I’ve never been much of a sports fan. I couldn’t understand the investment others made in attaining savant levels of knowledge about championship history, player statistics, and franchise migration. Frankly, I decided it was all some kind of cultural sickness. When I went to Iraq, my friend and sometimes mentor Francisco Gonzalez sent me a book that changed all that. On The Unseriousness of Human Affairs, a series of essays by James V. Schall, explores the value in things the modern mind regards as inconsequential.
Fr. Schall taught me to appreciate sports and games, not only as a participant but as a spectator. The male physique built and conditioned to consistently throw a leather ball 80 yards with pinpoint accuracy, while darting away from 300-pound men trying to knock him to the ground; the human reflexes honed to connect a wooden stick with just the right point on a small white object moving fast enough to kill a man; the integrated athleticism of a tennis player who moves and swings across her clay or grass canvas. These are wonderful to behold, in many ways like Michelangelo’s David or a masterful symphony performance.
So I avoid the temptation to poo-poo feats like Skywire, in which Nik Wallenda walked across the grand canyon on a tightrope. What’s the point, other than to watch some attention-starved performer risk his life for no discernible gain? I would have said that once, too. But Wallenda wasn’t just brave — he was skilled. He trained and strove and developed to achieve a level of capability virtually unmatched on the planet — an uncommon blend of balance, reflex, strength, endurance, and resolve.
Of course, a guy walking on a wire over a canyon is hardly a Brandenburg Concerto or the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Maybe some things really aren’t worth the risk or are just vulgar showboating. But I can barely walk from one room to another in a straight line, and looking out of a 3rd story window makes me a little queasy. If you have impeccable balance and no fear, then maybe this is just a silly stunt to you. But I’m content to admire this feat of human ability and look forward to a day when fear and injury are erased from our world.