Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I’m semi-embarrassed, OK, totally embarrassed to say that I sat at home on Wednesday night and actually watched Aron Ralston participate on the game show “Minute to Win It.” The entire show. All two hours.

In my defense, I guess you could say I’m an Aron Ralston sycophant. From the day I heard the story about his setting out into the desert and returning after courageously severing his right forearm in a supreme act of survival, I was hooked.

Just last week in New Orleans, a taxicab driver asked if I had seen the movie “127 Hours” and told me, “That guy is my hero man, it is the best film ever. It should win the Oscar hands down, man!” When I told him I had not seen the movie, he reached into the visor and pulled out a DVD and said, “Here man, take it. I can get another one.” The sheer act of generosity (though I, of course, declined the offer) was a testimony to the good vibes that Ralston has spread throughout the country.

Anyway, when I read in the paper that Aron was to contend in the game show on behalf of Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, I vowed to tune in, no matter how much these kinds of contrived “competition” shows make my stomach turn.

So there I was, in front of the big screen, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy the show. The premise is that each contestant gets 10 made-up, silly tasks to complete, each in 60 seconds. Each time they complete one they advance to the next level and with each level they progress to make more money.

Aron was there not just to compete but also to touch a heartstring or two. Each of the tasks – which began with him playing cards, progressed to picking up pasta with a mouth-born straw and culminated with him trying to sink ping pong balls in tumblers filled with water – was more difficult than the one before. But Aron was game.

In between telling the story of his 127-hour journey, imparting inspirational homilies, and talking via video with his wife and rescuers and James Franco (Hollywood Aron, I call him), Aron mastered the made up games. He won $50K for the Wilderness Workshop by stacking bolts atop one another. With seconds to spare he knocked down the fourth tin can with a ball of yarn to take home $75K for his favorite charity.

And then, with just four seconds left on the clock, he rolled a tennis ball over a broomstick and bounced it into the third garbage can to win $125,000.

See I told you this stuff was silly. But cash is real and tonight, thanks to Aron, the Wilderness Workshop, which he describes as an organization that “keeps in check the intrusive forces on a pristine landscape,” is in better financial shape than they were at the beginning of the week.

The take away, though, was Aron himself. He was just genuine. He told his story and played their games. There was no self-consciousness, no ego, no contrived comments. On such an artificial stage he conquered just by being himself.

This Sunday, when the Academy Awards are announced, I am rooting for Ralston and the cabbie to both go home winners.


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