Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Institutionalized

July 30, 2009

cuckoosnest
You don’t have to be crazy to write a skateboard blog but it sure helps! =)

Interesting bookend to yesterday’s posting comes to us today from Rupert Murdoch’s wood-pushing beat reporter Conor Dougherty, who has a rundown on the state of play in Portland Oregon where skateboarding has corrupted “the system,” as opposed to the other way around:

As skateboarding exploded, Portland’s skaters began lobbying for more parks, and for a say in how they were built. One was Tom Miller, who had moved from Seattle to attend law school and later started a non-profit organization called Skaters for Portland Skateparks. The city later set up a skatepark committee that included Mr. Miller, Mr. Dahlgren and Dean Dickinson, a BMX bike rider. The panel pushed for concrete parks designed by skaters, rather than the plastic obstacles many cities were buying from playground equipment companies more familiar with swingsets than skateparks.

But the group also suggested something so bold Mr. Miller says he was almost embarrassed to propose it: a citywide skatepark system. Mr. Miller’s skatepark lobbying led to a volunteer position with the campaign of Sam Adams, who was running for city commissioner. Mr. Adams won the election, and Mr. Miller became an insider: He was offered a job as chief of staff. A few months later Portland’s city council approved a plan to create the skatepark system.

The “skatepark system” is intriguing to me; I’ve always thought personally that far more practical for cities of size, rather than building destination-type parks on the outskirts of town or in some bizarre, hard-to-reach location, would be to make legal spots scattered throughout various neighborhoods. Like a couple flatbars alongside a basketball court somewhere, a wallride spot in the alley behind some city building, legal ledges in schoolyards, a miniramp in the park, etc. But then again I have lots of other stupid ideas like taking spots people are already skating and stop wasting police wages chasing people around all day. Or getting reincarnated as a grackle in order to squawk at haters of various types and descriptions.

Anyway, the WSJ article correctly points out that skateboarding’s subversion/infiltration/sliding in thru the side door of Portland city government was aided by the widely believed fact that the place is run by a load of hippies. It’s also interesting to note that this has all taken place in the backyard of Nike Inc., whose interest in skateboarding has probably risen steadily alongside the number of parks in town; somebody more energetic and talented than your BTO staffer could probably make an interesting graph or perhaps a cheerily coloured pie chart to demonstrate this, but if wishes were ponies, well, there you are.

Another interesting sidebar to the Portland story is that as skateboarders have gained civic clout, the BMXers are starting to feel disenfranchised, since none of the power-broker skateboard types want to see their tax dollar-funded ledges all chunked up from pegs:

“It’s almost like skaters are the cops now,” says Mr. Dickinson, the BMXer.

Youch. The irony, she burns. On one hand, the BMXers have a fair point, but on the other hand, now that skateboarders have paved the way* they could go ahead and find their own city government to fill with various moles and rogue agents in fingerless gloves and Fox hats. You know, the Cuyahoga River is just begging for one of those big dirt jumps.

*delicious punnery sort of intended

Mo’ Mega Blues

December 15, 2008


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 armchair gaper 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 notice when somebody lands, say, a varial 900?