Archive for November, 2020

The Bold And The Beautiful

November 20, 2020

Those who have had the fortune and blessings required to hit a grand slam in a major-league baseball game know that it’s a unique feeling, difficult to replicate with vibration-equipped VR gear or the powers of one’s wildest imagination. Bedreaded San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. met and introduced himself to that feeling one bubbly and Covid-free August night last summer, whamming a certified whammer in the eighth inning against some hapless Texas Rangers.

But Fernando Tatis’ power move was met not with lusty cheers and pumping fists, at least not entirely. The circumstances of his grand slam — the Padres already far ahead late in the game, the struggling Rangers pitcher having already thrown three balls — placed Fernando Tatis at odds with the mystic and unwritten arcana of the baseball codes, in this case, it being considered bad form to run up the score against a floundering opponent. His meaningless four runs, much like a misassembled Denny’s breakfast platter, became the subject of heated debate for weeks among players, managers and the vast digital peanut gallery.

Mason Silva, prodigious gap/rail/ditch/all of the above destroyer, struck again last weekend, casually uploading to ThrasherMagazine.Com another 4-plus minutes of tremendously heavy footage, at the tail end of a SOTY campaign that carries all the inevitability of a blurred stair set looming on the edge of a vignetted fisheye lens. The past few years’ kinked-rail sweepstakes has produced a new breed of steely-eyed and deadly confident Rustyholders, but Mason Silva lifts the bar as far as relentlessness — he has put out four video parts this year, all of them blistering, full of impossible-seeming stuff, and you’d take long odds putting down any money that he won’t be back at the table before mid-December.

The SOTY video deluge has a way of dominating any other ‘conversation’ at this point in the season, for better or worse. Tom Knox’s beautifully constructed, brick-strewn London symphony for Jacob Harris’ sterling ‘Atlantic Drift’ franchise got a couple good days of high-profile burn before Mason Silva resurfaced, and that’s it. The statement-of-purpose punk howl from the Glue collective got a deserved center stage — but just for a bit. As of this typing, John Shanahan’s Chicago-shaded DC Shoes vid has the big top window, but Mason Silva’s boardslide-to-boardslide thumbnail’s still up there, quietly dominating.

Skateboarding has long nursed conflicted feelings toward effort. It takes some, of course, to steady one’s self for the drop in, to crack the first ollie, to labor hours in pursuit of the trick. Reared safely beyond shouting distance of coaches, referees and gamekeepers, giving too little effort has often been easily excused, even celebrated — witness the decade-long legacy riding of first-generation Girl and Chocolate pros, or Geoff Rowley’s tune-in/drop-out monologue for Tom Penny’s recycled-footage ‘Menikmati’ part. Too much effort, though — even in the modern era of agents, round-the-clock content production and overall ‘professionalization,’ there can be pitfalls.

For proof, consider the world of Mega-transition skating, which more than other disciplines has revolved around competition, at least financially. In his 9 Club appearance, helicoptero wrangler and veteran Flip man Bob Burnquist related a story about skating a MegaRampTM rail competition with Danny Way, among others. Bob Burnquist, noted switchstance practitioner, said he began dropping in switch, and soon was approached by Danny Way, who was doing the same.

BB: He said, you know I’m trying the switch 50-50. …He was like, when we grew up, talking about him and Colin, when one of them touches a trick… and I get that. And I wasn’t planning on doing the switch 50-50, I was planning on doing a switch nosegrind, because I knew he was doing that. This is strategy, competition mode — if I play ping-pong with you I’m not gonna want to lose. I can still be your friend, and be totally fine. But in that moment it seemed like this front came, and I respected it, but it kind of bummed me out a little bit. 

…I kind of pulled back. When I skated the contest, I didn’t really go for stuff. I just was kind of holding back, and that kind of hurt me a little bit, because I don’t like doing that.

Bob Burnquist went on to explain how the experience motivated him to film all types of crazy MegaRailTM tricks for Flip’s 2009 vid ‘Xtremely Sorry.’ But a couple years before that, Bob Burnquist had seen the backlash that can come from not holding back. At the 2007 X-Games*, Jake Brown blasted a 360 ollie over the contest’s 70-foot gap before taking a 540 23 feet above the MegaQuarterPipeTM deck. Later, he spun a 720 over the gap right before popping too far off the quarterpipe and plunging 45 feet to the flat. After Jake Brown was helped get up and incredibly walked off the ramp, and things settled down some, Bob Burnquist dropped in, sailed a switch backside 180 over the gap, then launched a 16-foot-high 540, winning the contest. Jake Brown got second, and Dave Carnie rendered his verdict:

DC: after that slam, I think the gentlemanly thing to do would have been to have just ended the contest right there and given it to Jake. He was in first place. He had won. But no, Bob had to go and take his extra run and try and win it. As I’ve said, he didn’t win it, but the fact that he wanted to beat a fellow skater who had just taken one of the hardest slams ever isn’t really congruent with the spirit of skateboarding. Or even the spirit of sport, for that matter. When did “winning at all cost” creep into skateboarding?

In the marathon that the SOTY race has become, Mason Silva doesn’t seem like he’s trying to take anything from anybody, laid low by injury or not. He is in his proverbial window; can he be expected to let up? How is it possible that he hit the top rail three times in that one ditch clip from the Spitfire part? Does Primitive’s ‘Fourth Quarter’ closer Miles Silvas have more ammunition after his own Spitfire and Primitive minutes over the past month? Is the fact that Tom Knox is helping raise three small children at home through the pandemic being accurately factored into his SOTY bid? Since Mason Silva seemingly is healthy, fearless and ahead in the count, could he maybe please ollie again the stair-to-bank gap from his Thrasher cover, to get a better video angle?

Pusher Man

November 8, 2020

Across his three-decade career, Gino Iannucci has been many things, to many persons: embodiment of detached cool in World’s golden age, skate celebrity roomie, successful hesh-fresh bridger in the gap/rail era, vanguard enlistee for Nike Inc., retail boutique proprietor, graybeard fashion model. Whereas his reputation for yeti-like elusiveness overlooks certain late-period productivity bursts, he remains enswaddled in mystique. In the geometric sum total, Gino Iannucci is the preeminent living example of skateboarding as qualitative versus governance by contest score, ollie height, or NBDs crossed off that cosmic list.

Respective paychecks aside, Gino Iannucci’s subcultural durability has outlasted any number of hot-shoe contest killers, a fact unlost on Nike’s brandwise strategists, who made him one of Nike’s initial signees for the sportswear conglomerate’s final, successful push into board-skating. His enduring presence on the roster helped counterbalance Nike’s pursuit of more obvious Street League contenders and future Olympians. Even if he increasingly leaned upon skatepark one-foots and giving interviews, Nike and other sponsors enjoyed a direct link back to the Gonz backside heelflip, the nollie switch k-grind shove-it out, the Roslyn banks greatest-hits list. As the old Slap message board saw went, “I’d rather watch Gino push.”

The phrase may now face the ultimate test. As Nike and Adidas show signs of culling their skate programs, Gino Iannucci seems to have come to the end of his swoosh-clad run, with recent Adidas-sporting IG story clips earning giddy reposts from the likes of bearded beach kingpin Lucas Puig, and demonstrating Gino Iannucci’s still-considerable clout with bros of a certain age. Almost entirely absent from the FA video output since signing six years ago, he has of late revived his Poets imprint and in recent weeks has posted promotional vids almost entirely reliant on his famed left-foot propulsion technique, in one hopping up a curb and then riding off a sidewalk, in another cruising down a mellow rural road, before the other day including a skatepark pyramid nose manual and pivot fakie.

Could it be that Gino Iannucci is following in the careening, center-line footprints of his East Coast forebear, Mike Vallely? In the 2001 black denim document ‘Label Kills,’ Mike Vallely’s section revolved almost entirely around pushing, an unconventional move later immortalized by Mike Vallely naming his punk band ‘Revolution Mother’*. At a time when professional clout chiefly was measured by stair count, Mike Vallely’s choice to showcase the push and its direct descendants, such as the boneless and no-comply, was to VHS watchers equal parts confounding and inspiring. But similar to the Hot Boys’ 1974 hit ‘Respect My Mind’, it signaled Mike Vallely was thinking bigger and broader, setting a trajectory toward a more malleable ‘personal brand’ and career that would place Mike Vallely variously on hockey rinks, fronting Black Flag, and astride Paul Blart, Mall Cop, in thin air.

Can Poets sink or swim on the strength of Gino Iannucci’s push, or will it require some handrail-assisted Miller flips to ‘seal the deal’? Do you think Gino could take Paul Blart? Could instructional Youtube vids and advanced AI technologies help mechanics-challenged youngsters and career-extending oldsters alike fine-tune their own push techniques? Have the stars already foretold an inescapable destiny in which Gino Iannucci and Mike Vallely join forces on the hockey rink to lead a final showdown against the forces of evil, perhaps with Paul Blart as a stuffed-shirt official?

*Also likely referring to multiple revolutions of the board’s wheels while pushing