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A new year, a new direction for birthday boy Howard Stern

Richard Drew / AP file

Happy birthday, Howard Stern.

OPINION

Howard Stern is 58 today, and there are many reasons to wish the self-proclaimed King of All Media a happy one. Wait a minute -- hear us out.

Say Stern's name and you're likely to get one of two responses: "Baba Booey to you!" or "Ugh! What a disgusting pig!" If you fall into the "ugh!" camp, 2012 just might be the year you start to come over to "Baba Booey"-ville.

Stern started the year on a very high note when he reached out to fans via Twitter on New Year's Eve, asking them to tweet him their phone numbers so that he could call them, thank them for their support and wish them a happy new year. The gesture thrilled fans and gave the man himself an emotional boost, which he shared with his listeners on his SiriusXM radio show.

This summer, he's making the jump to yet another medium -- primetime TV -- as one of the judges on "America's Got Talent."

The announcement brought condemnation from various parental watch groups and more than a few "I'll never watch agains" from the "ugh" crowd. But their vitriol is misplaced. Stern is an unbashed fan of the show, as well as "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and "X Factor." In his long career, he has seen a host of musical talent -- and the lack of it -- and is in a very strong position to offer truthful, and occasionally biting, comments to contestants. If you're expecting him to be nasty or vulgar, you may be disappointed, because ... wait for it ... he's actually a nice guy.

A devoted husband and father, Stern has been a vocal advocate for free speech, gay rights and animal rights. Listeners know that despite his bluster, he is a pussycat of a boss and has seemingly infinite compassion for his "whack pack." Just when you think he's finally done with Eric the Actor, he reaches out to help him yet again. He may rail furiously at Scott the Engineer or Benjy or Sal on Monday, but by Tuesday, all is forgiven.

So, on Howard's 58th birthday, we wish the King a very happy day, a very successful year and a heartfelt "hey now!"

Come on, "ugh" people. Give him a chance!

Are you a Stern fan or foe? Are you willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as he joins "AGT" this season? Share your thoughts on Facebook.