A Fox in the (Media) Henhouse


Some people will do anything for attention.

My friend Bob, for example. I’m sure you know him — at least by now, after he was all over the news, with all that coverage by various local TV stations.

Yeah, he’s the guy who got bitten by the rabid fox.

Sure, there were a total of three rabid-fox-bite victims in Ipswich that day, but my friend Bob was the one you saw on television. This is just like Bob, always angling for the spotlight.

It wasn’t enough to live in a lovely, pastoral place near the Ipswich River, surrounded by the beauties of nature, occasionally visited by wild turkeys (I don’t mean Ipswich drivers), enjoying the mild breezes of a New England spring. No. It wasn’t enough for Bob, I guess. He had to go and try to be a media star.

People blame the fox. I’m not so sure. Not at all. With all the fake news flying around these days, I’m not entirely convinced that the story you got was what really happened. There was nobody there rolling video when the attack allegedly took place. So all we have is Bob’s version of events. The tale of a man clearly desperate to be a celebrity, at any cost.

Bob tells me that he first saw the fox running on the other side of his neighbor’s yard. So for starters, this was not Bob’s fox. This fox was apparently committed to a completely different media opportunity. Bob says his neighbor’s grown son, visiting from upstate New York, was clambering onto the hood of a car and yelling as if he were being chased by a swarm of bees. Clearly this out-of-state visitor was striving for some kind of TV coverage himself. (Another fame-seeking New Yorker? You be the judge.)

According to Bob, his first thought was, “Ah, a photo opportunity — for a holiday card!” I seriously doubt this. In all the time I’ve known Bob, I’ve never once received a holiday card from him. Plus, are you really going to put a photo of a rabid fox on your holiday card? What kind of greeting would you offer? “Have a rabies, rabies Christmas!” “The 12 Injections of Christmas.” “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (in your flesh).” Not plausible, Bob.

“I called out to Joanne, my wife, to go get her camera,” Bob says. “I tried to keep an eye on the moving fox.” Note that Bob doesn’t admit to flagging down the fox, or waving half a raw chicken at him to try to entice him into a photo op. In any case, while Bob kept an eye on the fox, the fox apparently spotted him — and liked what he saw.

And here’s where the story really breaks down. Bob asserts that the fox headed toward him, and then — trouble. Bob’s version of events: “As happens in so many dramatic, commercial movies filmed in the woods, when someone or something is chasing a victim, I took one step, tripped, and fell down.”

If ever there was a scripted moment, this is it. Bob does not routinely fall down in his own yard. This was obviously Bob’s big attempt at an Academy Award.

“Just then, Joanne came out of the house with her camera,” Bob goes on to say. So where are her photos of the big event? Oh, he says, she put her camera down “to see what I was doing.” Uh-huh. I suggest she shot the whole incident, but it was such bad acting, she deleted everything in disgust.

“She says that she saw me on the ground flailing my arms about, shouting and growling at the fox, as the fox had my jeans in its mouth at the bottom of my left leg,” Bob says — then adds, “tearing at it in a feeding frenzy.” Bob is a better writer than me. I never would have thought of the “feeding frenzy” line. But then this is how it is in today’s media-crazed world: Everything is spin, spin, spin.

“I guess my jeans were not tasty enough, so the fox let go and ran off,” Bob says.

But the damage was done. A scrape and a “puncture wound” on his arm, and an inch-long cut — oh come on, let’s go ahead and call it a bloody gash — on his ankle. The neighbor’s son ran over, Bob says, claiming that the fox bit him also. But whom, exactly, did you see on the Nightly News? Not the neighbor’s son. No. Bob cleverly screened the media away from the out-of-towner and grabbed all the glory for himself.

Bob quickly began ensuring his 15 minutes of fame. “I then became the town crier,” he says, “spreading a warning, knocking on doors of a few other neighbors.” Soon Ipswich’s intrepid Animal Control officer, two emergency services people, and a cadre of cops were on site. Bob was still thinking Hollywood, though. Here’s how he paints the scene:

“I turned my head and noticed a large rabbit behind us, with ears erect, learning what it could. ‘Should I be concerned?’ it seemed to ask.” I believe this is one of those scenes that doesn’t quite make the final cut of the movie.

At the hospital, Bob got seven rabies shots, administered by two nurses sticking him simultaneously — once in both arms, once in both thighs, once in both buttocks — plus a final, seventh injection in an undisclosed location. Mercifully, no cameras were allowed.

Finally, back at his home, it was time for Bob’s star turn. Reporters from three Boston stations sought him out. It might have been just another story for ABC and CBS; but it must have been truly gratifying for Fox News to finally broadcast actual “fox news.” The interviews, I think, reveal the master-media-manipulator that my friend Bob truly is. In these videos, he’s conversational but eloquent, knowledgeable but concise — and of course, as always, casually dressed while at the same time stunningly handsome. Something like Cary Grant in his later years, except for the turkeys.

To the very end of the episode, Bob tried to make me feel it was actually the stuff that movies are made of. Returning home from the hospital, he says, he was struck by a final haunting image: “As we parked, across the street an adult raccoon could be seen in the dark, hiding from our headlights.” Fade to black.

Well, I’m skeptical about the whole thing. Yes, I would love to see my friend Bob become a movie star. Or a TV star. Or even a YouTube sensation. But maybe it was simply not meant to be. In a curious coincidence, while he was being interviewed by the conservative Fox News outside his house, there was the liberal Bill Maher on Bob’s own TV set inside the house. Perhaps a bad omen, portending a failed career in entertainment? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Anything for a moment in the spotlight, I tell ya. That’s Bob.

And I guess it runs in the family. Bob has a cousin on Long Island who follows the news in Ipswich; but after Bob survived the rabid-fox attack, did she call to see if he was okay? Did she rush to see if she could help in his recovery? No. She emailed Bob with a suggestion: Contact the Outsidah! Maybe you can be in a column!

See? I think this publicity fetish is in the DNA.

Well, okay, Long Island person. Here you go. I hope you’re happy.

Oh, by the way, your cousin Bob is going to live. Maybe send him a nice card?



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