Photo Credit: Tim Boyles/Getty Images
There's something, well, uncomfortable about watching a man walk a tightrope across a 1,500-foot-deep canyon gorge, live on television. Oh, and without a safety net or harness, and only a long pole for balance. And the wind's blowing (unpredictably, and potentially as strong as 30 mph). And a microphone's letting you in on his ongoing prayers to Jesus, and his jokes about not looking down, and his occasional conversation with his dad (who's also miked and back on land).
Sunday night, the Discovery Channel's viewership held its collective breath for nearly 23 minutes as high-wire artist Nik Wallenda crossed the quarter-mile distance across the Little Colorado River Gorge (just outside the Grand Canyon National Park). One wobble, one misstep, and he would have tumbled into oblivion. He wore a camera, so we saw what he saw. Here are the highlights:
No doubt to the Discovery Channel's enormous relief, he made the crossing, and immediately fell to the ground to kiss the earth.
As for us viewers, is it creepy to fixate on a screen, watching and waiting to see if a man is going to fall to his death? It's a natural question, and here's another: Why did he do this, anyway?
Wallenda, it turns out, is a member of the Flying Wallendas, a family of aerialists who've performed in various circuses for seven generations. "It was a dream come true," the 34-year-old Florida native said in an interview afterwards. "This is what my family has done for 200 years, so it's part of my legacy."
Speaking of family, his wife and three children stood by, too -- no doubt holding their breath, wringing their hands and praying like mad to fend off the stress Dad put them through. This, frankly, seems a little mean on Wallenda's part. (Even worse? Think of the pressure his children must feel to carry on this crazy legacy!) They seemed fine, though. This is what Dad does; last year's death-baiting stunt was over Niagara Falls. Wallenda did admit that the pressure he puts on his family "weighs heavy on me." But obviously, not enough to hang up his balancing pole.
Not surprisingly, the crossing was a big ratings hit for the Discovery Channel.
Chances are Wallenda will annoy someone with his next stunt, too: crossing a wire from the Empire State Building to the Chrysler Building. Seriously, just imagine the traffic it'll cause if he falls!
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.