Sean Beckwith: Put this in your superpipe and smoke it
November 14, 2017
As the Winter Olympics approaches, I'd like to address the (mostly debunked) argument that extreme sports — be it snowboard superpipe, a couple of skateboarders exploiting a perfectly placed bench outside a library or nut jobs in squirrel suits — aren't actual sports. I need to vent and give these athletes proper acknowledgement (and fill 750 words for a column) so I'll write this persuasive-essay style.
Extreme-sports athletes are just that for many reasons, but I'll give my top three because I have a word limit. The first reason is you never see out-of-shape professional snowboarders, surfers, skateboarders, etc. Second, just like in other sports, you have to be able to do things normal people can't do. And finally, the physical punishment and dedication required to be the best is up there with other demanding sports.
Although I'm of the opinion that golf is a sport (bowling and e-sports are definitely not sports) you never see a guy about to drop into the halfpipe who looks like Phil Mickelson huffing and puffing after taking an afternoon stroll and swinging a club 70 to 80 times, and that's if you count a putt as a swing. The moment I see John Daly rip a Marlboro Red and then stomp a 1080 is literally the moment pigs fly. (I don't know the trick terminology like Sal Masekela, so forgive me if a 1080 isn't an impressive feat anymore. I figured since a video game is named after it, it works.)
Also, I don't know if this is related to being in shape, but extreme-sports athletes are some of the most beautiful people in the world.
Side note: In some order of top most beautiful athletes it's snowboarders/skiers/surfers, tennis players, volleyball players and soccer players as far as women's sports go. For men's sports, I'm not sure, but hockey and soccer players seem to do pretty well, as do starting quarterbacks. I've also heard people in the office carp for men's skiers as well, so there's that. If it's any consolation to the argument, I can't imagine professional bowlers not named Ernie McCracken are popular with the ladies.
Back to what loosely can be called a persuasive essay. While I'm not sure how Paul Rodriguez would stack up at the NFL combine, he can do things most normal people can't do. Do you know how much courage, bravery, gusto — whatever you want to call it — you need to have to do something as seemingly simple as a kickflip down a three-stair drop? I'll snowboard tight, steep trees all day, but I don't mess with jumps or rails. P-Rod isn't going to dunk over 7-foot French guys a la Vince Carter. However, judging by the way Half Man-Half Amazing avoided contact his entire career, I'd say he would call it a day after slamming into that hard concrete once, let alone the countless times it takes to attain a professional skill set.
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The demigod physique/ability required to play NFL wide receiver is less common than finding people crazy enough to huck a cliff or risk a broken arm at the skate park, but that crazy gene doesn't run in everyday people.
And, finally, the dedication and physical punishment sustained by extreme-sport athletes is up there with other demanding sports. Tony Hawk will forever be the greatest skateboarder of all time, in my mind, because I watched him give himself the ultimatum of landing this 900 or die of exhaustion at the X Games. I believe it was a Best Trick event, and at some point all the other participants ceded the halfpipe to Tony and it was Michael Jordan-esque.
Home dude must have come close or bailed 300 times (it was nowhere near 300 times) and when he finally hit the spin, landed, wobbled and then rode it out, Bucky Lasek, Andy McDonald and crew rushed him like he hit a buzzer-beater. They actually carried him off the halfpipe like he was Rudy. (They carried Rudy off the field at the end, right? I don't know, I've never seen it. Notre Dame sucks.)
If you want to "weight room, bro" me, those fools spend more time rehabbing injuries than Greg Oden. Playing with pain is a requirement of the sport. Talk that machismo elsewhere.
In conclusion, extreme sports should be considered sports as much as football, soccer, basketball and so on. The athletes are in shape more so than some other sports; they possess the hard-to-find crazy gene that — like being able to dunk — normal people don't have; and the dedication and physical toll necessary to be the best is comparable to other taxing sports.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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