We grieved for hurricane victims, raged over yet more scandals in Washington and impatiently watched as the war in Iraq dragged on for another dreary year. Gas prices soared, one Supreme Court justice died while another retired, and, oh, did we mention there were more scandals in Washington?
The year 2005 certainly did not lack for important news stories. Some shook the world, others rattled the nation, while others simply tickled our collective fancy and made us gab around the dinner table and at the water cooler.
But it was also a remarkable year for stories that just wouldnít go away no matter how much we wanted them to. Is Michael Jackson even a celebrity anymore? Did anyone outside the Beltway know Scooter Libbyís name before he was indicted? How long can we allow Paris Hilton to be this generationís Bert Convy, someone irritatingly famous just for being famous?
Over the next week or so weíll be inundated with Best of 2005 lists. As an alternative, then, here is a Worst of 2005 list, a grouping of five stories we can all wish will just go away in 2006.
5. The King of Pop Goes Poof. Indeed, the Master of the Moonwalk still has a place in the collective consciousness, as mundanely freakish and tiresome as his behavior has become. Those who paid attention to his child molestation trial got to hear assorted accusations including teenage booze parties the singer allegedly hosted, lurid details involving terms we hoped had vanished when Monica Lewinsky slithered back to anonymity, and astounding confirmation that Jackson, indeed, is a consummate weirdo. Ultimately, though, a jury didnít believe the accusations that he molested an underage boy at the Neverland ranch.
Hereís hoping for 2006 that Billie Jeanís old beau beats it back permanently to Bahrain, where he has been hiding out since shortly after the trial ended. Keep your Frankenstinian face off our doorsteps, Jacko.
4. Working OT with T.O. Wait, stop the presses. Star athlete disrupts team chemistry by pouting over his paycheck and threatens not to play unless he gets paid more. Gee, that never happens, huh? Yeah, only about once a week or so, yet the pathetic circus that surrounded Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens and his absurd salary demands managed to cross over from sports to news and captured national attention for way longer than it should have. Granted, T.O. did take Sports Stars Behaving Badly to new heights, or lows as it were, but why oh why did we care so much about the antics of an over-hyped pariah anyway?
Give Owens credit: He knew how to milk the situation to the max and could land on his feet yet. For our sakes, letís hope itís in the Canadian Football League, or perhaps in the WWE where his talents may be better appreciated.
3. Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby/Bob Woodward/Judith Miller et al. What did all these people know and when did they know it? Better yet, who are all those people and why do we care about them? Syndicated columnist Robert Novak opened up a big smelly can of Washington worms when he outed Plame as a CIA operative. Plame is married to Wilson, a former American ambassador who publicly doubted the administrationís claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain material to build nuclear weapons. Prosecutors believe Libby, as retribution against Plame, was the source of the leak, which found its way to New York Times reporter Miller as well as a scribe for Time magazine. Watergate sleuth Woodward, meanwhile, apparently knew Plameís story as well but didnít bother to tell anybody, including his editors at The Washington Post.
Got a headache yet? Yeah, me too. This Beltway parlor game landed Miller in prison, where Libby might yet head, and Woodward on the hot seat as other journalists openly questioned whether he hadnít devolved into a stooge for the Bush White House. Hopefully, the only other leak weíll hear about this story will be all the air from this over-inflated political football.
2. Brad and Jen and Brad and Angelina and Jen and Vince and Tom and Katie and Tom and Oprah and Nick and Jessica. Have celebrities ever been more annoying than they were in 2005? Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston publicly went their own ways this year, with the former hooking up with Angelina Jolie and the latter getting back on her feet with Vince Vaughn. And speaking of feet -- Tom Cruise got his up on Oprah Winfreyís couch as he went loco explaining his bizarre relationship with the pixyish Katie Holmes, and Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson mercifully broke up to spare us more of their God-awful reality show.
Of all the grating famous people, though, Cruise easily gets our vote as celebrity we most wish would just go away next year. Michael Jackson, meet the successor to your gruesome throne.
1. Teenager Natalee Holloway disappears in Aruba and cable news goes off the deep end. No story in 2005 more deeply exemplified the excesses of cable news networks and the extent to which they will go to manufacture a news story. Make no mistake: We are deeply sympathetic to the family of Holloway, who vanished May 30 during a high school class trip to Aruba with her friends. (Carefully reread the last 11 words of that sentence and you might begin to sense our exasperation with this story. A high school trip to Aruba?) Their pain can never fully be understood. Except, of course, by the families of the thousands of children who are murdered each year and whose names never pass Greta Van Susterenís lips.
Imagine if the Fox News legal beagle devoted her one-hour show each night to a different unsolved child murder or abduction, rather than the hour upon nauseating hour of her obsession with the Holloway case.
While we all wish the Holloway family well, itís time to demand a little equal time for others in similar predicaments.
Letís hope 2006 brings a fresh start for us all.
Jeff Cox is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Easton, Pa. He can be reached at: Coxjeffc65@aol.com.