By Franchie Viaud, Staff Writer

Nik Wallenda, a daredevil who has previously made headlines from his stunts walking over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, plans to tightrope over the Chicago River on Nov. 2./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dave Pape

Nik Wallenda, a daredevil who has previously made headlines from his stunts walking over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, plans to tightrope over the Chicago River on Nov. 2./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dave Pape

Daredevils. It’s only natural to wonder what makes someone risk themselves for the sake of entertainment. If it was purely entertainment for entertainment’s sake, they would have found a much safer, if comparatively boring, way to regale America’s fickle audience. It might not turn as many heads, but on the bright side, the chances of dying in inexplicably petrifying ways would have been greatly reduced, if not totally avoidable.

It would be simple to label these daredevils as the few truly insane people out of a relatively well-balanced bunch—the exception and not the norm. But there are far too many like them to dismiss them as simply insane.

For Nik Wallenda (of the Wallenda family, well known for their death-defying stunts) it seems this particular “defect” runs strong in the family. The same guy who walked across the Grand Canyon last year on live television, Wallenda will be striding more than 50 stories above the Chicago River on a tightrope uphill at a 15-degree angle around November 2. For the visually inclined, the angle would be similar to the one naturally made by your pinky and ring finger when they’re slightly splayed apart. Not exactly an easy feat.

If we could observe his brain, maybe we would find some portion of his cortex overly developed, underdeveloped, enlarged or somehow different than the average nine-to-five desk jockey’s mind — some portion of his psyche drives him towards risk-taking. Like an addict looking for his next fix, just to experience that adrenaline rush that’s brought about every time he does something that has his hands quivering like an epileptic fish and his heart pounding so hard you wouldn’t be surprised if the people milling about 600 feet below him could hear the erratic thumps.

With such emotional and physical duress, the average person would falter, panic or simply surrender. But the Wallendas seek out what everyone else avoids.

Or maybe there isn’t anything that can be picked, prodded and observed under a microscope, or at least not a difference we can physically witness with our own eyes. No chemical or hormonal imbalance, no trauma, emotional or otherwise, no unfathomable trait passed conspicuously down the family tree, nothing that we’d determine could “explain” this particular “urge.” But I suppose something like this isn’t meant to be scrutinized, but should simply be taken at face value: a thoroughly engrossing crazed stunt committed by an equally engrossing and “crazed” man.

Previously, Wallenda had walked across Niagara Falls at astonishing heights. Without a net or harness, on Nov. 2, Wallenda will engage in another exploit that may very well end his demise, this time in the Windy City. It had happened to his grandfather, Karl Wallenda, after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978. This could be the most dangerous stunt performed by any member of the acrobatically predisposed and self-proclaimed “Flying Wallendas.”

Whatever may motivate him, I think we can all agree it will be something worth seeing.