Select your zing-to-risk ratio wisely
The news of a boardercross racer’s death at Whiteface while training throws a cold splash of consequences over some of our recreational pursuits. “Extreme” is used as an adjective so often now that we forget what it means. Extreme sports come packaged with the possibility of an extreme price. Lindsey Jacobellis’ loss of a gold medal at the Olympics now seems less of an issue compared to her health, while the courage and commitment of every downhill and super-g racer grows.Not many of us perform at the truly extreme level, and a little risk goes a long way for the recreational skier and boarder. Still, it’s there, and without it skiing would be snowshoeing: pretty views, camaraderie, outdoor exercise (perhaps more than desired) but little zing or spice.Knowing or finding one’s comfort level of risk is the difference between a good day or a bad day for many of us, and with some help from fate, a good life or a short one. Even in my adolescent hormonal days, I knew that dropping off a 245-foot cliff to appear in “Skiing” magazine wasn’t in my intentional future. According to the guy who did it and appears in this month’s magazine, it’s not ever going to be in his again, either. I’m impressed at his bravery and my instincts I guess. Now I also know that 15 feet above the lip of a half pipe is a desired position only for skilled, small, rubber-boned people.I think it’s right that they cancelled the boardercross event after his death. It shows a decent mark of respect and caution. I know there’s the argument “he would’ve wanted the event to go on” but how do you know? Competitors’ whole lives are built around competing, and there’s the pressure not to appear scared. Then if you want to get cynical there’s the prize money, TV ratings, sponsorship etc. at stake to color opinions. Canceling an event when someone dies seems like not only a pause of respect for the life lost in this case that of Jonaton Johansson – but a chance to allow everyone, competitors, officials and sponsors, et al, to reflect on the nature of the sport they’re involved in. It’s also an incentive for as much safety as possible – organizers and sponsors should pray a little to Lady Luck, too.Personally, my ego may like to think of the world coming to a wailing halt when I pass on, but apart from loved ones, our deaths are scarcely bylines on an ever-growing Web site of world history.Which is how it should be. Death is as common as life, and life will always go on though it may not necessarily be human life if the nuclear non-proliferation treaty keeps being ignored by the likes of Korea, Pakistan, India, and the U.S., Israel, etc. Ironically, while Iran has lied through its teeth, it technically hasn’t broken the treaty yet. That says more about the shortcomings of the treaty than the scary intentions of Iran.Anyway, I digress. While everyone wants to leave their mark on the world, who really wants the only ones who will truly care their loved ones to stop? Pause a second, reflect on the good parts of you and perhaps even inspire a few people to live a little better, but what else? A quote from Orpheus: “If we turn away from life we do not honor the dead, we fail them.”The person who cares and misses your life the most is you. Being an old man on the back porch looks like a better and better goal. Select good zing-to-risk ratios. That may be why we like sports so much: They provide a lot of spice with a variety of risk choices to choose from. I’d recommend skiing over driving fast on I-70 any day. One’s a sport; the other an unstable box of metal and glass.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado
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