It's hard to understand how Maikon Bonani, star kicker for the University of South Florida, could have possibly forgotten to lock the door of the gondola on the Skyride at Busch Gardens in Tampa. After all, that was his job.
It's doubly perplexing that after realizing his error, in a spectacular display of heroism -- or hubris -- he grabbed on to the gondola, dangling from it as it went skyward. That led to the 35-foot fall that broke a vertebra in his back and made national headlines.
But the first clue to unlocking this mystery is embedded in this article, from the Tampa Tribune. The reporter quotes a witness named Brittany Link, a Fort Lauderdale native who went to school at USF.
Link had ridden the Skyride about 10 minutes before the accident, which happened about 3 p.m. She was wearing a green USF T-shirt, prompting Bonani to start a conversation.
"I didn't recognize him, and then he was joking around - 'Were you at the Kansas game? I was the kicker.'"
That is, the kicker who made this field goal that knocked off the No. 13-ranked Kansas Jayhawks -- perhaps the biggest kick in the history of the university's football program. Bonani has reason to be proud. But it's a little cocky for him to be going around telling random USF students that he's a hero -- unless...
Of course!! One Google search later, I found the smoking gun: Brittany Link's dazzling pulchritude. (That's her above, from collegemansion.com -- more after the jump.)
Back to the article. Here's Link again:
"He was awesome. He took a picture with us and was talking about the upcoming season. He was really excited."
Minutes after taking a photo with Bonani, Link watched helplessly as he plummeted to the ground.
Bonani is so starstruck by his encounter with Link, he forgets to lock the gondola door. Then, feeling the invincibility, super-human strength, and gallantry that women like Link tend to inspire, he makes his heroic, near-fatal endeavor. So was Link impressed?
"He kind of just reacted," she said. "He put them before himself."
You bet she was! My God, though -- Bonani could have been killed. Which makes Link a modern-day Helen of Troy. Or Remedios the Beauty.
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If my theory is correct, it would not be the first time that Link's good looks triggered chaos. In February 2008, sportsillustrated.com used Link's photograph along with a blog post about a USF student who was kicked off a commercial flight for being too pretty. After Link was "besieged with phone calls," the site had to publish an apology (along with a link to her bikini spread, natch), explaining that it didn't have a photo of the actual USF student and so it "went with the photo of the best-looking USF student we know" -- Link.
As for Bonani, he's expected to make a full recovery, but he's likely to miss this season.
To Link, who surely has family or friends here in the Fort Lauderdale area who may be kind enough to send her a link to this post, I offer a plea: If you haven't given poor Bonani a phone call already, you should do so. Because if a guy kicks the field goal that beats the 13th best team in the country and then risks his life while you watch doesn't get the girl in the end... well... then love is truly dead.
Also, the movie rights. The wealth and fame. All just a phone call away.