The X Games fraud lives on, again
The X Games, now in its awkward adolescent years, needs to figure out what it is going to be when it grows up.Early on, we were able to overlook the games defective DNA. It was a baby with potential. Now, however, legitimacy is as absent in this bastard as the crowds would be if tickets were required to watch it and a mass buy-in to the fear of appearing extremely uncool was not.It can be argued that, in the 1950s, television exploded into our nations living rooms to attest to the value of sports. Nearly a half century later, the X Games seemingly exist to prove the worth of the electronic box that has reared more idiots than mothers of politicians.Of course, my view of the games is different from the rest of the nation that cant get enough of it. Ive seen it live.If you are old enough to recognize the actual value of free stuff with a Taco Bell logo smeared across it, you can never be at the games at the right time. Ive been out there morning, noon and night seemingly always waiting for something to happen. What I get is a snowmobile launching 50 feet into the air over here, 20 minutes later a kid or two flipping about the halfpipe over there, and a whole lot of standing around waiting for the next blip of action wherever I happen to be.Im tired of being lured to this cornucopia of glitz with the promises of free admission, free schwag, free shuttles, free parking, free concerts and free food. What I want this year is free-dom; freedom to determine for myself if there is anything of substance worth salvaging amidst the bright lights, blue two-cycle smoke and artificially amplified noise.Where the most impressive stunt of the week is publicity, novelty is as rare as a snowmobile suit without neon trim. Now that soccer moms commonly display belly button piercings and Grandpa has two snowboards sitting in the corner of the garage, the games need new shtick to flick.What the games sold us on initially was that they roared wildly far away from the mainstream. The source of their flow was as pure as the snowflakes on the mountain peaks. What is apparent now is that winter mountain bike races ending with a splash into a giant pit of gooey Mountain Dew, while satisfying our fancy for the trendy alternative, did not hold anyones attention. Rather than be dammed, the games evolved and now are fully diverted into the current every bit as much as its close cousin SportsCenter, which means it is now as ordinary as reality television and hour-long dramas about murder.If I look past the impressively huge piles of snow created for the show, I see an extreme race course that is inauspiciously, at all other times of the year, a catwalk down the face of the most benign beginner ski hill in the entire alpine wintertime recreation world.My epiphany for the X Games came two years ago as I milled through the crowd with my kids, looking for something to look at when we heard the summons: Does anyone want to be on T.V.?!Of course we did! And dozens of others, too. We hastened toward the beckoning voice and around Sal Masekela, a host for the sofa-surfing nation. As we were positioned just so, we were instructed to yell like hell when the red light came on, no hand gestures, please.The light flared, the cameras rolled. We screamed, but some too loud and others not loud enough. We had to do it again and again and again. We finally got it right, or at least good enough. Thank you all, very much. The lights went down. The host disappeared. It was nearly silent in the falling darkness. I felt like a fool. What had possessed me to participate in the fraud?Those of us living here have seen what the games are all about. There is nothing more to it. I no longer expect it. A trip to the games is like seeing The Tonight Show live and marveling at how much bigger it all seems on the tube, and knowing that it should be the other way around.In the Barnum & Bailey atmosphere concocted in our town at the end of each recent January, the athletes are rendered irrelevant. Despite the billing, this is not a sporting event. Its a crowd event. The raucous swarm, by design, is what makes this spectacle marketable. That this throng oftentimes behaves badly when they arrive is not so much because of who is attracted to the event as much as by what they get when they arrive not enough. Theyre disappointed. Theyre bored. They feel as cheap as I did mugging for the ESPN cameras two years ago.We can pretend that were hip enough to get what the X Games is all about. The truth is that there isnt much to get.In this day and age of fraud in athletics, if we are marketing our future based on this abuse of substance that is being perpetrated in our name, I think it is time for a different strategy. We cant, nor do I think we want to, have our image so closely tied to the latest Neilsen ratings. When ESPN eventually flips the switch on the games, the light currently shinning on our name goes off, too. Then, each will be as cool as a corpse.So, if there is no essence to the games, what is their purpose for us? If we are simply happy to feed and sell to the throng to keep our local economy humming, Im all for trying to find something of value to give them in exchange. It will be better for us in the long run.Aspen Times columnist Roger Marolt believes that a better venue for the X Games would be Madison Square Garden. Send him a free message at email@example.com. (Yo quiero Taco Bell!)
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