People love attention. I know, major understatement. In fact, some are willing to string along police and the media in exchange for 15 minutes of fame. While due process has to run its course, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the parents of Fort Collins’ Falcon Heene, better known as ‘Balloon Boy,’ are accused of doing just that.
As the Larimer County Sheriff said Sunday, there’s ample evidence suggesting that the story told by Richard and Mayumi Heene is a hoax. If their child was floating toward Denver at 20 M.P.H. in an untested, experimental aircraft, most couples would call 911 first. Most accounts say the Heenes called the FAA and Channel 9 News first.
You also have to wonder about the story’s “happy ending.” Though he was feared to have taken off in the balloon, Falcon turned up safe and sound in his own home. His father claims that he hid in a box in the attic of the family’s garage for four hours to avoid being yelled at, falling asleep in the process. I’d love to meet a hyperactive 6-year-old with the discipline to spontaneously pull that off.
During an interview on CNN, Falcon’s parents asked him why he had not come out from hiding when they called his name. “You guys said we did this for the show,” he replied. His visibly nervous father tried to write that off as Falcon being “confused.” He then got extremely defensive, calling any speculation about a possible hoax “appalling.”
On Saturday, Richard Heene asked the media congregating on his front yard to write questions on a slip of paper, then put them in a cardboard box for him to answer at a later time. You have to think he wanted to carefully formulate responses that support his claims, rather than continue to stutter and squirm his way through live interviews.
The family’s past love affair with the media doesn’t help them either. A YouTube video posted before the incident, in which the family’s three children are seen rapping and using several expletives, has become a worldwide sensation during the last few days. Their parents helped make the video, explaining that it helped the kids foster a love for music.
The Heene’s potentially dangerous storm chases as a family are well-documented thanks to ABC’s Wife Swap. On Friday, it came to light that the Heenes had tried to develop a reality show about their family. Months ago, the suddenly trendy TLC passed on the project.
Finally, just look at how available they’ve been to the media starting just hours after the supposed incident. Rather than be too embarrassed or overwhelmed to grant interviews ad nauseam, cameras are drawn to the family like moths to a bright light.
Based on what’s come out, it’s pretty clear that this family enjoys the spotlight. Should the incident be proven a hoax beyond a reasonable doubt, these parents would be exposed as pathetic individuals willing to shamelessly exploit their family.
When the media could have been covering other stories, they zeroed in on ‘Balloon Boy’ all day Thursday, and continued to babble about it over the weekend. Both local and national outlets ought to be embarrassed about serving as quasi-paparazzi.
Our sensationalist culture consistently creates attention-grabbers, looking to make headlines or a quick buck. It looks like the Heene family is yet another example of this. What’s sad is that the family has a decent chance of profiting off of this at some point, be it with a book deal, paid interviews or, you guessed it, a reality show.