By nature I am a pretty reserved person but there is a special place in my heart for “Extreme Sports”. You know – freestyle motocross, snowboarding, skateboarding, BMX etc… I was a part of the inaugural X-Games which was held in Newport, RI. And was in attendance when Corey Hart (married to pop artist Pink) attempted the first ever back-flip on a motorcycle. It was absolutely insane and everyone in attendance was in disbelief. The sport had elevated (as if jumping 100 feet at 45 miles an hour on a dirt track needs elevation). That was back in 1997.
ESPN has been televising the X-Games since it’s inception back in 1995. In previous years they always edited the footage and televised the events a few weeks after it happened. As the sporting event became more popular (moving from it’s “try-out” spot of Providence Rhode Island to its now more larger venue – Los Angeles California) the idea of “taped” games wore off. So a couple of years ago they started to televise these live. Which brings us to today and what I witnessed last night.
The event is called “Big Air”. One can only imagine what “Big Air” actually means to these insane athletes who feed on adrenaline. The inventor of this competition is Danny Way (he was part of the third generation skateboard phenomenon’s who helped pioneer mainstream skateboarding and helped make skateboarding what it is today). The idea is this:
Stand on top of an 80 foot ramp (yes I said 80 feet) and then get on your skateboard. Travel down this ramp (it is only about 8 feet wide) at speeds of up to 40 mph. Then make a selection between 3 different jumps with varying angles and “gaps”. The shortest being 40 feet the largest being 70 feet (no exaggeration) remember this is a skateboard and it is going 40 mph. Then once you have safely “landed” on the other side of the gap, you go down another ramp until you make your way to a huge 30 foot “quarter pipe” ramp. The entire distance traveled from end to end is over 250 feet (yes almost as long as a football field). Then when you hit the quarter pipe you get air (i.e. you travel upwards of 20 feet higher then the top of the 30 foot ramp – psst. 50 feet in the air). You then come down and “land” on the wall of the quarter pipe heading back the way you came (still traveling 30 mph). Ok, so if that is not enough add this in: Over that 70 foot gap you do a 720 (2 rotations) and when you hit the top of that 30 foot quarter pipe you do a 540. INSANE
This “sport” has evolved over the last couple of years and has now become the sickest event at X-Games. If you have the chance to see this “setup” on TV, look in the foreground of the “ramp”. You will see the Motocross “Big-Air” jump. It looks like a sandbox.
So on to my question – is this good for television. I can tell you I do look forward to watching both the Summer and Winter X-Games since neither of them are near my house any more and my kids are not old enough *yet* to travel to see one of these events. I would say they are pretty popular. Then last night put doubt in mind.
When I watched this on TV I got out of my seat and almost lost my breath (my body still produces chills when I think about it). I said to my wife (who was not watching) “Oh my god, that guy just died on TV”. She asked me “Is it live”. I said “yes”.
I have witnessed several other “gross” events in T.V. history – I remember when Joe Thiesman’s leg was broken on Monday Night football – I remember when Napolean Kaufman appeared to be cut in half when he was stopped at the line of scrimmage. The X-Games has had it’s fair share of accidents – I have even seen people like Ryan Nyquist break is nose in practice only to get stitches and place second in the competition an hour after – so I guess this ranks up there. But for godsakes the dude’s shoes fell off! The most “amazing” thing about this was that within 15 minutes he “walked” off the ramp. I have not looked yet to see what his status is but I can say that he broke several bones in several places.
What is going to happen when we see the first live death on television? We all know the impact Steve Irwin had on the web’s video revolution. I still have daily hits from search engines for my Steve Irwin post.