Extreme, or just foolhardy?
Call me a sissy, but I was born without the faintest trace of a radical bone in my body.Oh sure, from time to time I’ll remove the label from a mattress, run with scissors (but only during sewing emergencies, and even then the blades are always pointed down and cushioned in my palm) or talk with my mouth full (which, I suppose, is a more accurate indicator of bad manners than extremism, per se), but the allure of raw, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching adventure appeals to me not at all. I am fascinated, though, with people who get an adrenaline high, or an ego boost, knowing they could be potentially staring death in the face, and do so without even blinking. I mean, isn’t that what sunglasses are for?Here in Aspen, the seemingly eternal home of the X (please, God, make them go away) Games, backcountry skiing isn’t necessarily considered among the most severe sports. Still, given the abundant and inherent danger of natural and human-triggered avalanches and the possibility of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, off-piste enthusiasts are urged to train heavily and frequently to use life-saving techniques and electronic equipment.Late last month a State House panel in Oregon held hearings on a bill that would require climbers journeying above 10,000 feet on Mount Hood during the winter season to carry electronic locator units. The move came on the heels of an incident in which three climbers used one and were promptly rescued after sustaining a fall and spending a snowy, windy and icy night at 7,400 feet.The way I see it, if I’m doing something that leaves me with even the most remote possibility of being buried alive, or if I’m capable of doing something that could cause someone else to be swept away in an avalanche, I say keep your beacon. I’ll be at home on the couch.Maniacal driving, otherwise known as NASCAR, has become increasingly popular. NASCAR drivers don layers and layers of fireproof clothes, fireproof shoes and helmets and drive really, really, really fast around a track 200 times and sometimes crash into walls or other cars, causing dramatic explosions. In my car, the looniest thing I ever attempt is driving around and around the City Market lot looking for a parking space during après ski, trying not to explode dramatically at the countless ski boot-, helmet-wearing tourists who cause incessant swerving because they insist on walking aimlessly, oblivious to the moving cars around them.A few years ago I went paragliding, but the thought of having to sign all those waivers again acknowledging the not-so-remote possibility of my imminent death soured me from making a repeat performance. (The fact that my instructor told me I made one of the ugliest landings he had ever seen and my overwhelming acrophobia that never quite went away during the flight also carried some weight when I made the final decision to pass on round two.)Bungee jumping, I imagine, would probably be great fun if it didn’t involve plunging off a very tall structure like a bridge or a crane with a life-size hair elastic tied to my ankles, causing me to bounce up and down with my head either nearly cracking into the ground or almost becoming submerged in a body of water while my shirt simultaneously flies up (or down), giving everyone the opportunity to accurately assess my cup size. Then again, if bungee jumping also meant, say, repeatedly flipping a rope over my head and skipping over it just as it reached the floor, I’d be all for it.Then there’s the running of the bulls in Spain – the annual rite during the San Fermin Festival in which a dozen or so bulls weighing well over a half ton each are set loose on public streets each morning for nine consecutive days.Spectators younger than the age of 18 are discouraged from joining the bulls on their early morning stampedes, and anyone whose hours partying outnumber their hours sleeping during the celebration in honor of the patron saint of Pamplona are invited to participate in the daily races by watching the televisions in their living rooms. Other than that, everyone else with a pulse and/or an urge to risk being trampled on (by fellow runners and the bulls), gored (presumably just by the bulls) or killed (again, the bulls) is welcome to take part.However, unlike NASCAR, no fancy, high tech clothing (other than, perhaps, a suit or armor – although that would probably impede the whole running part) is available for purchase that would adequately serve as protection from the ginormous, angry bulls and their steel-sharp horns. And, in contrast to those lucky backcountry explorers, no device is manufactured capable of sending out distress calls for this type of activity. (But let’s face it, what emits a more powerful signal than the look of horror on the face of someone being charged by a 1,400 pound beast?) No, running-of-the-bull partakers need only to be equipped with the instinct to run like hell. Of course, a good pair of sneakers couldn’t hurt. And maybe a taser, because it could.Extreme driving? Running? Flying? Jumping? Skiing? No, thanks. On the other hand, extreme eating? Now that’s a radical sport I could get behind. Especially since there are only 127 more days until Nathan’s Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sure, the cholesterol from the 53 3/4 hot dogs I’d need to eat in 12 minutes to break last year’s record could kill me, but I can definitely think of worse ways to go out.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org