Monday, January 29, 2007


I was looking for something to take my mind off of major sports for a little while and I found it this weekend in Winter X Games 11. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in New England and spent winters skiing and logged my fair share of hours playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but something about the X Games just pulls me in.

Winter X 11 didn’t just pull me back into the action sports scene it more or less ripped me out of my seat, hucked me off the last chance kicker, made me slam a monster energy drink and stomped me back onto the couch with my jaw set firmly on the floor for a gnarly (yeah I said gnarly) 72 hours.

Friday Night Lights

Friday night was one hell of a way to kick things off, Simon Dumont vs. Tanner Hall the showdown of showdowns in skiing SuperPipe. Granted you had to sift through the miserably boring snowmobile Snocross for an hour before you got to the big names in SuperPipe.

ESPN one of the few problems I had with your coverage was Snocross. I get that it’s one of the big sports in the X Games but just show it and get it over with don’t show me Snocross then one run of ski pipe then back to Snocross not cool. Although it was pretty funny that every guy that the announcers mentioned had something go terribly wrong. They talked about a rookie, Ebert, who was leading in a qualifier but he crashed immediately after they mentioned him. Same goes for Blair Morgan who has dominated the sport. They kept mentioning him and he kept having problems, he didn’t even make that final. Talk about announcers jinxing teams and players.

Finally after the 347 laps of Snocross qualifying we got to see Hall and Dumont. Personally I think Dumont got robbed but either way they both went off and threw down some ridiculous tricks. Hall’s 95.00 was the highest score ever in Ski pipe and Dumont’s 94.00 can’t be too far behind.

Hall won because of his technicality, his run was one of the most technically difficult runs ever. His marquee trick is a cork 720 on his fist hit, but in his second run he knew he needed to go bigger so he upped his first hit to a cork 900. Dumont’s know for his amplitude, like his 22 foot truck drivers on his first hit, but his biggest trick was one that took him about 45 feet down the pipe.

A 1260, what? 1260, are you kidding me? Three and a half full spins and he stomped it twice half way through his run. He also upped the anti on his final run, after falling on his second run, throwing in two grabs on his massive first hit. Let’s not leave out Bronze medalist Peter Olenick whose Whiskey Flip gave him a third run score of 90.00 making him the only person that came within 10 points of Hall and Dumont in the event.

Both Dumont and Hall’s runs were unreal and while I am partial to Dumont there was no doubt in my mind that they were one, two. Those two definitely set the tone for the games, at least for viewers. They definitely will be a huge part of the future of the X Games becoming more and more popular.
Progression: -noun: the act of progressing; forward or onward movement.

Can you sum up the X Games in one word? I can: Progression. Simon Dumont and Tanner Hall kicked off WX 11 as a showcase of that Progression. The theme of progression carried on through out the games and in no place was that theme more prevalent than in snowboarding.

The Flying Tomato, Shaun White has been unstoppable the last few years. In 2006 he didn’t lose a half pipe event. He won Olympic gold and won his fourth straight Winter X SlopeStyle gold. Progression got the best of him at Winter X 11. White was unseated by Andreas Wiig, who won double gold in slope style and best trick, and Jussi Oksanen. White is an exciting guy to watch and went after it but failed to stick the landing of his huge 1260 on the last jump leaving him with a Bronze medal instead of a fifth gold.

White also had to settle for silver in SuperPipe thanks to Steve Fisher. Never heard of Fisher but he qualified second and didn’t disappoint throwing down a 92.00 on his first run, thanks to some major amplitude, to take the crown. I like to see Shaun White win because he’s got great charisma and you can tell when he’s feeling it but the most exciting guy for me to watch was 19 year old Mason Aguirre.

Check out Mason’s bronze medal run here.

Aguirre was a silver medalist in WX 10 and just missed out on an Olympic medal in Torino when he finished fourth. Kid goes huge and has a ton of amplitude, which is definitely the most exciting thing to see if you are a casual fan. The judges love technicality but jaw dropping amplitude sells it for me (which is why I think Dumont got hosed). Watching Aguirre, White and guys like Antti Autti continue trick progression and jack up the amplitude again makes the X Games more and more of a premiere event on the sports fan’s event calendar.

Whether you’re an X Games fan or not you have to have respect for these athletes and the fact that they have taken sports that were considered recreational and made them some of the most popular in the world.

The Olympics at one time turned its collective nose at these sports, athletes and their counter culture connotations. Now the Olympics are taking pages, and events, from the X Games book but action sports continue to become more and more a part of mainstream sports. Part of this has to do with ESPN and their commitment to ‘action sports’ but the bigger reason is the athletes and how far they have taken their sports.

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