Dazed and Confused

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 1999

By LEE DRESSELHAUS / L’Observateur / April 20, 1999

So…..you know, sometimes this hero worship stuff gets just a littleridiculous. Now, I don’t mind giving deserving people their due when theirdue is due, do you? Like someone who runs into a burning house to save a family or plunges into a raging river to save a drowning child. Or someonewho gives their time and effort to help the needy. Or even the athlete whotrains his or her heart out to break records and attain goals that would be unattainable without incredible dedication and sacrifice. When somebodycalls these people heroes, I can understand where the label comes from.

What I’m having a hard time understanding is this…..Why do two rich guys who just ride a balloon around the world get the hero treatment? The media, in a typical feeding frenzy, have begun to lionize these two intrepid sportsmen, Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard, as if they had just returned from a manned Mars mission or something. They have beencrowned the darlings of the week by just about all facets of the media.

And I see that the Queen of England has gone out of her way to offer her congratulations to them. And now, being the opinionated little jerk that Iam, I would like to put this whole thing into the proper perspective by bringing up several pertinent points of view.

1) These are two extremely wealthy guys with way too much money and way too much time on their hands. The entire setup cost about as much asCosta Rica.

2) They could afford a high tech gondola. A very high tech gondola. Theinside of this gondola looks like the cockpit of the space shuttle.

3) They didn’t have to do much after the thing lifted off. I would like toremind everyone that it is a BALLOON. It ain’t the Concorde, folks. All theyhad to do was get in, stay put, don’t fall out and don’t let the high tech balloon deflate and fall to the earth with said rich guys still hooked to it.

4) I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that very little intensive training would be required for this mission. Like intense physical effort,for instance. It just isn’t required for this type of stuff. Any training thatwould be required I do on a daily basis. I can sit on my butt, microwavefood, send and receive faxes and talk on the radio with the best of them. Idon’t have much of a reason to check a map and my compass to see if my recliner has drifted off course but, come to think of it, they probably didn’t either, That Global Positioning Satellite software just doesn’t require much effort to use.

5) And finally, I would like to remind the media piranhas, who referred to them as the balloon’s “pilots” that they didn’t “pilot” anything. Let me saythis again. It’s a BALLOON. (See paragraph 3).I read in the paper that one of them said they were sick for a time after the mission was under way. To which I would like to make the followingcomment. Shut up. Just…..shut up.OK, OK, I know I’ll probably get some nastygrams from some of the sports fans out there telling me that these two gomers risked their lives to set a ballooning record. And that I shouldn’t belittle or demean theiraccomplishment. I’m not belittling or demeaning anything. I’m just puttingthis into perspective. They climbed into a balloon and drifted with thewind currents until they were finished. And they had the money to do itsafely. That’s all. Wow. I’m just not overly impressed for some reason.Tell you what. If you want to impress me, climb aboard a multi-storytower full of high explosive fuel and let someone you probably don’t even know push a button that blasts you from the ground into orbit in about one minute flat then, when you’re done with whatever you had to do in a frigid, airless vacuum, fly that thing through a fiery re-entry to a pin-point safe landing. That’s impressive. Risk your life to save someone else. That’simpressive. Write The Grapes Of Wrath or The Catcher In The Rye. Or evenDoonesbury or Garfield. That’s impressive. Dedicate your entire life tobeing the best you can be in whatever you do, whether it’s athletics, medicine, or being a master carpenter or electrician. I’m impressed bythat. Or work two jobs to keep your kids in clothes and your family off ofwelfare. Now, that’s impressive. Sorry, but two rich guys in their high tech toy balloon just don’t come up to snuff when compared to people like that.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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