Two features in this issue point out especially well, I think, how SPORTS ILLUSTRATED each week opens different windows on sport. Our SPECTACLE evokes the serene and almost timeless world which beguiles the small corps of dedicated balloonists in the U.S. And our Kentucky Derby PREVIEW authoritatively sets the scene for the event which, on one Saturday afternoon each year, completely grips millions of the nation's sports fans.
If your experience is at all like mine, you have never seen a balloon in action. But when I saw the first proofs of our balloon pictures, curiosity led me to look up something about the earliest days. The first hydrogen-filled balloon, I learned, went up in Paris in 1783. Although it carried no passengers, it played to a crowd of thousands, which filled every possible vantage point to watch the wondrous experiment.
One historian of the event wrote: The heavy rain which descended as the globe rose did not impede it and tended to increase surprise. The idea that a body leaving the earth was traveling in space was so sublime and appeared to differ so greatly from ordinary laws that all the spectators were overwhelmed with enthusiasm.
In some ways times have changed. Today an air-minded age tends to regard bodies traveling in space rather matter-of-factly, and ballooning as a spectator sport plays to a fairly limited audience. But I think our photographs—in capturing the "sublime" character of ballooning—reveal the lasting attraction of this sport for readers who may never have the chance to experience it directly.
May 8, 1955
The Kentucky Derby, a spectator sport more popular than ever in an atmosphere far from serene or sublime, is another matter. The once-in-a-lifetime quality of its excitement comes around once a year. And SI's PREVIEW and next week's report on the running will add to that once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere for those readers at Churchill Downs this Saturday and those not—with the extra depth and dimension which characterize our coverage of great sports events all year round.
Ballooning and the Derby may be at opposite ends of the world of sport. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED makes them equally clear and visible through words and pictures which are creating a new language of sports reporting.