The insanity of sport |

The insanity of sport

Jane Stebbins

I can1t help but wonder what is<or isn1t<going on in the brains of people who take sport, games and other worthwhile fun activities to extreme limits.I1m hard-pressed to get on the Tilt-o-Puke at Disney World. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous.I have a friend who works as an underwater welder and another who works as a firefighter in Antarctica. That might not qualify as 3sport, but they say it1s 3fun.Other friends of mine jump out of planes<on purpose. I have a friend who bungee-jumps off bridges, one who takes walks up Mt. Everest, a few who participate in Eco-Challenges, several who cut holes in the ice of Lake Dillon and go scuba diving, and another who almost was left for dead on an ice shelf while kayaking in uncharted waters in Canada1s Northwest Territories.I do not understand this. My idea of an exciting day is successfully crossing Highway 9 when the traffic light isn1t working. The most dangerous thing I1ve ever done is go to the grocery store during Spring Break. The most daring thing I1ve ever done is allow five of my daughter1s friends to spend the night<at the same time.My friends, however, pale in comparison to U.S. Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger, who, 42 years ago, jumped out of a hot-air balloon 102,800 feet above Earth. There1s barely any gravity up there. He reached a top speed of 614 mph, deployed his parachute and landed safely on this planet, rather than say, Mars, which was actually closer to his balloon when he took that first big step.Even though he lived to tell about it<others haven1t<he was disappointed. He did not break the sound barrier.But American Cheryl Stearns and Aussie Rodd Millner fully intend to. They1re both qualified: They1re certifiably nuts.Millner has jumped out of planes thousands of times, and he1s been an inflatable-speedboat racer and kung fu competitor. How martial arts will help him in this endeavor<unless, of course, he lands on Mars<is beyond me.The two plan to reach Mach 1<about 700 mph, depending on the air temperature and a bunch of other symbols (?Y.+^% X 2) I haven1t seen since high school physics<by jumping out of a balloon in October. Said balloon will be 130,000 feet off the ground. That1s 24.621 miles.Do you know what happens 24.621 miles off the ground? People lose their minds, that1s what. They will be above the atmosphere1s protective blanket<assuming we haven1t blown that hole in the ozone wide open by then<where the sun1s radiation can sear human skin. Sear: 3To burn with sudden, intense heat. Think pan-fried, blackened catfish. Cajun style. SPF 45 won1t do squat up there.If that1s not enough, there is little atmospheric pressure<and almost no oxygen<at 24.621 miles above Earth. This means your blood will boil. That1s got to feel weird.On the other end of the spectrum, something as innocuous as a passing cloud, satellite, meteor or UFO can cast a shadow that dips the temperature into the negatives. Like 406 degrees below zero.That1s not the worst of it. The atmosphere is so thin, it qualifies as a vacuum. In vacuums, things can spin wildly. One tumble and an uncontrolled flat spin could kill a diver. From spin to splat.And remember sonic booms? These are shock waves that come from hitting Mach 1<shock waves that have shattered airplanes. A big ol1 sonic boom<and this is the goal<will let our two fearless falling fools know when they1ve reached the speed of sound.I, for one, do not want to be anywhere near these two when they leap into an atmosphere near you.I plan to be deep under the ocean waves, welding together a shelter to protect me from their fall.Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228

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