Let's face it: the X-Games Street competition is a total failure. For the longest time, I never could figure out why it bothered me so much. I should be excited about this, right? But after this year's X-Games, the issues were more evident than ever before.
This year I felt sorry for Tony Hawk, I really did. Sal Masekela is talented, but he doesn’t know WTF he’s talking about and it’s painfully obvious at times.
Sports analysts must operate within context—it’s not good enough to simply rattle off from a canned trick list. Could he tell us about Ron Allen? What about another Sal, Sal Barbier? This is as grave as a Football analyst being clueless about Johnny Unitas or Night Train Lane. This goes to the essence of the X-Games’ credibility. More on this later.
The Best Talent is Not Participating:
There are some major players that are conspicuously absent from the X-Games street roster. There's the old axiom "you can only be the best if you compete against the best." That's certainly NOT happening.
Ask today's kids who they think the best rippers are, and maybe one or two of them compete in the X-Games. The other 95% are absent. Why?
It is true that many don’t like to compete, I get that. But there are other, more obvious reasons. Keep reading....
The X-Games “course” look like a suburban skatepark instead of an urban street environment. The whole “Euro-Gap” thing? WTF is that all about? We don’t have “Euro Gaps” where I live.
There are, however, gnarly banks, super steep rails, huge stair sets, tall planters, satanic gaps, concrete monoliths, street people, etc.
These courses are in no way exciting or challenging to today’s pro skaters. The gaps are microscopic. The ledges are polished. The rails are straight as an arrow. The courses are sanitary. They are anti-Street.
Overall Lack of Historical Reference and Perspective:
One of the most interesting things in sports is the historical reference. It puts modern accomplishments in perspective. In ALL other sports, the producers will ensure that the viewer is taken back to the glory days and those history defining moments. They’ll tell you all about Harmon Killebrew, Archie Moore, Gayle Sayers; lesser names, but legends nonetheless.
Skateboarding may have a shorter “professional” history, but it is every bit as rich. The X-Games producers/announcers will have you believe that they are credible, but they can only tell you about the Babe Ruths of Skateboarding (i.e. Hawk, Way, Lasek, et al). It’s almost as if ESPN really believes skateboarding started in 1995.
I may have missed it, but I’ve never heard any of the announcers refer to Hensley or Craig Johnson or Salba or any other old-school ripper. Consequently, an entire facet of Skateboarding--i.e. the sport’s progression—is completely lost on viewers, as is the appreciation for today’s competitors.
Street Skate Competitors Don’t Push Themselves:
This dooms the X-Games. The scoring format is set up in such a way that conservative riding is rewarded. Why should the Pros push themselves? They are penalized for it--which ruins the X-Games for everyone.
Get the course right. Make it dangerous. Trust me, you won't scare off the best pros. Drop the technicalities. The sickest, most dangerous tricks are rewarded. Boring, conservative riding is punished.
Skateboarding is all about taking risks--we're adrenaline junkies. Wonder why the best aren't competing? Because they aren't being rewarded for the thing they love to do most: TAKE RISKS.
Ryan Sheckler (and others):
Ryan is not at all the reason why the X-Games suck. I put his picture up there because he is overly talented--but still manages to be the Face of Fail. I have watched him turn from a junior high shredder into a pussy-whipped tomato can. He's not pushing himself. He's trying to do the most consistent tricks, tricks he's dialed, so he can win a gold medal, so he can get sponsors, so he can make more money, so he can buy more poontang. He is the symptom of the problem, but you can't blame him for following the rules.
The games and the participants are BORING and lack credibility to people that actually take skateboarding seriously. It’s a ball-fest for teenie-boppers. It’s a money grab. And it’s lame.
The Street Skating competition could be a phenomenon if ESPN did it right. Just ask the 95% of the best Pro skaters that have zero interest in participating. And the real skaters who mock it.