Last week, the American media was predictably enamored of the heartwarming tale of Ted Williams, a homeless Cleveland man with a "golden" radio voice that caught the attention of the Cleveland Cavaliers and won him job offers. Commentators praised Williams' "gracious" reaction to his newfound fame: "A smooth baritone is rare; resilience in the most dire of straits is even rarer," said Salon. But, Williams' story took a less-than-heartwarming turn this week when he was detained by police following a physical altercation with one of his daughters. Now, after stopping by the Dr. Phil show, he is headed to rehab. Did America, especially the media, place unrealistic expectations on Williams, a recovering addict? (Watch a CBS report about Williams' alcoholism)
It's not surprising that Williams couldn't handle instant celebrity: "Longtime celebrities go through ups and downs," says Christopher Beam at Slate. "But the parabola is a lot more harrowing for people who find themselves suddenly famous." Williams falls in the ranks of "instant celebrities" like Susan Boyle and Kate Gosselin who "have had trouble adjusting to their newfound fame" and have gone through the "typical celebrity career arc" of rise and fall and rehabilitation on fast forward. But, "it just rarely happens as fast as it has to Ted Williams."
Score one for cynicism: This awkward twist in the Williams "narrative" just proves that we need to treat people as "people, not stories," says Carmel Lobell at Death and Taxes. The cynics who questioned America's "national spiritual orgasm" over Williams were attacked, but they were right: "'Feel-good' does not broadly apply to life, and happy endings do not exist outside of an Asian massage parlor."
"Ted Williams arrested: Oprah will have to wait"
The media is culpable: It's "sad" and "pathetic" how our society took a man it had ignored for years and "then suddenly recategorized [him] as the greatest thing since sliced bread," says John Cave Osborne at Babble. While "I like how anything is possible in America," our eagerness to believe that platitude "seems to have backfired in this case" and "we're the guilty ones" here.
"Ted Williams arrested? We're the guilty ones"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- The lessons of Japan's latest recession
- The slippery slope of Twitter's attempts to stop harassment against women
Subscribe to the Week