Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The X Games and Almost Anything Else ESPN Can Exploit Through Sports Coverage

So the "X" Games are about to begin. Yikes, what's that all about?

Right Minded Fellow just ain't hip. Whether it's the "X" Games, Hot Dog Eating Contests, or World Series of Poker, sports TV has made these all huge specticles often getting ratings as "extreme" as more conventional sports.

The "X" Games are especially strange to your humble comentator. Since their debut on June 24, 1995, the x Games have apparently become a huge sensation, but yours truly has no idea what they are. When I first heard of the concept, "X" games, I thought rated "X" that sexploitation had finally gotten so extreme that some sleaze bag like Larry Flynt or somebody like the Joe DeFrancis of the time would come up with games that combined the two things that appears to most preoccupy the male psyche, sports and sex.

Soon after that, I realized it was something dreamed up by the Disney guys at ESPN. The spots were all over my favorite cable channel. "X" games are actually defined as: an annual event with a focus on extreme action sports. From what I can see most of it was what we would have called "hot dogging" in my day, doing flaunty, on the edge of self-destruction, stunts on skateboards, skis, bikes, motorcycles, or whatever doing the kind of things those who use such things for recreation or competition would find absolutely insane. But leave it to the EPSN promo machine, they've come up with something that is formatted much like Olympics coverage dedicated to pimple faced pukes going nuts showing off to the extreme on a skateboard, as one example, that there is some scoring system, and a bunch of spotty nerds compete to win trophies in these events.

The competitors generally look like kids who'd be just as comfortable sitting on a couch with a game controller or joy stick in hand. Realise we're not that far from competative gaming, who can excel at various video games will be a televised sport too.

I guess to each his own but I can't see me taking any ownership in "X" games. It's probably more a Generation "X" or "Y" thing anyway. I'll pass and hope that maybe the Speed Channel has something on besides "Pinks" another concept I completely don't understand. That skinny bald ego freak who hosts that program looks like a fellow who belongs in maximum security in the slammer.

Is nothing sacred, or better said, is their nothing ESPN won't mind for shameless promotion for some kind of sport and soon it becomes a cultural phenomenon? ESPN has made the Coney Island hot dog eating contest a national event where contestants from around the world compete for who can stuff down the most Nathan's Original hot dogs without puking.

Yes, there is now an official sports category known as "competative eating." There are two sanctioning bodies: The International Federation of Competative Eating (IFOCE) and the Association of Independent Competative Eaters (AICE). That's scary. Well, I once knew a fellow with whom I played cards who boasted he could eat a large slice of pizza in three chomps. He could demolish a Big Mac faster than I could eat a mouth full of french fries with a slug of Coke.

If it's all in the name of good fun, should I mind? Probably not. To each his own, but there is a rising phenomenon that also started with ESPN that I don't embrace, the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Though these events have been on television for decades, in 2003, ESPN decided to hype the hell out of it, add new technologies, and develop full-blown coverage like other major sports. Since that time, poker tournaments have exploded not just on ESPN but on almost all sports channels and also some of the lifestyle channels as well. This is creating a new frenzy around what used to be a friendly game between friends who might blow a jar of change in an evening's competition. Now, every run-of-the-mill loser who has ever been to a "friendly" poker night with some friends or office mates suddenly sees sports stardom in his future often spending lavish sums of money to hit the casinos or engage in amateur competitions where the stakes are high and the odds of winning low.

This is the kind of stuff that ruins lives and destroys families. There's nothing sporting about that. While "X" Games, Competative Eating, and High Stakes Power all enjoy recent massive exposure thanks to ESPN and other cable channels, these nontraditional sports have vastly different consequences. Parents should be forewarned about kids trying to emulate some of the stunts shown in X Game competition. While some of them might result in the typical adolescent scrapes and breaks, some could easily be lethal if poorly executed. Probably the greatest harm of competative eating aside from perhaps an occasional competator needing to get his stomachs pumped would be the ridicule from one's peers if word got out of someone's involvement. Competative poker can draw people with limited self-discipline into the horror world of gambling addiction which destroys families and often leaves a spouse and children in very bad shape.

I'd rather watch the "ball" sports, frankly.

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