Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I Don't Get Mad Often...

But when I do, you better get out of my way.

I nearly spit nails over this stunt David Blaine pulled this evening. I decreed I would not watch it, but since my resolve to not watch TV has been lacking and with the can't-avoid-watching-a-train-wreck phenomenon, I found myself flipping to it periodically. In case you didn't see anything about this special, it was about this magician-turned-side-show-freak who decided to hold his breath for nine minutes on live television. Why did this make me so mad? I'll tell you.

Nine minutes is hard. That's fine, but then if you know that the time would be a new world record, you'd know that. Then why hang out in a tank of water for a week and have yourself chained to the bottom of that tank so that your stunt includes not only the holding of your breath for longer than anyone else has in a record attempt, but also after subjecting your body to unknown stressors for water living for that long and picking of handcuff locks to boot? What is he really trying to prove? That he's still a magician/escape artist, and not just doing some stunt that someone else could try, too? I don't get it.

Then, if you lose consciousness holding your breath on your couch for 5 minutes, what makes you think you can do nearly twice that long in water? I hope that was early in his training, because that's a lot of time to increase. They had video of him laying on a couch and the people watching him told him he'd reached the 5-minute point, and a few seconds later he sputtered a breath, and asked how long he went. He never heard them announce 5 minutes. Hint, hint: that means there's not enough oxygen getting to your brain, dude. If there's not enough oxygen getting to your brain at 5 minutes, even with training it's going to be tough to make it 4 more minutes. I know there is a mammalian dive reflex that lowers your heartrate and allows you to use less oxygen if your face is in the water, but not four minutes worth.

And lastly, they threw out the Audrey card. Any of you who follow freediving or have had a subscription to Sports Illustrated in the last five years have most likely heard about Audrey. She was an unfortunate diver whose equipment malfunctioned (we'll give the benefit of the doubt for this particular entry) at the bottom of a world-record-attempting dive. As a result, she was under water almost 10 minutes (not the 8:30 the show cited), and was unable to be revived. While virtually everything that can go wrong did, her dive is not an indicator of how dangerous a 9-minute breathhold is. In fact, the only way a breathhold dive is dangerous is if you're dumb enough to do it alone. Otherwise, your buddy should always be able to pull you out and spontaneous breathing will commence. In a depth dive, the oxygen in your lungs is significantly compressed under the pressure of the depth, so it doesn't become as available to your core and brain as a surface dive allows. Comparing a dive to 170 meters (nearly 560 feet, or 46 stories) to a dive where you're hanging out in a tank with your forehead sticking out of the water is worse than apples to oranges. And in excessively poor taste, since her attempt didn't just fail, she died.

The only good thing that came out of this is that David Blaine failed. He had to be rescued from his tank at just over seven minutes. He's not in the record books for this stunt.


mr. kyle said...

While I'm glad to hear that you don't get mad often, I'm having a slight bit of trouble understanding just what it was that made this something to push your buttons? That he was going for a record, but not doing it according to partcular standards, or that in making his attempt they drew incorrect parallels to another event, or something else? I'm just trying to picture you 'spitting nails' over breath holding and it's not adding up. Please clarify if you can do so without killing your keyboard.

Heather said...

It's more about the fact that I've watched so many people work so hard to get freediving considered an extreme sport, but to get past the freak show aspect of it. This kind of widely-available special undoes a lot of that work.