In the office yesterday, we were all sitting around discussing the world of snowboarding. We were analyzing the impact of Shaun White. When did snowboarding go from a rebellious, anti-skiing, pants around your ankles, backwards hat wearing activity to a reputable, well-respected sport? Perhaps it’s both now, and perhaps Shaun White is the reason why we no longer associate snowboarding with punk teenagers. What’s interesting is that while we were having this conversation, we came upon Ryan Sexton’s article in the Hofstra Chronicle Online. His article goes perfectly with what we were talking about. Check it out, it’s called “Shaun White and snowboarding not getting well-deserved credit”:
“Snowboarding has come a long way since Jake Burton and his pals were bumming around Londonderry Vermont on makeshift planks. Though seeing boarders on the slopes no longer elicits the same mouth agape from skiers that it used to, the sport is still far from being America’s pastime.
Burgeoning at the heart of the sport is the dynamic 23 year old with sports most famous orange hair: Shaun White. What Olympic viewers and countless sports fans may not realize is the enormity of his gold medal win in February.
Part of the problem with extreme sports is perception. People see skateboarders grinding on church stairs or doing kick flips over railings at the mall and they resent the trick lingo and the apparent destruction of property. In 1995, the X Games, sponsored by ESPN, came onto the scene. At the time it was considered a risky investment for them. Now, extreme sports, which encompass things like skateboarding and snowboarding, bring in enormous revenue. Shaun White is the defacto leader of them, whether he likes it or not. Sadly, for all the progress extreme sports have made, they still have a long way to go.
Dr. J dunked from the Foul Line. Mark Mcgwire hit 70 home runs. These transcendent moments for some reason do not translate as well to extreme sports. While the average person might easily recount the aforementioned events, ask a passerby what a 900 is or who jumped the Great Wall of China on a skateboard, and you would get blank stares. Tony Hawk and Danny Way, respectively, performed athletic achievements beyond the scope of what was considered possible by pushing their bodies arguably further than those in conventional sports.
At the same time, they received less recognition for it. The best part is White is doing even more than them. Imagine strapping your body onto a composite board with bindings that do not detach and dropping into a long pipe structure cut into the snow with walls so high they get vertical on both sides. Then imagine twisting your body 3 and a half times through the air while doing two back flips. By comparison, Michael Jordan had it easy.
Above all though, Shaun White’s greatest achievement was grabbing gold at this year’s Olympics. In the men’s half pipe, White was so utterly untouchable that his score was 3.4 points higher than Pitu Piiroinen, the silver medalist from Finland. White is the only reason why sponsors are interested in snowboarding. This year his routine was so feared that other boarders had to all learn a trick, the double cork, to remain competitive with him.
White is the reason why people no longer gawk at teenagers with boards strapped to their feet dangling under chairlifts or bark at kids with a skateboard and a dream. Without Alex Rodriguez, baseball would continue. Without Shawn White, snowboarding would never get off the chairlift.”