Don’t Believe Anything in this Essay (but its all true)

Quote of the Day:

“I have learned the art of the pitch.” –Sidd Finch

A few days ago I opened AOL and saw the news that caused a lump in my throat. A tear began to form in my eye. A young boy was trapped in a balloon soaring out of control 10,000 feet above the Earth. The authorities were on the case and trying to figure a way to save him, but it looked bad for the little tike. The nation was glued to their TV screens, taking a break only to check on our own children, say a brief prayer, or maybe to post a Facebook update of concern and of the balloon’s latest coordinates. A few hours later we found out the boy was safe at home. We cheered. We hugged children close. We thanked God for the answered prayers, and updated our Facebook statuses. A few minutes later the cynics began to speculate the whole story seemed damned dubious and the whole episode had probably been a hoax. “Impossible”, many of us said, staring blankly at our televisions, and hoped against hope we were right. Our collective ire began to rise, like a bird, bubbles or maybe something else that rises into the sky, like inert gases or maybe something else that would fit here better, I don’t know, I’m off on a tangent now. The point is we slowly began to realize we’d been had and we were pissed. Yes, TB was pissed too, yesterday. Not today though. Maybe its just because I tend to the contrarian point of view or maybe its my exceptional, dry, twisted? sense of humor. Whatever. Today I laugh.

I might be the only one though. Folks don’t like to be “had”, especially folks who shape opinions. There is an outpouring of pitchfork wielding villagers calling for the head of the mad scientist, or at least for hard time. All the networks and most of the blogs want this man in jail too. And why? Well, as far as I can tell, its for pulling one over on us, for leading us to needlessly expend from our apparently limited reservoir of human compassion and for using up some precious prayer equity perhaps. Oh sure, a lot of time and money was wasted, public and private. Sending the balloon daddy to jail won’t recapture it though. Wouldn’t this work out better if he got his crummy reality show but had civil judgments that collected all his money? Maybe the government agencies could even come out ahead on the deal. Other than some sort of visceral relief, it seems to me the time, effort and money that is and will be spent on prosecuting this eccentric are not justified.

Really, I have only one problem with the whole hoax after a bit of reflection on the matter, and that is that he involved his kids. It’s not even that he claimed a kid was in the balloon–this story wouldn’t have gone viral if it was his pet hamster in the sky after all–but that he had the kids in on the game and then subjected them to media scrutiny. If not for that, I’d really give him two thumbs up for the whole caper.

Can some good come of this? Probably not. Of course, probably no long term harm either, setting aside the costs of convictions. If some good could come of it, if TB had his own show and could shape a few opinions, of course I have enough trouble shaping opinions here in the TBU, but then I’m off on another tangent now, I forgot what I was going to say.

What I meant to say was that collectively, maybe we should lighten up a little.

Here’s a link to my favorite hoax of all time. Read the first letters of all the words in the introductory sentence. I was 14 when George Plimpton told us about Sidd Finch and his 200 mph fastball, his french horn and his Harvard background in Sports Illustrated, and I bought the tale hook, line and slider. My old man didn’t. And I was hacked when he laughed at me when the truth came out. But I learned something I’ve never forgotten from the episode–not to accept anything without question, even from a trusted media source. Within a few more days I came to another profound realization–that a well executed hoax should be appreciated, and that the embarrassment over having been had is best alleviated by joining in with the laughter.

There were a few more profundities I intended to share when I began this, but I have other things to do. I have to go forward an email ten times so I can get my share of Bill Gates’ money, I must determine what action to take upon learning of a certain illegal alien residing in Washington DC, and I have to debunk the contention that the Northwest Passage was ever impossible, and I need to investigate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s possible involvement with the Piltdown Man. And time is short. According to Mayan prophecy there’s only 2 and half years left. That’s why I need to get my Bill Gates money asap, so I can travel to Africa and the Yukon and England to look for….but I’m off on another tangent it seems….

Bonus Quote of the Day:

I’ll have to see it to believe it.” –Peter Ueberroth, in the last sentence of the Sidd Finch article

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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17 Responses to Don’t Believe Anything in this Essay (but its all true)

  1. With you rementioning, it put a finer point on it that the stunt really was a cruel thing to do to so many sincerely empathetic people who feared for the boy’s safety.

  2. Jessie Lou says:

    I think that guy loves himself way more than he could ever love his kids. I was skeptical from the beginning. I wonder if Falcon was throwing up during TV interviews from nerves or if they were giving him something like ipecac to make him do it.

  3. larry says:

    Somebody could have gotten hurt trying to help the kid. I am good with a practical joke, but what this guy did was dangerous. I think there is a difference between Sidd Finch and the Balloon Boy. Balloon Dad was only thinking of himself and his b*ll$hit 15 minutes of fame. People got emotionally involved because of the kid. Then had the wool pulled over their eyes and they got pissed. Balloon Dad is a piece of $hit and I think people are fed up with that type. That is why people want to see him hang. There is my tangent for the year

  4. I didn’t exactly mean to equate the Sidd Finch joke with Balloon Dad, but it reads that way–sorry Larry. I still say we put way too much energy into getting angry about these type stories. And I firmly believe we are purposely led on these tangents to distract us from and minimize the impact of more important issues.

  5. calicobebeop says:

    I agree – the only thing that bothers me about the whole thing is the kid. How on Earth can that person call themselves a parent? Who does that? Who raises their kids to be media hogs? Idiots!

    (stepping off soapbox now…)

  6. Samsmama says:

    I paid very little attention to it until after they had found the kid a posted a family photo. Because as soon as I saw it, I recognized them from their time on “Wife Swap”, and I was mortified with myself for having ever watched that show. I’m glad that charges are being brought against them The money, time, and resources used in the “search” …such a waste. Hell, Denver airport was affected. Let them be an example and hopefully noone will ever attempt something so stupid in the future.

    And I think the kid puked because of nerves. And it only made them look even more guilty.

    There’s a t-shirt I want. On the front it says, “The Truth Is Out There” and on the back it says, “Or It’s In Falcon’s Attic.” Genius!

  7. Samsmama says:

    No, I totally understand your point (and caught the humor). I just enjoy ranting about it. My husband is sick of hearing me talk about it and doesn’t understand my fascination with “Bubble Boy”.

    I also thoroughly enjoyed TDW’s post. And I’m very curious as to what Jon Stewart thinks of BB.

    SM, I deleted my comment because I was taking my own post too seriously! But yes, the Jon Stewart post at TDW is worth watching and I think it might be what inspired my post in the first place subconsciously–I was watching The Daily Show while writing. (TB)

  8. larry says:

    No need to be sorry – I got the humor of the post and did not mean to suggest that you were relating Finch and Balloon Dad. I was just trying to say Plimpton created a story that actually entertained people and Ballon Dad is a drain on society. I have not watched or given a second thought to Balloon Dad until the post this morning. I was just trying to participate in the TB universe.

  9. Duly noted and appreciated Larry.

  10. Zeek says:

    Interestingly enough, something noone has mentioned, and is the driving part of the cause of all this ego-fueled, narcissistic, reality depraved fiasco, is that in the end, even if some prosecution takes place, this family will probably profit from the hoax. Somebody will be willing to pay these morons for some reality show, or movie , or exclusive documentary/ movie. And what is even sadder is that people will watch it and discuss it on tv, the internet, buy the book, etc. The reason Paris, the Gosselins, octomom and others are rich is because too many Americans are DUMB enough to watch them and support their popularity. What happened to actually being talented to gain notoreity or fame for god’s sake???

  11. Good point Zeek, the more notorious the character, the madder the public, the bigger the TV deal.

  12. Jessie Lou says:

    They all bore me – I’d rather be reading a good book or using my own rather over-active imagination.

  13. Noting the exposure this dipsh*t got for his stunt and because I’m desperate for money, I put my 7-year old in a wagon and pushed her down a steep hill in my neighborhood. I thought Wagon Girl had a nice ring to it.

    As go most of my schemes, nothing’s come of it.

  14. Samsmama says:

    Donde esta, Wagon Girl?

  15. Madd Dawg says:

    DW, c’mon man, you’ve got to get the desparate for news hysterical media involved for this ploy to work. Try something bolder—-I am sure that your little girl will be fine……

  16. MD, I guess I could strap her up to my left over bottle rockets from the 4th of July and call my local channel to televise my new event called The Lighting of the Child.

  17. Madd Dawg says:

    Now you’re talking, DW. What’s the worst that could happen?

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