I spent a lot — too much, probably — time watching the X Games this past weekend. It’s funny how mainstream the X Games have become and how people take them for granted now. The year the games debuted (1995) was a big, big deal.
In the mid-to-late 80s, there wasn’t a lot of skateboarding being shown on television. In fact, I had made my own VHS tape, filled with what skating clips I could find. ESPN had aired a couple of skateboard competitions (The OP Championship and the Vision Street Wear Finals) that I had recorded, plus I had the skate scene from Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, and a few music videos with skateboarding in them. I also had a copy of the movie Thrashin’, and a couple of “How To” skate videos I bought from a garage sale … and that was pretty much it. I didn’t even own any of the professional skate videos back then.
Here’s a clip I uploaded to YouTube earlier this year of one of those clips (the OP Championship from 1986, recorded off of ESPN). In this clip, Christian Hosoi pulls off a contest-winning “McTwist,” a 540-degree turn. Just listen to how excited that announcer was! Funny how things progress; this past weekend on the X Games I watched a 12-year-old kid pull off a 900.
Just look at the difference between the ramps in those two clips. Amazing.
If I remember correctly, I got my first “real” skateboard around 1986 and I don’t remember using it much after graduating high school in ’91, so even though I only spent a few years actually skateboarding, I have long had a deep appreciation for the sport. One time, in 1994, a co-worker of mine at Best Buy (Nathan) invited me to go skateboarding with him after work. I wasn’t really skating anymore at that point, but I went along with him just to watch. Nathan spent the afternoon learning kick flip, and I must’ve watched him fall on his butt 50 times trying to learn how. That’s probably why I never made it far in skateboarding. I liked the skating but didn’t care for the falling down part so much.
The following summer (1995), ESPN launched the “Extreme Games,” a new competition with Gen X’ers like me in mind as the target audience. That first year the Games consisted of skateboarding, mountain biking, rollerblading, sky surfing, street luging, and bungee jumping. Obviously ESPN was just throwing things out there to see what would stick, and most of those events disappeared within a year or two. This year’s X Games consisted of skateboards, BMX, Moto x, and rally cars, with each of those categories having multiple events.
The X Games continue to raise the bar every year. As kind of a “half time show,” at the 2012 X Games, two guys broke a world’s record by doing this:
And, one guy did this:
While I like watching the car stuff and the Moto X stuff, they aren’t nostalgic to me like the skateboarding events are. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never even caught air on a ramp, but I had friends who did, and watching the X Games reminds me of those days, even though I tend to enjoy my skateboarding more from the comfort of my own couch than cruising down the street these days.