Stakes is high
Danny Way loves spectacle. He sails over ancient structures and leaps from giant guitars, going so far as to revive the somewhat hilarious rocket air, all for our amusement and the pursuit of world records. Sometimes these things come at a price, including but not limited to fractured ankles, broken backs and 40-foot free falls. But on the other side of that Great Wall lies fame, lucrative energy drink endorsement deals and oodles of prize money.
No fear, though. Fame, sponsorship and wads of dough can still be had if the crash itself is enough of a spectacle, as giggly Australian Jake Brown proved on Larry King and elsewhere during his post-Mega fall recovery tour . And even if sponsors aren’t cutting photo incentive checks every time their logo flashes across the screen on some pro’s shirt as he careens toward the deck, Danny Way’s not tripping — as he notes in the Wall Street Journal last week, each replay of Jake Brown’s tooth-rattling slam is all for the greater good:
I think it’s great that they exploit the slams. That’s the biggest part of people understanding the seriousness of what we do. It’s unfortunate the person that slams has to go through that experience and deal with the repercussions of it. But Jake [Brown], for example, he did so much for the Mega event. They emphasized the slam, but that also brought so much of a focus to our event. It just gives everyone that much more opportunity and makes it that much more exciting. God forbid someone should get hurt, but sometimes it’s good to have things put in perspective. If we’re going to create an event for the public, the goal is to have people on the edge of their seats biting their nails not knowing what’s going to happen next.
God forbid it happens, but it’s possible for somebody to get really, really hurt. It’s the same thing with motocross. Freestyle moto, guys doing double flips and front flips and stuff, that stuff’s deadly, too. That’s why people come to watch it.
Interesting point, and it goes back to what’s kept vert skating on life support for the last ten years – your average Gravity Games-watching Sarah Palin voter gets a lot more out of seeing Lincoln Uyeda blast 10-foot airs, as opposed to P-Rod cracking a nollie heelflip backside tailslide across a step-up ledge or whatever. With the mega-ramp Danny Way has upped the ante a few hundred feet in terms of hangtime, and personal peril.
The WSJ also asks Way whether he believes the mega-ramp is viable as a new skateboarding discipline (to chance an oxymoron), and he dodges, sort of, noting the growing number of pros taking the mega plunge. But if anything the rise of the mega-ramp widens the gap between your average kid kickflipping in the driveway and what seems destined to become skating’s version of underwater lion-taming, or something.
Let us pause for a moment and pour one out for all the departed tamers who were mauled and then drowned.
Anyway, for years vert skating has been moving toward a weird sort of commercial backwater, seeming to exist almost solely on ESPN, while half the vert pros suit up in body armor to slay the mega dragon and the other half shuffle off to work on their beer guts with the backyard bowl contingent. The way things are going now, vert’s TV career seems destined to be eclipsed by the spectacle of the mega monster, just months after receiving a stay of execution when the X-Games stood ready to bump it from the lineup.
So: the number of vert pros dwindling, cities building concrete parks as opposed to vert ramps, less on-screen time… will kids even know what a vert ramp is in another five years? Before I tread too far onto Vert Is Dead’s turf I’ll do that thing where I stand in a darkened room with a lighter and my eyes cast upward, fumbling with my mouse to click on the Tampa Am vert finals from earlier this year. Kids are always up for unwinnable causes right? I mean when Danny Way is 360-flip k-grinding a 20-foot vert wall and Bob Burnquist is jumping into the Grand Canyon, will anyone be left to give a shit when somebody lands, say, a varial 900?