How much solitude will $1.8 million buy? More importantly, how much humility and how much soul?
Jesse Ventura may find out, unless his victory over “American Sniper” Chris Kyle is overturned in appeal. Ventura may have told reporters that “there are no winners” in this sad, yet riveting case, but there are. Ventura has 1.8 million pieces of evidence in his bank account that say so.
Yep, he shocked the world again. But how can we be shocked that eight people in St. Paul bought Ventura’s narrative when 37 percent of voters bought it in 1998 and elected him governor?
“I am overjoyed that my reputation was restored, which is what this whole lawsuit is all about,” the former Minnesota governor told a Star Tribune reporter.
Apparently Ventura does not read the comments sections of local newspapers and television stations, or his self-esteem would be taking a direct hit.
I am willing to speculate that public sentiment toward Ventura was cemented long ago, and a few pages about a dubious fistfight in a bar didn’t sway anybody. You either enjoy his bombast and respect his frequently lucid and contrarian political stances, or you don’t.
What makes Ventura so captivating, even while he’s being so insufferable, is not his persona as “The Body,” but his transformation into “The Mind.”
He’s a smart guy. He can be thoughtful, and at times he seems to be able to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas in his mind and still be able to make sense, a trait that F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the test of a first-rate intelligence.”
But he’s also quite daffy.
Throughout his career, Ventura has had me shaking my head in disbelief one moment, then guiltily mumbling to myself: Sweet mother, I agree with everything he just said.
I sat through two or three days of testimony and concluded that the fight probably didn’t happen. Kyle had witnesses, but they were mostly bombed out of their skulls during the “incident.” Besides, there is that bond in which SEALs stick together, making their memories even more suspect.
But I didn’t think a jury would give Ventura a substantial verdict because how do you “prove” something didn’t happen, and how do you determine that an already fading TV personality who already lives at the far end of the broadband has been financially ruined, especially when he’s currently got a TV show?
Ventura seemed genuinely hurt that the brotherhood of frogmen and SEALs had turned against him. But it was suggested in court, and I believe it to be true, that he was harmed far less by the fistfight anecdote than by the fact he was suing the widow of a dead SEAL.
Both parties said it wasn’t about the money. Kyle’s widow professed that they intended that every penny of profits from the book go to charities, but she awkwardly struggled to explain why so little of the millions in compensation had actually gone to charity in the past two years.
After watching Kyle’s taped deposition played in court, then Jesse’s testimony, then Kyle’s widow on the stand, a visitor to the proceedings turned to me and said, “These are all the same people.”
Exactly. They are all part of the SEAL/frogman family, with large egos, bullet-resistant exteriors, and soft spots underneath that enemies, and lawyers, find on occasion.
One poignant moment was the testimony of Ventura’s son, Tyrel. His love and respect for his father were clear, and I have no doubt that Ventura is a good family man when he’s out of character. It must be very difficult to play Jesse Ventura every day of your life.
In victory, Ventura said he would have “permanently moved to Mexico” had he lost the case. Now, I love Mexico, but saying you would move there because the United States has a flawed justice system is like Edward Snowden moving to Russia to escape oppression and snooping.
For his new TV show, Ventura said he has been “off the grid” to hide from government drones, and probably now Navy SEALs, harsh critics and nettlesome reporters. Only Ventura can be off the grid and in the news at the same time.
But he’s in luck, because I hear $1.8 million can buy you a lot of nowhere.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin