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Man vs. Zip line

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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INDIANAPOLIS - Part of the week’s festivities is a zip line that runs the length of the street next to the convention center that hosts the NFL Experience. The tower you have to walk up is 91 steps and 14 flights of scaffolding. (This is what I was told. I stopped counting after 60-something steps because it was pretty high and I could feel the thing swaying. I figured counting each step wasn’t in the best interest of my nerves.) Anyway, people have been lining up for the ride at 5 a.m. with it opening to the public in the afternoon. Today, it was 3 p.m. Media members were allowed to ride beforehand. (On the walk to the entrance, a group of union workers were protesting and shouting at some fans. This didn’t seem like a good sign.) So, I was in a small group with my fiancée and ESPN’s John Clayton. You first sign away your life on a couple forms – you know, just in case you plummet to street below. They strap you in this harness that goes around your shoulders and your buttocks and up through the front of the groin region. Let’s just say it was snug… (Clayton made a few jokes in higher octave, at this point.) After random workers strap you in the harness, there’s one last guy that checks you before the walk up the stairs. Apparently, he’s the head safety guy. He was the first one to ride the thing after it was built and he checks every single person. The stairs may be the worst part. It’s a long walk with the wind blowing and the ground getting farther and farther away. Mind you, this isn’t a structure with mortar and bricks. It’s built with piping that looks no thicker than my wrist. The higher you get, you can feel it moving. (Now, I’m not afraid of heights. But I do prefer a sturdy structure that doesn’t move. That’s just me…) So, you finally get to the top and you can see the rooftops of a lot of the buildings in downtown Indy. You’re up there. And there’s 1,000s of people milling around beneath you. If you scream (or cry), there’s no hiding. The workers at the top are casually moving around the edge, which makes me even more nervous for some reason. I want them to respect the ledge as much as I do… They ask you to step inside a swinging gate and they connect the back of your harness to a rope-thing that’s attached to the zip line. The lady asks me to take a step forward. I take a half step. She says, “Don’t worry, I won’t bite.” I tell her, that’s not what I’m worried about… So, when you’re now attached to a thin wire that is connected to two towers blocks from each other, they ask you to take two steps down these three stairs that are just hanging off the ledge. And then lean back. I said, “hunh?!” Two steps and lean back and let the harness hold you. Rigghhtt… (In the back of my mind I keep telling myself, if Clayton can do this, so can I. That and the fact over 800 people have ridden this things since the weekend and I hadn’t read of anyone going splat…) The first 10 seconds are a little worse than the walk up. You’ve got speed at that point, heading straight down towards the ground. At least it feels that way. The stomach drops. You’re waiting to level out. Then you feel the grab and can enjoy the ride. No biggie at that point. Then comes the part I didn’t expect. The line dips in the middle and you have to be pulled back up to the tower on the other end. Yup, pulled. So your momentum slows to a stop and there’s a lady on the other scaffold pulling this cord as hard as she can to get you back to the top. This, also, is a bit unnerving. You reach the structure and walk back down the stairs. This one isn’t as high as the first, so you’re down much quicker. Guy at the bottom looks at me and says, “You’ve got the biggest smile I’ve seen yet.” I’m tell him I’m pretty happy to be back on solid ground… As we start to walk away, the person behind us has gotten stuck halfway down the line and is dangling 30-40 feet above the ground, going nowhere. I turn back to the guy and tell him that’s exactly what I was worried about. Rumor has it some people haven’t weighed enough to get enough momentum and have stalled out in the middle. Not sure how they get them down, probably that poor woman has to pull that cord from even further out. I didn’t stick around to see… Anyway, the zip line was a cool little addition to the NFL Experience and all the festivities. (And I’m probably a wuss that was a little more scared than need be. But, for the record, ESPN’s Cris Carter, Merril Hoge, Trey Wingo and Eddie George were heading up when we were done. Wingo tweeted that Carter “opted out” of the ride from the top of the tower. So, I wasn’t the only one a little nervous…)

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