By Doug Halberstadt
Is tightrope-walking a sport? Last Sunday night (Nov. 2), I found myself being drawn away from my usual diet of NFL football to watch a completely different type of athlete, a professional tightrope walker. I couldn’t stop turning the channel on my television over to a show called Skyscraper Live With Nik Wallenda.
The program promoted two consecutive death-defying walks high above Chicago. The first would be up a 19 percent incline wire, and the second would be done blindfolded between Marina Tower West and Marina Tower East.
The live show on The Discovery Channel documented everything from the rigging and set-up of the tightrope wires over 600 feet above the ground between the West Marina Tower and the Leo Burnett Office Building, to the weather conditions featuring the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, and what would happen if Wallenda were to fall during his world-record and history-making attempt.
One of the things this show had in common with a major sporting event was the crowd gathered to see the unimaginable feat. More than 65,000 people gathered in the streets below the skyscrapers to watch Wallenda, and millions more tuned in via their televisions.
The amount of training, the mental and physical preparation, the strength and stamina required to perform the incline and blindfold walk must be equivalent to — or possibly even more demanding than — other professional athletes.
After watching the two successful walks, I’m still not certain I would include tightrope walking as a sport, but I am 100 percent certain that Wallenda is an elite athlete in a category all his own.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue