Wallenda Whips Niagara

Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman


At the moment Nik Wallenda stepped off his tightrope on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls he handed the officials his passport.

Whew!! I was so worried he had made this 1800’ high wire trip, battling winds, mist, Falcons, a wet rope yet the Canadians were going to make him turn around and go back. You know what sticklers those Canucks are about protocol.

Even worse, after his stroll Wallenda had left the rope in place, practically giving illegal Canadian aliens a method to invade the United States.

Can’t you see Lou Dobbs, getting on his soapbox, insisting we build a fence on the U. S. side of the high wire, or save that, maybe electrify the wire to save us from an influx of Canadian immigrants? We don’t need that, especially more comedians.

Other than the passport thing and leaving the wire in place, technicalities really, Nik Wallenda is one very brave 33-year-old son-of-a-gun. He took the long, never-before-tried, route of the falls. He battled strong winds, a blinding mist, downdrafts, soggy footing and did so knowing a nest of peregrine falcons, the fastest birds in the world, capable of dive bombing you into submission, was nearby. Did I mention the 200-miles-per-hour peregrines are very territorial if they think someone is threatening their nests?

What’s it like to be a tightrope walker, a descendent of the Flying Wallendas? Well, for one, if you find you like it, your family will give you the best training in the world. Do you think it is tough putting on the 18th in the open with 20,000 eyeballs on you, or shooting last second free throws with 18,000 fans screaming at you? Those instances require utmost concentration but they pail compared to the concentration level of tightrope walking. Golf and basketball are not life or death. One tiny slip on the highwire can end your life. You never get to walk the wire in perfect conditions and distractions are the rule. So much so, when Nik trained on the wire as a young boy, his parents threw things at him, shot him with a BB gun, played deafening music, and flashed him pictures of Britney Spears in outrageous outfits. The idea was to toughen him, to help him tune everything else out but the task at hand.

If you watched, you noticed Nik didn’t do any special tricks, no jumping, no flips, no riding a bicycle (where he holds a Guinness world record), just a walk; which was tough enough considering the wet rope, the updrafts and the downdrafts and the 120,000 Canadians, all in rain suits, cheering. Birds flew by, a piece of tape was on the rope, winds swirled, yet to Nik it was creampuff compared to being shot with a BB gun or being hit with tennis balls. Well, not exactly creampuff, as Nik’s mom, Delilah Wallenda, did build him special suede shoes designed to grip better the wetter they got.

The Canadians gave him a T-Shirt which read “Don’t Worry, This is not the Only Way to get to Niagara Falls, Canada.” See what I mean about those hilarious Canadians? Do you think hard working American comedians have a chance if let more Canadian funnymen like Jim Carrey, Howie Mandel, Rich Little or Norm McDonald into our country? Are you worried like I am about the tightrope as an entry spot? Well, don’t be as we’ve been told it was removed and stored on the American side. USA! USA! USA!

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2 thoughts on “Wallenda Whips Niagara”

  1. Mike,

    No asterisk IMHO. The weights they hung from the lines were enough to make me think a tether brought a little trickiness to the evening’s stroll.

    As far as whether it’s a sporting event, that’s up for debate but it certainly is an athletic endeavor. Lots of circus events require perfected athletic skill, some of which you’ll see during the Olympics: Gymnastics, the rings, the balance beam(which is just maybe a thousand feet removed from being tightrope walking).

    While researching this story I read up on the peregrine falcons and to me that seemed to be maybe the most dangerous element of Nik’s walk. If I needed someone to walk across to save a baby from a 50 story burning building, Nik would be my guy.

  2. Will there be an asterisk on his accomplishment, since the network required him to use a safety wire to prevent him from dying on public television? I know Nik claimed it made it even more difficult. Even though there were two sides involved, I don’t know if you can call it a sporting event; I would say it was a stunt. I would also say he was very well prepared!

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