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HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL
The 2013 ESPN X Games

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 8, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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Story and pictures by John Grafman 36 years ago a handful of ragtag, renegade kids in Santa Monica changed the world of sports forever. It’s almost impossible to recall the bravado of the Z-boys, essentially creating modern day skateboarding, and not consider having the X Games in their backyard, Los Angeles. Yet, after 11 bone breaking, body bruising years these will be the final days in the city of angels for this celebration of life-threatening behavior. The 2013 X Games in Downtown are roughly 17 miles east from “Dogtown”, the birthplace of skateboarding as an extreme sport. From the time Tony Alva caught air out of a pool way back in the day there’s been no looking back. What started as a bunch of hoodlums hanging about drained pools of unsuspecting homeowners in Southern California is now a group of 200 world class athletes competing in BMX, motocross, rally car, as well as skateboarding. No longer is this just a bunch of juvenile delinquents in a backyard, this is now available to 55 million homes via ESPN in the USA, and 430 million globally. The competition now unfolds in major cities around the world.

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True, the 19th annual X Games is significantly older than some of the competitors. Jagger Eaton, the youngest competitor is just 12 years old, less than a third of the age of rival Bucky Lasek. This sixth-grader skater that hails from Mesa, Arizona sails through the air in part due to his flyweight 78 pounds. Hard-charging, 13-year old skateboarding superstar Tom Schaar (the first to ever pull off a 1080 – three revolutions mid-air) edges out veteran Bob Burnquist (36) by a mere .16 points to earn second place this year in the America's Navy Skateboard Big Air Final. It’s safe to say that the youth presence is stronger than ever here, just don’t expect them to be stealing hubcaps when the lights go down. This final year in L.A. is unique in that the event is being spread out geographically, reminiscent of the Olympics. In addition to using the Event Deck at L.A. Live and the Staples Center as it has before, the X Games is now employing the spacious Irwindale Event Center for several key events. The rally car races and gymkhana are indeed better suited to layout that the Irwindale Speedway provides. This is the only logical place to have racing that’s safe, and allows fans an excellent view of nearly the entire course, and it’s within striking distance of the other venues.

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Irwindale also plays host to the best of the X Games, the Big Air competitions in both skating and BMX. Having massive amounts of room for the ginormous, seven story ramp and the 27-foot quarter pipe is imperative, and Irwindale has just that. And, this turns out to be appropriate for the concerts after the sporting events conclude. Yes, Irwindale Event Center is the next best thing to being in downtown. The issue with two locations is the inability to be in two places at once. Like it or not, when two events are going on concurrently it does make it impossible to catch both of those live and in-person. Inevitably, fans that love one sport will also love another. Physically having events over 20 miles apart does not improve ticket sales either. On the bright side there’s always TiVo. Something else feels off. In wandering around X Fest near the Staples Center and LA Live the vibe isn’t the same as in years past. Breaking this up into two very different locations means reducing the congestion, and the energy level. It’s like being at a football game where only half of stands are filled, or a concert where attendance is sparse. While the professional performances still might be spot on, without the roar of the crowds it just doesn’t have the same electricity. This could be called X Games unplugged!

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X Games will not be returning to Los Angeles, or at the very least not next year. Really, it wasn’t the fans that unplugged the games. Even with great attendance, and millions of dollars stemming from this annual festival, it isn’t in the cards. To understand why, consider that ESPN does require some serious advance notice to make this all come together. Believe it or not it takes 48 days for staff just to assemble and tear down the venue for the games. This includes 63 truckloads of scaffolding! Plus, there are athletes coming in from 17 countries around the world. The logistics of this are enormous, and it doesn’t happen overnight. So, what’s the story? Well, from what we understand due to the indecisive nature of the city (possibly in part due to a lame-duck mayor) along with the state of limbo AEG (owner of L.A. Live) was in at the time, pending a possible sale, created the perfect storm just as the planning of event for the next X Games was starting to set sail. So, expect the new port of call to be Austin, Texas. Yee-haw!

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For such a commercialized sporting event, it’s amazing this still retains any sense of its origins. Remember, many of the extreme sports were initially deemed as being anti-social! Take the gymkhana sport as an example; juicing up cars to the point where these screaming machines are eating up tires like kids devour Oreo cookies isn’t exactly health behavior. It’s a little hard to be a “bad boy” when you are sponsored by a Fortune 500 corporation. Nevertheless, it’s the dollars that grease the wheels at X Games. Corporate generosity and greenbacks are allowing these sports to exist as thriving businesses. Without the media and the viewers at the games, and across the world, the flow of money would stop in a heartbeat. It used to be that sponsors wouldn’t associate with skaters and the like unless they had squeaky clean images. The groundwork of a few insightful individuals provided the gateway to numerous other sponsors, and fringe sports being seen as legit. Today, the Navy and Ford are sponsors, both of which are eager to associate each with a certain lifestyle and mindset. If you like danger and adventure, the Navy could be for you. Likewise, if you look at cars as more than just a way to get from point A to point B, Ford wants to talk with you as well.

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Lucky for us the fun in the sun has lasted in L.A. for as long as it has. Sadly, locals won’t be able to easily attend the X Games to get a fix of gymkhana or rally drivers displaying nerves of steel, and driving skills that rival those seen in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. Nope, if one wants to see speeding, sliding, racing, smashing, and adrenaline laden moments it’ll have to be on the 10, 101, 210 and the 405, just like always! HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL - RallyCross at the X Games HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL - The Vertical Ramp at the X Games HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL - Moto X Best Whips at the X Games HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL - Men’s street skating at the X Games HEARTS LIKE A WHEEL - BMX at the X Games [nggallery id=xgames2013compcaptions]

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