Hero of the Year

Reality television has been popular for a lot longer than you might think, and it’s only going to get bigger. Once we get rid of the news networks and install an awards show, that is. Our writer broadcasts a signal from the Wellys.

Wow! Thank you, thank you everyone. This is—this is really something, wow. Look at this. Geez, the Welly is a lot heavier than I expected—it weighs a ton, hah hah! And—oh, look! If you hold the opening up to the light you can see the little baby way down at the bottom. Incredible, just incredible.

I’d like to thank you all so much… everyone who’s watching, my fellow heroes, and, of course, all the terrific people at TTN. Thank you very much. This award means a lot to me, and, well, none of it would have been possible without Total Tragedy, and so I’d like to say a few words about them. Can I do that?

Three minutes? I can probably—well, if I go long I’m sure you’ll flash a light or something.

Before TTN, it was tough going for tragedy hero worshipers. When I was a kid—in the early early 21st century—there was no such thing as the Wellys, or TTN, or HeroVision, or any of the other 24-hour tragedy channels. No, if you wanted to hear about shark attacks or kidnappings or sons who kept their mothers locked in closets for 20 years, you had to watch the news. Which worked OK most of the time, but occasionally there would be a political scandal or a war or some scientific breakthrough or blah blah blah—and the news channels would feel obligated to report on it. When that happened, you could go days—and I’m talkin’ literally days—without hearing about a heartbreaking case of child abuse.

But as bad as we had it, it was even worse for the heroes. Most of them went completely unrecognized. Few of those who were, you know, heroically hit by a train or caught in a fire and horribly, heroically disfigured, received their own made-for-TV movies. Sad, but true. Search your GoogleBellum if you don’t believe me. And the only money they received for their heroism came from insurance plans. That’s how they quote-unquote “honored” heroes back then: A faceless company gave them just enough money to compensate them for their losses and—maybe—a frowny-faced anchor at the local news station would mention them near the end of the 11 o’clock broadcast. It was disgraceful—I’m ashamed just thinking about it.

But the Total Tragedy Network changed all that. Only three years after TTN’s debut, it was the most-watched station in the Sundered States of America. Of course, when those news channels saw their ratings plummet, they sure were quick to change their formats and names, and they became the Tribulation Stations and Calamity Centrals we know today.

Then the pendulum swung the other way. People were so crazy for calamities that whenever a new hero was found, pinned beneath a tree or clinging to a plank over the Indian Ocean, the networks converged on the scene en masse and sparred for the television rights. This was, of course, shortly after Congress had granted corporations immunity from the judicial branch of government, so these squabbles sometimes became so heated that the heroes would get killed in the literal crossfire. Of course, the ones who took a bullet and survived became even bigger heroes…

That’s when TTN revolutionized tragedy yet again, with the introduction of the Heroics Ownership Plan. The network contacted the parents of 500,000 SSA newborns—yours truly included—and offered them a deal: TTN would provide the infant complete health care in perpetuity (unheard of at the time!) in return for full media rights to any or all heroics the child might perform over the course of his life. Most parents jumped at the chance. And it’s not hard to understand why. Before HOPs, parents would have to pay exorbitant fees to some uncaring organization every month who would “promise” that their medical costs would be covered. TTN’s HOPs turned the system on its ear. Now coverage was free and the media exposure resulting from a spectacular act of heroism guaranteed the afflicted billions of dollars in advertising contracts. It was win-win.

The other networks, late to the game as always, thought TTN was nuts. But a few months later, when four-month-old Cameron Styler was heroically wounded in a tapir stampede and his HOP meant TTN had full and exclusive rights to his story, you can bet the other networks were scrambling to provide HOPs of their own. Now we’re all a part of it, you, me, the good people at TTN—all of us.

Not that our tragocacy doesn’t have its critics. Some say there’s a hero gap in this country, that we are rapidly becoming a nation of trag and trag-nots. I understand their concerns, but let me tell you: Things are a lot better than they were when I was a kid. Back then they practiced a kind of hero elitism. It wasn’t enough to have just suffered or felt fear or come close to dying—you had to do it on purpose. It wasn’t enough to get run over by a bus, you had to push a grandmother out of the bus’s path. It wasn’t enough to get burned, it had to happen while you were running into a house fire to rescue a baby. The bigotry of those days was appalling. Who’s to say that the person who spends his life helping the poor is more heroic than the man paralyzed while rock-climbing? Who are we to judge?

They tried to justify this discrimination by saying that the old kind of hero—the guy who gives CPR to an orphan—was quote-unquote “inspirational.” Inspiring me to do what? I don’t even know any orphans.

Now we realize the truth; anyone can be a hero. Our heroes don’t need to be brave or selfless or noble, our heroes just need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Take me, for example. I was just driving along in my aught, minding my own business, when I lost control of the vehicle and the aught careened off the road and crashed through a gate and went into an abandoned mine and fell down a shaft and exploded, throwing my shattered body from the wreckage and triggering a cave-in.

Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with the details. And if you’re not now, you probably will be soon—now that I’ve won this award, hah hah! And see? That’s what these awards are all about: to call attention to great acts of heroism like mine, suffering down there in that pitch-black mine shaft for 47 days, where I subsisted on windshield cleaning fluid and guano. I’d probably still be there if the bank hadn’t sent an assassin to track me down after I missed a mortgage payment.

Luckily, when they found me and realized what had happened, they contacted TTN and the network immediately came to my aid. Oh, and by the way: I completely reject the conspiracy theorists who say that TTN purposely dragged out my rescue when it became the highest rated event of the year. Yes, it took them 32 days to reach me. Yes, the mine inexplicably flooded at one point. Yes, I was nearly killed in that coal gas explosion—which is admittedly odd since I was in a copper mine. No, I’m not sure why, in the middle of my ordeal, TTN felt the need to announce to me, via bullhorn, and to the world, via live broadcast, that my ex-wife had just filed for divorce and shacked up with my own clone. And yes, when they finally broke through the tons of rubble and reached me, and I crawled out of the cavern on my broken limbs and inched over to TTN President Gervin Traumfabrik to thank him for all he had done for me, his bodyguard shot me twice in the back in “self-defense.” But, really, I chalk all it all up to bad luck. And heroics, on my part.

OK, they’re flashing that light, hah hah, so I better wrap this up. So, again: a big thank you to TTN—I wouldn’t be here without you. And I’d like to thank my ex-wife for leaving me at the worse possible moment, thereby increasing my heroics. And thanks to everyone in the Sundered States who prayed for me during my ordeal—you are the real heroes tonight. Well, no you’re not—that’s just a figure of speech. I’m the one with the Welly.

But you could be, someday. All it takes is chronic disease or an electrical appliance falling into the bathtub, and the next Hero of the Year award could be yours.

Just remember what they say: What doesn’t kill you makes you… a hero. Thank you.