid frenzy rarely seen in the carefully manicured world of golf.
Mark Sanford (Travelers Division): You would think public officials would know by now that disappearing acts are best left to magicians. But the South Carolina governor apparently didn’t get that e-mail, or the dozens of phone calls and frantic requests from his staff when he went AWOL for a week and then returned to tell inquiring minds that he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail.
A great excuse, if only it were true. Shortly thereafter, Sanford admitted he was having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina, and thus began his “apology” world tour, begging forgiveness from his family, friends, fellow lawmakers and just about anyone who would listen. His wife almost immediately tuned him out, moving out of the governor’s mansion and filing for divorce. There’s no word on the status of his frequent flier miles.
Balloon Boy (Hot Air Division): The quest to live a private life on a public stage took wing shortly after a “distressed” dad called 911 to report that his 6-year-old son was missing after taking off in a Mylar balloon. However, he was “found” hiding in an attic. Then, the national media descended on the story. And finally, the story fell to earth.
The family made it up as a stunt to possibly land a reality TV deal, proving just how far reality can get from those who participate in such shows. They got reams of publicity — all of it bad — and used their kids as springboards to certain failure. Welcome to Limbo Land; how low can you go?
David Letterman (Late Night Division): Proving that “stupid human tricks” are generally not funny, the longtime television host stunned his audience in October when he told a story about being involved in a scheme in which someone was trying to blackmail him for $2 million for sleeping with female staffers. It was a true story, it turns out, with one of Letterman’s conquests being the alleged extortionist’s girlfriend.
Letterman apologized to his wife on television for his exploits. But the funny thing is he just doesn’t seem as amusing ever since — perhaps because it somehow plays like a rerun.
ACORN (Streetwalker Division): Two people posed as a pimp and a prostitute to gain insight into the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, filming employees assisting them in pushing prostitution and getting federal tax breaks for their endeavors.
The ACORN employees proved without a doubt that being featured on YouTube can be a mixed blessing, since the instant-celebrity status got them fired, their agency defunded by Congress and descended upon by the Internal Revenue Service. All things considered, it was a pretty nutty act.
Northwest Flight 188 (Cheesehead Division): Pilots Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole gave new meaning to the term “flyover states” when they missed their Minneapolis destination because they were absorbed by their computers and flew all the way to Wisconsin, not heeding emergency calls from air traffic controllers.
Like their fellow Hubey winners, they’re not flying high now.
Happy holidays. I’ll be giving out my local Yorkies awards when I return after New Year’s.