My Responce to people who disliked my making fun of Felix Baumgartner’s epic fall


Judging from the email messages I got, I seemed to have pissed some people off by my sarcastic statement wondering why Felix Baumgartner is considered athlete. I thought I would share a few words.

First off, to appease everyone who contacted me I cannot do what Felix Baumgartner did today, it took training, time, and money that I don’t have his act today is definitely a record of some sort. The event though was a symbolic of something the same way Neil Armstrong first step on the moon was. My sarcasm was directed at what the event to me symbolized.

The word athlete comes from the word athlete from Greek athlētēs, from athlein to contend for a prize, from athlon prize, contest. What is the prize here? The prize here is to have one’s name written in the history book. Jesse Owen winning 4 Olympic gold medals at the Olympic games that Hitler presided over was an athletic feat that made a statement. I can say the same for Billie Jean King‘s beat-down of Bobby Riggs at tennis. Those feat were greater than any single man or country.

Felix jump isn’t on par to me with those events. It’s a vainglorious feat I don’t see high school boys and girls petitioning their school to let them free fall from a balloon 25 miles up. This feat in terms of inaccessibility is comparable to the first manned hot air balloon flight in 1783 (6 years before the start of the French Revolution) by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier who hobnobbed with the Parisian aristocracy and if I remember correctly was close friend with the brother of the king of France. de Rozier wasn’t a French peasant begging for bread I believe. Neither was Felix

Felix tried the jump once before but the wind conditions were not good. That one time use giant balloon/air condom cost an estimated $250,000: no estimate have been release for the total cost of his amazing attempt. Self-referentiality is an expensive past-time and now a sport it seems. This sets a precedent to me at least that if you want to prove to yourself that you are special and have money you can buy the world as your audience. (There is an industry built on this space tourism, Sarah Brightman is going to go to the international Space station to be the first person to sing there) This is very different from the Jesse Owen track and field gold medal.

Many people uttered the platitude that Felix’s jump brought many people together. I wondered who did he bring together when 65% of the world according to some estimates does not have INTERNET access. I am willing to guess that a large majority of the world doesn’t have cable TV, or have not benefited from Direct TV (it’s a shame especially with the NFL Sunday Ticket). Usually after 10 minutes of programming there is a 2-3 minute commercial time. I’m sure while many people were watching Baumgartner fall some had the luxury to have a fridge with food to go raid. This isn’t the majority of the world I don’t think and Baumgartners fall isn’t marketable to most of the world.

I guess at the end of the day I let my cynicism and curmudgeonly ways get the best of me and didn’t join in the festivities. Felix Baumgartner is an international hero and like the EU is deserving of a major international prize. 

“…sense of futility that comes from doing anything merely to prove to yourself that you can do it: having a child, climbing a mountain, making some sexual conquest, committing suicide.

The marathon is a form of demonstrative suicide, suicide as advertising: it is running to show you are capable of getting every last drop of energy out of yourself, to prove it… to prove what? That you are capable of finishing. Graffiti carry the same message. They simply say: I’m so-and-so and I exist! They are free publicity for existence.
Do we continually have to prove to ourselves that we exist? A strange sign of weakness, harbinger of a new fanaticism for a faceless performance, endlessly self-evident.” 

– Jean Baudrillard

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