The 2012 Winter X Games will host plenty of events, but it's fair to say that all eyes will be on snowboarder Shaun White. There is no question that the Flying Tomato transcends the world of extreme sports, so he'll need a big showing if the X Games are going to gain any momentum.
White will be competing in his trademark half-pipe as well as the slope-style event in preparation for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia where slope-style will make its debut. White performed quite poorly in the slope-style last year because he had taken time away from the event to perfect his half-pipe for the Olympics.
Now that both events will be present in the Olympics, however, White has refocused on slope-style and is ready to compete in the X Games. White's mere presence makes both events must-see television as nobody can do what he can on a snowboard, but he needs to turn in dominant performances to make casual watchers care.
Those who religiously watch and follow the X Games aren't all about White, but I think that there is a large group of people who watch simply because of White. Those people want to see White pull out some amazing tricks and, ultimately, they want to see him win.
Is Shaun White the key to the X Games' success?
Obviously the X Games aren't exactly a mainstream event, but the one athlete who can take the event to that level is White. Normally sports are best served by parity, but the X Games are in a different situation because a dominant performer is needed to draw in fans who wouldn't normally care.
White has been the preeminent half-pipe rider for quite a long time. If he can add the slope-style event to his area of expertise, though, it will make the X Games that much better. As it currently stands, most people really only care about one event, but the more events White competes in, the better.
White truly is the key to the X Games' success. There are tons of great athletes competing in the events, but White is the one that everybody wants to see. If he continues to have success and draw in viewers, though, they may stick around and appreciate the other athletes as well.