The man from Austria opened the capsule door, 127,000 feet above the Earth and still rising. 1,000 feet later, he walked outside and into space. At almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airliner, Felix Baumgartner was about to execute a truly amazing feat. Almost like a scene from a sci-fi Hollywood blockbuster, the world marvelled as footage showed him to be face-to-face with the Earth. He saluted before casually stepping off his platform, disappearing in the blink of an eye. Gasps reverberated around the globe in astonishment.
The former military parachutist and current professional dare-devil broke three world records: the highest balloon flight by a human, the highest freefall jump and the fastest freefall speed (he hit a maximum speed of 1,342 kph / 834 mph / Mach 1.24). He failed to make the longest freefall jump, a record which his mentor, Joseph Kittinger, holds from back in 1960.
The initial jump was “perfect”, as per Baumgartner’s words but then he went into a spin. The Daily Telegraph video link shows how violent and turbulent the spin was (in addition to the initial breathtaking jump). Baumgartner entertained the disastrous possibility that he may lose consciousness. Thankfully, he regained control – to the particular delight of the Red Bull Stratos control room. Some four minutes after he departed the helium-powered capsule (39km above the Earth), he deployed his parachute and eventually landed safely in the New Mexican desert, topping off his monumental feat with an impressively, smooth landing.
The world clapped and smiled in amazement in this spectacular achievement. Pushing the boundaries of human capability never ceases to amaze.
In contrast, our multi-million pound footballers continue to bewilder with their constant and relentless immaturity. Cheating, racism and petulance is the order of the day. Diving, unnecessary comments – both on and off the pitch – and gamesmanship are rife. A fine example of today’s generation, is when they jump onto Twitter to rant aimlessly and then delete their tweets when their balls shrink.
Only last week Michael Owen reeled off great lines how an element of today’s game is about outwitting your opponent – particularly in the penalty area. ‘If they take the bait, you go down’. That is perfectly fine according to Michael and of course that’s not something you would not understand unless you have played the game, he added. Good role model material then. Simulation is about to be introduced in the football syllabus for under 5’s.
The racism issue is now ridiculous. Joey Barton in a recent interview actually came across very well, when he explained that the record FA punishment dished out to him (12 game ban) was as a result of three charges brought against him for incidents which occurred in the same 20 second period of Manchester versus QPR last season. He received the ban for getting sent from the field for violent conduct, before lashing out again on the way to the touchline. Still adamant that Carlos Tevez punched him first, “12 game ban – does that mean I’m Luis Suarez plus John Terry?” Good question but if we looked at Barton’s past misdemeanors, it is unlikely you would have time for work today.
Furthermore, today’s footballers are also made of glass. Theo Walcott was pole-axed on Friday night by the San Marino goalkeeper, but outfield players being clattered into by goalkeepers was a regular occurrence back in the day when the game was played by men. Was the San Marino goalkeeper’s tackle reckless? Yes. Was it intentional? No.
Gareth Southgate barked with as much authority as a chuwawa in claiming that Walcott’s professional career could have been prematurely ended. How rugby players would laugh themselves silly at that comment. In exchange of a multi-million pound contracts, is it too much to ask today’s footballers to refrain from behaving like princesses and toughen up a little – in what is a contact sport.
Maybe use that chap Felix Baumgartner as a role model. In the wise words of Adidas – Impossible is Nothing.