While watching a tennis match on TV recently, the camera suddenly focused on a familiar face in the stands. “I recognize that person,” I thought to myself, but couldn’t place him. Then the announcer said that he was Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped last October out of a helium-filled balloon capsule from 24 miles high. He set all kinds of records. Millions of us watched the balloon’s launch and his jump over a few hours. It was thrilling, chilling and joyous.
We celebrated his courage, because he did something that none of us would do…nor even wanted to do. He risked his life and reputation…and now he is a guy watching a tennis match.
He was always just a guy with everyday life problems. He has to shower and dress himself. Earn money or manage what he has. Think up new challenges. Talk on the phone. Eat a meal.
But there was something quite disorienting for me to see this life-risking pioneer simply chatting away and watching live the same match I was watching on TV. If he was never my hero, I certainly applaud and admire his bravery and risk taking. I certainly admire his ability to organize the multi-million dollar program called Red Bull Stratos that built his equipment, his space suit, and launched him into space. And he was back being a mortal.
Maybe it was the life-risking part of the achievement that made his “ordinariness” so startling. When I see athletes who have aged since their glory days, so that they walk with a slower step or need assistance, I can accept readily their frailty and humanness. But something was different in viewing Felix being ordinary. Maybe you have a thought about what it was.
At the bottom of this page is a 90 second video of his momentous day last October. Enjoy it…