Our view: Death mars drama at X Games
If you thought, somehow, we’ve become a civilized society that has tamed — or at least safely contained — our lust for savagery masked as sport and death-defying thrills, think again.
It simply crops up again, reinvented in new and modern forms.
Last week, ESPN’s X Games, a showcase of stunts on snowmobile, skis, motorcycles and the like, recorded its first death.
Caleb Moore, 25, died after a back flip on a snowmobile went terribly wrong. His crash was followed, less than half an hour later, by another spectacular crash, this one by his brother. Colten Moore suffered a separated pelvis. Shattering injuries are not uncommon in sports featured in the X Games.
By all accounts, Caleb Moore loved his sport and accepted the risks. He willingly put his life on the line.
But what of ESPN and all the sponsors that set the stage for the wildest derring-do, creating a space where competitors are rewarded for taking ever greater risks?
Since its start in 1995, the made-for-TV games have grown exponentially to six separate events a year. The winter games drew 35 million viewers this year, the biggest draw ever, according to TransWorld Business.
ESPN plans to review its snowmobiling events thoroughly “to make sure that we take as much risk as we can out of (freestyle snowmobiling),” a top ESPN executive said on an ESPN program.
It’s a start, though sports journalists say ESPN already goes to significant lengths to control race conditions for its action sports.
What they aren’t controlling is the hype — the call for blood, if you will, from the crowds that results in ever more daring and deadly stunts.
Thrill-seeking is part of who we are. But in more mature sports — auto racing and boxing, for example — organizers and athletes have managed to temper the risk.
That effort is past due for action sports.