By TC Kirkham
I’m an older action sports fan – I’m old enough that the original Dogtown boys were my peers. So action sports have been around for a while now. And yet no one gives them the same kind of respect that traditional sports get.
Living in Boston – a sports-obsessed town if there ever was one – if you don’t follow the Red Sox, well, some people treat you as if you don’t even exist. Ditto the Patriots, the Celtics, and the Bruins. To be honest, I don’t follow ANY of them.
Traditional sports stars permeate the media – after all, everyone knows who you’re talking about when you mention Michael Jordan or A-Rod.
Ask the average 30-something man on the street to name his ten favorite sports stars, he could do it in less than a minute, and come up with an additional 10 or more as well.
Ask that same man to name his ten favorite ACTION sports stars, and the response you’re going to get will go something like this…
“Action Sports? You mean skateboarders? Lessee….uh….Tony Hawk…uh….the Tomato kid….uh…that bike guy from MTV…uh…Hulk Hogan….wrestling’s an action sport, isn’t it?”
Pathetic. And no, pro wrestling is NOT an action sport.
It seems to me that raising the profile of action sports is the way to go – make people sit up and take notice. Outside of the Olympics – where, I should point out, superpipe snowboarding is one of the highest rated events, and where skateboarding doesn’t even qualify to be included – people aren’t aware of most action sports.
But there are cracks in the glass ceiling. And over the past year, most of them have been accomplished by one person. A snowboarder who has dared to go where no one has gone before, not only to raise his own visibility but to raise the visibility of the sport he loves as well.
Vito courted derision from his fellow snowboarders, but threw caution to the wind looking to raise his own visibility by agreeing to appear on one of America’s highest-rated TV series – ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.
When he was first announced, most people said “Who the hell is that? That’s what they consider a STAR on this show?” Not me – I CAMPAIGNED for over a year to get him on the show– it had been completely devoid of action stars before that, and overrun with football players.
LV made no bones about his chances, admitting he couldn’t dance. But you know something? Vito won over his critics and the DWTS fandom by giving his all. Sure, he messed up, more than once. But more than once, the people who cover the show for various publications let the judges have it when they thought they were being too hard on Louie. He had fun, and came out of the show a known name and face, and parlayed it into a blog on People.Com, and got fans he’d made on DWTS to tune in snowboarding for the first time, so they could check him out.
Most of ‘em came away new fans of snowboarding….and of Vito in particular. When I mention Louie’s name these days, they remember him as the crazy snowboarder who did Dancing With The Stars. Hey, it’s a start…
So it can be done. If we as fans encourage our favorite action stars to get out there and get seen on something besides action sports shows, it’s only a matter of time before people know the names, and come to see what they really do. And that’s DEFINITELY a good thing….
More from the TC Xone (spelled with an “X” for “X-treme, of course) next time!
TC Kirkham is proud to be the oldest Expression Session blogger. He’s been a lifelong fan of extreme sports and idolized the original Dogtown crew as a teenager. When not blogging about action sports, he runs blogs on movie and music on Popcorn n Roses.