On Olympic Skateboarding
SADLY STANDARD CAVEAT / NICE CLOTHES / PEOPLE LISTENING TO THEIR OWN MUSIC / SUITED & ZOOTED / PERSONAL BEST / SUPPORTIVE EVENT / TOO HYPED / FLUMMOXED ANNOUNCERS / TO LOVE WHAT ONE DOES / LINKS
Did you guys watch any of the Olympics? I know that the Olympics are bad for people in every country they're hosted in, but I still watched some of it. I love to see a great athlete in a rare sport! I love to see them load in, to see their outfit, to learn a little about them, to hear what they do when not Olympicking, to try and figure out enough of the sport that I start to understand the finesse points, and to declare which of these guys is my guy at the begining of the match (when applicable). As with seemingly every sufficiently large production of the modern age, a billion lesser demons lurk in the shadows, and this year was no different. It was a bad move to have it at all this year but they did anyway, and I watched some of it, I watched the skateboarding (and a little bits of some other events).
OK I'm not going to go into detail about the stuff that was weird, bad, or complicated about the event, I'm only going to go for the good stuff.
- Everyone looked cool. Unlike other sports where there's a uniform that may or may not look cool, in skateboarding it seems like people were able to select their own individual outfits. The only limitation seemed to be in logos: it seemed like there were no big brand graphics allowed other than whatever country they were skating for, the Olympics, and Nike. But maybe everyone just decided that a tshirt with a big graphic was too corny. In some cases it seemed like the uniform was just "here's what I'm wearing today". There were a few people in cargo pants, though the favorite pants of my viewing party were worn by Belgium's Lore Bruggeman. After much searching it seems like they were regular Volcom pants held up with a length of clothesline. A few people had baggy jumpsuits, and Brazilian park skater Yndiara Asp wore a collared shirt with just the top button buttoned, that's a great look. The style for skate clothing is once again baggy-- ML reports that when he goes out now skaters make fun of him for wearing tight pants, when only a few years ago they were making fun of him for wearing baggy pants, and a few years before that, because the pants were too tight, and they're the same exact pair of pants.
- People listened to their own music. Though I wish I could tune in to what they were jamming on, many of the riders wore earbuds and listened to their own music during their runs. There's something really dignified about that. Some people didn't have earbuds and either jammed with the music being played over the soundsystem or blotted it out completely. It's funny to have music playing in the arena unrelated to the specific performance, but that's how it is at regular skateboard expos, and it seems like the playlist was what you'd expect for "skateboard contest". I heard Black Sabbath 3 times I think, and the instrumental of Geto Boys "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" twice. From the perspective of a TV viewer, the music in the park was way in the background, not even audible most of the time. I think I heard Suicidal Tendencies "Possessed To Skate" at one point but I was really straining my ears so I can't be sure. If anyone's wondering which Misfits song they played, it was "Teenagers From Mars", which makes sense considering the ages of many of the contestants. Again, no idea what the skaters were listening to on their earbuds, probably whatever gets them psyched, which could be anything really. Madonna, Stravinsky, Fushitsusha, the Crystals... shit man who knows.
- The announcers sucked but they were trying and actually it was kind of fun that they sucked. I mean I wish they were skaters and knew the names of all the tricks, but at the same time it was fun to hear them struggle when something crazy happened, it made the whole thing a little more exciting. Sakiko said that there was a small drama with the Japanese announcers-- they got one classic announcer guy, very formal, and one actual skateboarder, who said "sick" and so forth. As I understand it the classic guy was taken aback by the casual laguage of the amped up guy but they got along and the contrast was enjoyable. I wish I had that experience instead of two British guys saying "lovely, lovely, absolutely lovely". But you know what, they tried their best and I appreciate that.
- Everyone tried really hard, that's what you want to see from an Olympic event. People were really pushing themselves and that's great to see. Some people were clearly not in medal position but they went out there to do their personal best and have a blast, and it looks like they did.
- Almost everyone seemed like they were having fun????? That's standard for skating, where "having fun" is the only reason you're doing it, but that's really rare for an Olympic event! It was really inspiring to see that all the skaters who were ostensibly competing against each other were also cheering for each other, and excited for each other. I think this was my main takeaway. This is probably skateboarding's biggest global moment, and it's nice to show the world that a big part of skating (maybe the main part) is about hanging out and letting yourself be fun to be around, and sharing in the triumphs of others, regardless of their skill level. Skateboarding is something you can do alone but more commonly you're sharing a resource (a ramp, a curb) with others, potentially strangers, and you're falling down in front of them really quite a lot. Drama is counter-productive for all involved. So it's extremely good for the sport (and in general) to have a high-profile event where people are looking out for each other and being supportive. Moreover, it was clear from the broadcast that this was something the skaters just decided to do, or at least it was an aspect of skating that they neglected to tone down-- the commenters and the interviewers and basically everyone on the broadcast side of it, whose business model is "induce drama", were all pretty shocked.
- There were a few points where people kept skating after their runs, even though the clock had stopped and no more points would be tallied. I can't see any other athlete doing that. Beloved Canadian weirdo Andy Anderson ended his run post-buzzer with a Canadian Flyout, then launched into a freestyle routine at the top of the ramp, which really flummoxed the announcers. It's like if a gymnast kept flipping, just for the joy of flipping. And a few people dropped back in immediately after their run just to prove that they really could do the trick that they bailed on. Or maybe it was an act without pride, maybe they just needed to get the trick, the way one needs to scratch an itch. Anyway, I loved it. It underlined something special about skateboarding-- it's famously a delinquent's pasttime, but really the transgressions are usually positive. I mean it's more about saying yes to joy than no to society or whatever.
It's wonderful to love what you do to such a degree. I'm sure everyone in the Olympics loves what they do but like, after the medals are given out, I'm sure the skateboarders were out skating around other areas of the Olympic park, because that's their method of being in conversation with the environment. The shotput people probably don't go out after hours and launch rocks into the harbor. Although if they did, I would want to be there. I love launching rocks into the harbor.
links / misc
the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline is ongoing, you can read more about it and donate a little $$$ to those fighting it here: [link]
Here's a really nice and inspirational skate vid from Canada's Andy Anderson. I've been watching a lot of his vids lately, this one sums them all up [youtube, 25min]
As predicted, here's Andy skating around the Olympic village on the way to lunch: [youtube, 2min]