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Posted at 12:12 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Ted Williams detained by LAPD: Why we care

By Alexandra Petri

tedwilliams.jpg (Ted Williams YouTube screengrab)

Ted Williams, the homeless man turned sportscaster by the power of the Internet and his "golden voice," is the story that has taken the nation hostage and refuses to let go. He's the houseguest of the national consciousness who came to stay for a week and then turned out not to have anywhere else to go.

Last night, he was detained by the LAPD after getting into a spat with his daughter at an LA hotel.

And anyone you ask will say he saw it coming.

Maybe that's part of why this story has been so uniquely captivating. At first this seemed like just another one of those stories that takes off when you think it's about someone else. "Ted Williams is wandering around homeless?" people asked, rushing to Google. "I guess he should have invested some money in case the cryogenic freezing worked."

But it became more than that. It was a Metaphor of Some Kind. Was it the American dream? If so, it seemed to indicate a certain narrowing of what the dream meant. Suddenly the American dream isn't to spend many years laboring in obscurity to have a better life than your father. It's to be plucked, serendipitously, out of ignominy to fame. Can you have a rise these days that isn't meteoric? But meteors tend not to be very comfortable places to sit.

So Ted Williams, suddenly, dominated the national conversation. Sure, some voiced concerns -- he had a history of what we delicately refer to these days as domestic problems -- but that didn't stop the flood of adulation, money, and jobs.

It made sense. Our idols these days have to come with feet of clay included.

We like Taylor Swift, all right. But Britney Spears sells papers. Tiger Woods could sell golf clubs and Buicks before, but now that he's fallen, we tear US Weeklys off the rack.

That's another reason Ted Williams was so perfect. Everyone who helped blow him up whistled and marked their calendars. "What goes up," they muttered to themselves. Sure, it was cynical of them. But, these days, the dream comes with a rude awakening built in.

By Alexandra Petri  | January 11, 2011; 12:12 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, Seems Suspect  | Tags:  America, Ted Williams, celebrity  
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Next: Why Western mothers are inferior to 'Chinese mothers' (but feel better about it)


Wow, Teddy gets in a little spat with his daughter and you want to chop his head off? That's ice cold.

Here I come to save the day.
That means that Mighty Phil
Is on the way.
(With apologies to Mighty Mouse)

Don't worry about Ted. Dr. Phil is giving him the full, "How's that workin' for ya'?" treatment. Can Oprah be far behind?

[NBC Sports? Really?]

Posted by: divtune | January 11, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse

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