You might think it would be impossible to take the thrill out of a wire walk across Niagara Falls, but Nik Wallenda managed the trick last night.
Blame the lawyers for making it deadly dull, and blame Nik Wallenda for letting them. ABC would broadcast the event (and pick up the tab) only if Wallenda wore a safety harness that would catch him if he fell off the wire. Wallenda claimed he felt “like a jackass wearing it,” but wear it he did.
Is wire-walking really even wire-walking with the danger removed? It’s not like a trapeze act, where the thrill is in the gymnastics. With no price to be paid for falling, Wallenda’s talent was reduced to walking very slowly with good balance for about 1200 feet. That’s something you can see during morning exercise hours at any mall. (Minus the good balance, maybe.)
Yes, Niagara Falls is a handsomer setting than the mall. But there are many more thrilling ways to spend your time at Niagara Falls, like honeymooning and shooting craps.
ABC did its best to hype it up, calling it an “old school, knuckle-whitening megastunt”… but of course everyone knew that was silly.
Real old school is The Great Blondin in the 1850s:
“He crossed the Falls on a bicycle, on stilts, and at night. He swung by one arm, turned somersaults, and stood on his head on a chair. Once he pushed a stove in a wheelbarrow and cooked an omelet. On one occasion, he crossed blindfold in a heavy sack made of blankets. But his greatest feat was to carry a man across on his back. During his fifth exhibition, he persuaded his manager, Harry Colcord, to climb on his back and to hazard the long trip across the gorge. Colcord later described Blondin as ‘a piece of marble, every muscle…tense and rigid.'”
THAT’S old school. Old school is putting your hide on the line for no good reason, and cooking an omelette while you’re at it. Old school is sneaking to the top of World Trade Center towers, stringing a wire and strolling across.
New school is a big-money network deal with the fangs removed.
The live mic on Wallenda didn’t help, with Wallenda uttering banalities like “This is what dreams are made of, people. Pursue your dreams, never give up!” Unless the network offers you a big-money deal, that is. Then give up your dreams, wear the harness and take the money!
“Bottom line: This whole night wasn’t about Nik Wallenda, it was about ABC hijacking this event and form-fitting it for primetime TV. As a ‘spectacle,’ it was a nice lead-in to the late news. We got hints of a great event, but it was all smoke and mirrors from a network that just doesn’t get it. If it takes another 20 years to see this again, let’s invite Wallenda back to do it right. The falls remain undefeated.”