Irrelativity at the X Games |

Irrelativity at the X Games

Barry Smith

Part 1A good number of years ago (like twenty) my father said to me, “Son, there are only so many things you can do on a skateboard.”His comment was not meant as a philosophical examination of the nature of limitations, but as a way to get me to stop skating long enough to do yard work.I didn’t agree, and I couldn’t keep quiet about it. I had to defend my beloved sport:”Not true, father. The sport of skateboarding continues to grow exponentially. In fact, it is progressing at such an alarming rate that it’s like watching eons of evolution take place before our very eyes. Last year everyone thought that doing a 540 was impossible, but Mike McGill proved otherwise. It was barely 10 years ago that the first frontside air above coping was executed by Tony Alva, and now look at the kind of air Hosoi is getting. To say that there are only so many things you can do on a skateboard flaunts your ignorance of both the sport and the flame that burns deeply within the human soul!”Of course, he didn’t hear any of this, as right after I said “Not true, father,” he fired up the leaf blower.As it turns out, he was at least partially correct – there are only so many things that “I” can do on a skateboard. But that’s another story.I realize that skateboarding isn’t featured in the Winter X Games this weekend, but surely you can make the leap, lame pun intended……At last year’s X Games I noticed a few times where the crowd’s reaction seemed out of proportion to what was taking place in front of them. Not always, of course, but there were pockets of jadedness. And I think, in defense of the crowd, it’s because we’re a little bit spoiled. Sure, the idea is to bring the most daring and skilled athletes together for the best display of all that is extreme, but there are times when the success of this plan backfires.Personally I think that if a motorcycle leaves the ground and lands again with the rider still sitting on it, it’s cause for celebration – an astounding feat that I could never do myself. But we, the crowd, just take this for granted. Of course they’re gonna land, and they better do something really impressive beforehand or they get a mere golf clap from me.I’m not complaining, I’m actually leading up to proposing my solution to crowd ennui.Here’s the plan: each day 5 spectators are picked randomly from the crowd and forced to jump a motorcycle, drop into the pipe, race a snowmobile, etc…”Next rider is Jenny Watkins. She’s works as a nurse, is a mother of three, and is being given a quick rundown as to how a motorcycle works even as we speak…”Sure, there’ll be mild injuries, but c’mon. Quit whining for just a minute.”Jenny’s kids are cheering her on, and it looks like she might need it. She seems to have put her helmet on backwards. C’mon, people, make some noise!”Now, assuming Jenny has no experience in motorcycle jumping, she’ll probably not turn out an exemplary first performance. Bad for Jenny, but good for the crowd.”Ohhhh, tough break, Jenny. She’s OK. Looks like she’s already calling her lawyer as they load her into the ambulance. Give her a hand.”By having a mere mortal flail around up there, we’ll be reminded of just how high on the evolutionary scale these athletes really are.”Our next ‘volunteer’ is Barry Smith. He seems frightened by the noise of snowmobiles, so this should be a real treat.”Part II* I know that the corporate sponsor critique is just such an easy target, but I can’t help but wonder why Right Guard is considered an X-treme personal hygiene accessory? Each time I passed the Right Guard booth, there was a group of 9-year-olds standing there while the guy with the microphone yelled “woo hoo” at them? Do 9-year-olds need deodorant?And since when is smelling like deodorant “extreme?” Isn’t BO a lot more extreme? Doesn’t body odor say, “I’ve just done something incredibly death-defying” a lot more than fragrant armpits do?* As I see it, my job is to walk around, notebook in hand, and copy down wry observations and overheard quotes that seem somehow amusing. So far the most overheard quote is definitely, “Dude, could you not stand right in front of me.”Though I guess if it’s directed towards you it isn’t technically “overheard.”* All of my clothing that might identify me as “extreme” is at the dry cleaners. So I thought I would wear really thin socks, just to show that rugged winter conditions don’t affect me. As I stood at the base of Buttermilk, the feeling slowly draining from my feet, I was feeling pretty punk rock.Then I saw the guy in shorts and tennis shoes.Mister Extremer Than Thou.* I’m not sure that I have what it takes to wear the foam rubber Taco Bell taco or burrito hat. And I’m scared to find out. And the fact that I’m scared to find out is what makes me think that I don’t have what it takes.* Actual Overheard Quote: “Ahhh … years of experience,” uttered by a 5-year-old boy upon watching a practice run in the half pipe.* I’d like to thank the United Stated Navy for not only defending this great land of ours, but also for making people do public chin-ups at their sponsorship booth.Maybe it’s just me, but nothing screams “adventure” quite like a chin-up bar.* Actual Overheard Quote: “I think the one in the camouflage is Shaun White, ’cause lot of people were trying to talk to him when he walked by.”* I didn’t have the heart to break it to the people lined up and staring intently into the half pipe, but I guess I can mention it now: that thing with the big whirring blades is for grooming, and is not part of the competition, though I’m sure the operator appreciated your applause.* Not to take anything away from the feats of consistent athletic excellence, but the most extreme thing I’ve seen so far happened on the icy slope that runs the length of the half pipe. A woman holding a tiny child was walking downhill and hit a patch of ice. Rather than falling down, she rode it out. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to stop herself, as the spectator area was basically an ice rink. For the next few feet she picked up speed, unable to find a patch of traction. Despite heading for a certain tumble – not a good thing to do while holding a baby – the woman never stopped smiling.She scooted past me (I could have helped her, but was busy writing these notes) and a few feet later was caught by a group of considerate bystanders.Yes, in the midst of what must have been a terrifying moment, this woman was aglow with a passion for life. This is the edge. Anything can happen. And she was going to enjoy it.And what could be more extreme than that?Well, just one thing – the baby could have been wearing Right Guard.Part III* X Games Zen – Overheard from the announcing booth, regarding the Moto X competition: “If they mess up the take off, they really mess up the landing.”* “Who’s your daddy?” is an appropriately extreme X Games moniker – as in “John ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ Smith.” But for some reason, even though it has the exact same legal ramifications, “Who’s Your Court-Appointed Guardian” doesn’t work nearly as well.* Each time a Moto X rider landed a jump, I simultaneously entertained two very different thoughts: 1) That is the coolest thing I have ever seen, and 2) Please, for the love of God, stop taking your hands off the handlebars! You’re giving me a heart attack.* 110 million households. That’s the number the announce kept throwing around. This was intended to inspire us, the crowd, to flail our arms madly when the camera pointed in our direction.110 million households.I want to be supportive and cooperative, I really do. But I guess I just have a different way of doing so.As the camera panned in the direction of my clump of chilly spectators, I decided instead to go for a pensive look. You know – elbow in hand, other hand thoughtfully stroking chin, eyes looking up and to the left, brow slightly furrowed. I thought, yeah, that’s how I want to be remembered by the 110 million households. Not as a howling yahoo, but thoughtful. And focused.I don’t know if my bold trend will catch on, but I guess we’ll see next year, when someone lands a no-handed, no-footed, blindfolded back flip and the monstrous crowd says, in a unified conversational tone, “Interesting.”* Overheard Quote: “At the time I had a lot of tattoos.”* I came away from X Games Nine thankful for many things, but one in particular: That my job does not include having to announcer over a PA System, “Campbell’s…mmm, mmm good to go” without even the slightest trace of sarcasm in my voice.* I’m guessing that next year’s X Games will include the event known as “Walking In The Middle Of The Icy Street At Night Wearing Dark Clothing That Makes You Practically Invisible To Drivers.” Competition should be tough, as I noticed an awful lot of people in training these past few days.* The one really good Moto X crash that happened while I was there took place while I had my head down writing “At the time I had a lot of tattoos” in my little note pad. As I’m scribbling I hear a collective gasp of “Whoa,” and by the time I look up, it’s over. I don’t even think the tattoo quote is all that funny, but there’s no way I’m not using it now.I’m not saying I was there just to see a crash, but still…it was the most replayed event on the Jumbotron that evening.Thing is … if you are standing far enough away from the Jumbotron, like I was, the screen size is actually slightly smaller than a cheap TV you would buy at Wal-Mart, like mine is.* With the right soundtrack, every activity is extreme.No, really. I tested this theory out this morning – just as I started to brush my teeth I blasted Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” It was awesome – like a gold medal half pipe run … working the molars, switching my stance for the incisors, going high on the canines, totally nailed the swish, stomped the rinse and finished up with a beautifully executed McFloss. Killer. The crowd (my wife) went absolutely crazy, shouting, “Turn that music down and get out of the bathroom so I can use it!”

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