It was the perfect storm … a slow news day, a family of attention whores and a bored, gullible country looking for something – anything – to take their minds off of a year of otherwise bad news.
And so we were, literally, taken for a ride by the prospect of a six-year-old boy hurtling through the Colorado sky in a homemade helium balloon.
The saga of “balloon boy” Falcon Heene and his family gripped the nation Thursday, although it’s unclear at this point whether the whole thing was merely an attention-grabbing hoax. Even Falcon, the curiously-named kid at the center of the drama, answered “you had said that we did this for a show” when his parents – veterans of the ABC Reality TV drama “Wife Swap” – asked him why he failed to answer their calls.
Hoax or not, “Balloon Boy” captured the attention of millions. At one point Thursday, thirty-nine of Google’s top forty “hot trends” on the Internet were “balloon boy” related.
It also absorbed local law enforcement, prompted the dispatch of an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter (at $4,600 an hour) and briefly shutdown one of the nation’s busiest airports.