It pains me to confess that when I hear a person under the age of 30 use the phrase “jump(ing) the shark” I want to, in the words of famous mafiosos, “give him such a smack.”  That kid doesn’t know what jumping the shark means.  He didn’t have to sit through the horror of watching Arthur Fonzarelli, the man who was supposed to be the coolest cat on television, water-ski while wearing both a full leather jacker AND a yellow floaty belt, all while sporting jean shorts that would make Daisy Duke blush and engaging in “tricks” like lifting a leg out of the water and holding the bar in his teeth while giving his signature “thumbs up.”  Even as a five year old kid I knew what I was watching was ridiculous.  But the difference between me and that twenty-something year old is that I had to endure it and then live with the inevitable disillusion that followed.

So far, this post isn’t too deep in the theology.  Well, I have another confession to make.  In all the years I have used the phrase “jump the shark”, and all the times I have heard it used by others to derisively describe a moment or episode where a TV show runs afoul of its core, one thing has never occurred to me.  At some point, there was a person who thought that the Fonz jumping the shark would be a good idea.

Bob Brunner, a writer and producer on Happy Days who both named Fonzie and also reportedly suggested that the character jump the shark, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 78.

Brunner died of a heart attack on Oct. 28 near his home in Northridge, Calif.

Read that first paragraph again.  This guy, Bob Brunner, has, as his two most defining moments, naming one of the most iconic characters in television – even literary – history, AND that he made that character a laughing stock and the source of a phrase that would be used derisively for decades to follow.

It never occurred to me before today that, somewhere, there was someone who might squirm every time he heard the phrase “jump the shark.”  And you know that he couldn’t really talk about creating “The Fonz” because the inevitable follow up would be, “Oh, wow!  You did?!?!?  Hey… Whose idea was it to make the Fonz jump that stupid shark???”

But Bob Brunner’s career didn’t end with Fonzie jumping the shark.  He went on to co-create and executive-produce Brothers and Sisters and Working Stiffs, and executive-produced Diff’rent StrokesWebster and Love, Sidney. He co-wrote the 1999 film The Other Sister and Exit to Eden, both with Marshall.

Some, maybe even most, would have given up the TV/Film writing game had they been shouldered with the responsibility of bringing “jumping the shark” into existence.  But Brunner didn’t. Did he have a mega-blockbuster to his credit?  No.  But every bio tells the story of a man who worked hard and continued until the end to hone his craft.

The moral of the story, I think, is this: One failure doesn’t make you a failure.  Proverbs 24:16 says:

Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them.

Maybe you’ve made a bad call in your job, in your education, in your marriage or other relationships.  Maybe you picked a career that turned out to be not what was best for you or not even your calling at all.  Maybe you’ve failed miserably at it.  God says, “get back up!”

Look at some of God’s promises:

When you’re down, God will give you a new song

I patiently waited, Lord, for you to hear my prayer.  You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire.  You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you.. (Psalm 40:2-3)

God promises that, through the Messiah, we are given…

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

God promises that we can ask…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Yes, you’ve failed, you’ve messed up, you’ve lost everything, you’ve jumped the shark in every possible way…

Jesus says “Behold! I make all things new!” Or, in the “Not-So-King-James” translation…

You jumped the shark? So what? Let me do something miraculous through you.

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