Here's the Scoop: July 21, 2010

What a great person!
When Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away recently, the story dominated the news. I’m sure he had many good points — as a number of writers went out of their way to point out.
But, like most of us, Steinbrenner could also be, what’s the word — a jerk! I happened to point out this fact to a few folks who were nearby when news of his death popped up on the computer screen.

By the reaction of these folks, you’d have thought that I was spinning a tall tale.
“That’s not nice!” I was scolded.
“It may not be politically correct,” I responded, “but it’s the truth.”

These folks weren’t buying my logic. I wanted to steal Jack Nicholson’s famous line from “A Few Good Men” and shout, “You can’t handle the truth!” But I didn’t.

Later on, I began to give this scene more consideration. I concluded that if Steinbrenner had still been alive and I accused him of being a jerk, I wouldn’t have received any arguments. Probably a lot of support.

But, somehow death makes everyone quite a bit better. Maybe that’s what they mean by the term: Death Benefit?

Give them a break
Maybe it’s the uncertainty that many of us have over the death issue that causes us to suddenly change our opinions of the dear departed — even if they weren’t so dear before they left.
Personally, I find it all a bit hypocritical. If someone has spent their life being a not-so-nice person, I have trouble believing that everything changes once they stop breathing.
In fact, it seems that the finality of death should kind of “cement” one’s memory. No matter what one believes happens to us when we die, it seems like dying should merely finalize one’s place in earthly history. It hardly seems like one’s legacy should improve because one ceases to breathe.
But it usually does.

On the bright side, this knowledge should be a cause for hope for those of us whose image needs a bit of sprucing up.

Anyone who has ever thought, “I’m dying to know what others think of me” can relax. When you really do die, it seems most everyone will have a much higher opinion of you. It’s quite comforting.
There may be exceptions to this line of thinking, however. Even though I am not inclined to change my mind about someone just because they can no longer defend themselves, doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sorry for these folks and their families. It’s just that — well, once a jerk, pretty much always a jerk in my book. I can’t be rewriting everyone’s chapter.

Please don’t read anything into this column. I’m not planning to “depart” any time soon. But, you never know. Even though it goes against my beliefs, it’s OK to think better of me when I’m no longer around.

Like a Supermodel whose features are pleasantly enhanced on magazine covers with Photoshop software, I’m counting on the public’s forgiving memory to smooth over any rough edges regarding my image. Thanks.
— Brian Sweeney