Reagan’s Dead Pool Impact

MATT SUSSMAN
BG News Opinion Editor
Bowling Green State University

You might read a lot of stuff written by grown-ups about Ronald Reagan and how great a president he was. I’m sure all of it is true. But what am I supposed to say about him? I was 6 when he left office. I wasn’t even a zygote when John Hinckley tried to assassinate him. Still, I felt I should say something about the man, but I was at a loss for words.

Then I received an e-mail from Satan. He said I am allowed to make jokes about his death because the 48-hour buffer period of mourning has subsided.

Oh, but I might get some flak from the masses. “You can’t make fun of the dead, you’re supposed to respect the dead,” the living might say. They do have a point — tributes to Reagan are still in the planning stages, and his body has barely reached room temperature.

However, the man has lived a full life. He died at the age of 93. He battled Alzheimer’s for ten years. It’s safe to say, and I speak for everyone, that this wasn’t much of a shock.

Most people that entered in the Lee Atwater Invitational Dead Pool saw this coming. I guess I should explain what this is, shouldn’t I? A dead pool is a contest where people bet on which famous people they think will die within a given year. The concept has been around for a while, but it did not gain any sort of public awareness until the Clint Eastwood movie, titled — guess — “The Dead Pool.”

The movie was about a similar contest, in which one contestant’s chosen celebrities mysteriously died off. Among those on the list was Eastwood’s character, “Dirty” Harry Callahan — who to this day is not sure if he shot six bullets or five.

Of course, this particular dead pool doesn’t focus on murdering celebrities. In fact, it is explicitly stated in Section III, Rule 7 that “criminal violation in connection with any celebrity on any list(s) submitted” can result in a disqualification, which is probably something you will quickly forget when you’re — oh, I don’t know — getting lethally injected in a state prison.

Those who follow the rules and have the most celebs expire in this year’s contest wins a cool $2,004.

In short, there exists a Web site dedicated to the deaths of celebrities, and it’s not like they approach the subject with extreme caution. Actually, they make fun of these people quite often. One section of this Web site is an ongoing list of all the celebrity casualties in recent memory, and the site creators post a joke for each death. Some notable examples were cartoonist Chuck Jones (“That’s all, folks!”) and Queen singer Freddie Mercury (“Crazy little thing called AIDS”).

So wait, what does this have to do with President Reagan? In the Lee Atwater Invitational, 664 of the 1,036 entries had Reagan as one of the ten celebrities, making him the most “popular” pick, if you will. The site’s message board begins to stir when a famous person dies, coming up with creative and witty “blurbs” about so-called “fresh deaths,” and Reagan was no exception. Brief messages of “It’s bedtime for Bonzo” and “We begin embalming in five minutes” began to surface. He was dubbed “The Great Ex-Communicator” and “the latest proponent of Trickle Down Coffinomics.”

This means that when people gathered around the television Saturday to see Smarty Jones not finish first in the Belmont Stakes (which I correctly predicted, not to gloat or anything), they read on the news ticker that President Reagan had died at the age of 93. At this moment in time, 664 people in the world secretly said, “Finally!”

Five minutes later, they thought to themselves, “Gosh, maybe that was a little insensitive of me.”

But then ten minutes after that, they muttered, “Now if only the Pope would keel over soon, I have a shot at winning the money.” (Pope John Paul II is on 658 lists, the second most common choice).

Whether you possess a conscience or merely a heart of stone, death is a fascinating subject and it’s hard to say why dead people receive just admiration. If we had nice things to say about them, wouldn’t we do it when they were living?

Science alert — when a person dies, they no longer hear stuff. This means you can speak your mind about a person when they die. I suppose there exists a certain level of integrity when around a mourning family, so let’s wait until we leave the funeral before we say what we really think.

Journalist Greg Palast waited until Monday before he wrote about the former President.

“Ronald Reagan was a conman. Reagan was a coward. Reagan was a killer,” Palast wrote.

I guess Palast didn’t get the memo that you can’t speak ill of the dead — or maybe you can.

Therefore, if I had an opinion of President Reagan, it might appear here. All I know is that he wasn’t on my list of 10, so in that regard I am saddened.

Matt doesn’t enjoy death — in fact he’s never tried it before. For more offbeat insight, e-mail [email protected]