The kinda big deal today was that a certain mostly highly-regarded news magazine launched a new website and scrapped its paywall. Good timing. The New Yorker covered the X Games with a story titled "Big Air," posing a question in the subhead: "Are the X Games Aging Out?"
ESPN's event is 19-years-old and took place the first summer in which I really actually cared about skateboarding. It mattered to me and I thought there could be some sort of vice-versa thing there too. The prevailing mood that I picked up in magazines and perhaps online ('95 was the first year I did any browser based surfing) was that the Extreme Games (then name) were the worst thing possible, an affront to me and all the kids that still caught hell skating, held in Providence, RI, a place which to this day I still find vaguely lame. The New Yorker on that first year:
The first Games, which took place in Newport and Providence in 1995—the Times called them the “psycho Olympics”—are remembered best, by the original participants, for the overabundance of neon-pink and neon-green paint and for the circus-like atmosphere, an affront to the athletes’ dedication. “People wandered by and were wondering what it was,” Tony Hawk, who is now forty-six, with flecks of gray in his sandy hair, told me. “They weren’t sure what to make of it, because we got grouped together with a bunch of random other activities. I hesitate to call them sports.” Those activities included barefoot waterskiing, street luge, kite skiing, and bungee jumping.Perhaps that first year's greatest legacy is the first bit of Jamie Thomas' part from Welcome To Hell; the contest course featured lots of trannied bump to bumps and steep wedges (par for the course for the time) and a 15-stair rail, something that kind of never really caught on.
I once might have understood how they planned to judge bungee jumping but that knowledge has since eluded me. Oh, but:
Was skateboarding a sport? Judges were stoned, and the scores had to be reëvaluated and in some cases altered, ex post facto. The condition of the contestants’ hotel rooms seemed to suggest, at times, that the afternoons spent performing tricks for the cameras were little more than preludes to a rager. But the progression* was inarguable.Aren't these all our problems?(*Events were discontinued if they failed to demonstrate “progression”—an action-sports buzzword, as integral to the youth culture the organizers were hoping to monetize as “rad,” “stoked,” and “sick.” Street luge may have resulted in entertaining crashes, but there weren’t enough lunatics careering down asphalt slopes during the ostensible off-season to produce any noticeable improvement from one year to the next.)Tony Hawk’s two and a half spins—a 900—on the half-pipe, in San Francisco in 1999, seemed to defy physics and expanded a generation’s imagination. He also expanded the very definition of athletics—a pursuit that traditionally measured achievement against the constraints of rules, if not opponents. Hawk’s 900 came on his eleventh attempt in a “best trick” competition, after his allotted time had expired. “We make up the rules as we go along,” the announcer said. “Let’s give him another try!” A dozen more skaters have since equalled or bested Hawk’s standard, including, most recently, a ten-year-old boy—someone born into a world where the possibility of twirling nine hundred degrees above a plywood ramp was a given. Last year, sixteen-year-old Mitchie Brusco completed an X Games 1080.
Brusco, who has ridden for Under Armour for nearly two years, is the youngest non-35-years-old or older skateboarder referenced or used as a source in the piece; otherwise it's Hawk and Andy MacDonald, Bob Burnquist,Bucky Lasek and Tom Schaar's dad, who may or may not actually skate.
Back up on top of the ramp, Tom Schaar was ready for another attempt. His father, Nick, called the experience, viewed from down below, “horrible,” but I could have watched these acts of flight all night. Schaar stuck his landing over the gap jump—a 720—this time, wobbling just slightly, and pumped his legs into the quarter-pipe, good enough for nearly thirteen feet of air and a tight 900 to finish. His father threw his hands over his head. It wasn’t a 1080, but it was good enough for gold: “progression of age,” as Tim Reed later put it, noting that Schaar was the youngest-ever Big Air winner, by ten years.
It's not quite Larry Perkins' above quote--Schaar is 14, after all, according to the story (Burnquist, 37)--but the relative paucity of the sourcing on the skateboard end of things almost portrays the ride as outmoded, making way for a new savior, which some may have regarded as such:
“Initially, there was a little bit of, like, ‘Whoa, that’s not really an action sport,’ ” Sepso said. “But I think there’s a lot of parallels. I remember when X Games started. I was more of an N.B.A., N.F.L., baseball fan. I was not really into action sports. I remember thinking, I can’t believe ESPN’s going to jump in and give medals to skateboarders. It seemed so weird. So I think there’s some of that now, with skateboarders saying, ‘Whoa, you’re giving medals to kids playing games? That’s crazy!’ ”
If the question posed in the subhead is left hanging, just so, it must be hanging like this: the ramps will get no bigger, the old men will age and what will the kids do?:
Gradually, the dance floor filled, and the party progressed from junior high to senior prom. The gamers did indeed appear to have girlfriends, or, at least, suitors. One of the play-by-play callers, a chubby ginger-haired guy named Benson Bowe, a.k.a. Red Panda, began dancing so boisterously that a circle was cleared. The battle was then joined—and won—by Jeremy (StuDyy) Astacio, a nineteen-year-old former subway dancer from the Bronx, who had recently moved into the Team EnVyUs house, in North Carolina. There was talk of the fifteen-thousand-seat arena that M.L.G. is building on Hengqin Island, in China, next to the world’s largest aquarium, and across the harbor from Macau. (It’s scheduled for completion in 2017.) Tequila shots were passed around, and the mood grew heady.