The euphoria of having the X Games being held in my home town is still pulsing through me. Like many people, I grew up watching X Games on television and always wanted to go to one in person. Having the games here in Minneapolis was a dream come true. Being a skateboarder, I was excited to attend and have the opportunity to watch my friends and some of my favorite professional skateboarders compete before my eyes.
I came across an intriguing observation as I entered the stadium. Many of the bystanders watching the events were not skateboarders, bikers or seemed to have any serious prior past of involving themselves in “extreme sports.” Many people dabble riding dirt bikes or attempting an Ollie or two on a skateboard at some point in their lives. However, a vast majority of the bystanders I could tell did not indulge themselves extensively in the sports they would be watching. I skateboard almost every day and am constantly am taking in new information and diving further into the different industries. I have a lot of knowledge obviously regarding skateboarding but also know my way around a snowboard, BMX forums and even a little bit in motocross.
Each sport I have knowledge of the difficulty of the many tricks that can be done. Also, from participating in bigger contests I understand the intense pressure and nerves each rider is facing. This was my first observation. The second major thing I noticed was the conversations between bystanders talking about the various riders. If a rider were to miss a trick or not do well in their event fans would bash on them.
For example, when Bob Burnquist, a professional vert skateboarder for many years, did not land anything in the big air section of the contest bystanders started talking. I heard many people say things like “why is he in this contest?” and “he has been pro for this long and can’t even land one thing?” or even “he’s getting too old for this.”
I was appalled by this talk. I heard it toward many other athletes over the course of the X Games as well. Having knowledge in skateboarding I understand the difficulty of each trick. What bystanders were not able to grasp was the margin of difficulty Burnquist’s tricks were compared to the others. I am not saying the other riders were inadequate compared to Burnquist, but one must take into account how difficult the maneuvers he attempted were.
In contests it is all about consistency. One has to do hard tricks, but at the end of the day the number of tricks one does in the allotted time they have plays a huge role. A rider could do an extremely difficult trick but if they only have landed one thing, more than likely they won’t score well. It makes sense but it is a bummer to hear the discontent among bystanders when you know the difficulty of the sport and how good the rider truly is.
A contest is a contest. As Ishod Wair, a professional skateboarder for Real Skateboards, once said, “I like contests because it’s a one and done system where as creating a street part takes up much more time. People only really get to see a few seconds of a trick you practiced and filmed for hours and even days at a time. A street part matters and means so much more.”
Bystanders for the most part don’t have the knowledge to differentiate the difficulty level of tricks of sports like skateboarding or BMX. Even if a trick does not look flashy with lots of flips or spins, the difficulty of it could still could rival or surpasses other tricks. Fans need to be more aware of such things before casting accusations on athletes in general.
If you have doubts on how hard something is, perhaps try it out and be the judge of the difficulty for yourself. Also keep in mind, athletes are professional for a reason. They have devoted the time and dedication to their passions to make a living for themselves. They are not riding around solely for one’s entertainment. They are doing what they fell in love with and have commendably shaped their craft into a career.