Warm up to the Winter X Games
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

ASPEN, Colo. -- You have two choices this weekend: You can lay around watching Super Bowl preview specials and highlight films, stuffing your face with Ding Dongs and pork rinds and nursing a can of Pepsi; OR you can lay around munching and sipping, and tune in to Winter X Games VIII live from Aspen.

Your first impulse is to go with Plan A. You have a thing for John Facenda. You've got certain off-week rituals you like to adhere to. I know. We all do.

Still, I'm going to try to convince you to go with Plan B.

Hear me out. I've got VIII good reasons:

I. Looks

Tara Dakides
Winter X gamers like Tara Dakides have skill, and sex appeal.
Did you see the cover of FHM magazine this month? We're talking body paint on X Gamers, my friend. Just body paint. You catch the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine? Nothing but strategically placed towels and discreetly turned hips and shoulders. And skin. Lots of it. The athletes at X are young, fit, and bold. They're easy on the eyes and you never know what you're going to see. Tune in.

I should stop right there. I should just say, take your pick: Grainy footage of Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw circa Super Bowl IX, or live, fresh footage of Tara Dakides and Aleisha Cline performing amazing feats of athleticism against a sparkling, snowy background?

But I won't stop there. I'll sweeten the pot.

II. Air

Admit it, you've grown jaded by what you see in football and basketball. An acrobatic catch from Marvin Harrison barely raises your pulse anymore. A high-flying slam from V.C. or LeBron hardly turns your head. What you need, and what you get at Winter X, are some elevated, inverted, rotated balletics that aren't just unfamiliar, they're unbelievable. When was the last time your jaw dropped? I mean, besides when you saw that FHM cover. It's been too long, hasn't it?

III. Falls

They're flipside of the flips and the tricks. They're the wipeouts, the tumbles, the bone-rattling meet-and-greets between athlete and earth. You hope no one gets hurt (and they usually don't, cuz it's on snow and they know how to fall); but either way, you watch because you can't resist those damn-that-must've-hurt moments when you let out an "Ooooohh," slap your knee, shake your head and think, "Better you than me, young fella. Better you than me."

You want more? I got more.

IV. High aims

Remember when you were a kid and you used to play with your buddies in the street or at the park? Maybe it was two-hand touch; maybe it was hoops. Or maybe you were on bikes or boards. You played hard because you were playing to win; but more than that, you played hard because you were always pushing each other to do things that were new, better, and bigger than anything any of you had ever seen before? That's what X is like. Yeah, there's money at stake and there are medals involved; but the juice flowing through everyone's veins is a simple will to creativity, a pursuit of perfection. Watching these kids is a kind of rebirth, a baptism in the pure joy of play.

Am I getting carried away? Yes, I'm getting carried away. That's exactly my point. This stuff inspires all kinds of wild, wide-eyed thinking.

Let's continue.

V. The new thing

Everybody but everybody you know knows something about football. Sound off on the Patriots' stout defense or the Panthers' gritty O around the water cooler and you're just a voice in the crowd, part of the clichéd clamor. Nothing sets you apart, and nothing sets this year apart from any other. But let's say you roll into the office Monday morning talking about young Shaun White twirling like a helicopter high above the lip of the snowboard SuperPipe, or about men taking wacky, breathtaking, Orville-and-Wilbur-never-said-it-could-be-like-this flights of fancy during the Freestyle Snowmobile demo ... how would you sound then? Crazy? Maybe. But crazy like a pioneer, like a prophet, like one of Teddy Roosevelt's rugged individualists, like one of Jack London's heroes, like someone unafraid to blaze a trail, like the person you've always told yourself you could be.

Plus, to tell you the truth, folks who know you are a little creeped out by the way you quote lines from NFL Films like a Trekkie quoting Spock, and the way you rattle off numbers like a teletype from by-gone eras. They're worried about you. They want you to try something new.

It's your call. But really, you should think about it. You should think about ...

Shaun White
You can watch Shaun White perform feats like this at the Winter X Games.
VI. Style

Can I just say screw figure skating? Can I say forget all those uptight, "oh-that's-gonna-cost-her" commentators who've made style an anxious, don't-screw-up part of sports? Can I get a witness on behalf of style like it ought to be? Because on the hills at Buttermilk this weekend, style is back, baby. It's a reward for daring, a payoff for calm, cool moves. And it's a vibe. It's the style of Clyde Frazier wearing hats and dropping dimes, it's the style of J.J. Jefferson laying out for a one-hand grab in the end zone and smiling behind those funky goggles. It ain't about failing, it's about flow.

VII. Heart

Tune in to the Moto X Best Trick event and you will see grown men on spike-tired motorcycles go up a ramp, throw their bikes and bodies into the air in some outlandish, often inverted, position from which they cannot possibly maintain their bearings, and then come hurtling down to the icy ground, sometimes on two wheels, sometimes in a heap. You will see them do this. And then you will see them do this again. And again.

VIII. Self-defense

These sports are your kids' sports. You remember your kids. They're the ones ignoring you right now because you are so hopelessly square. You want to shock the hell out of them? Learn a little X. Come to the breakfast table tomorrow morning talking frontside rodeos and slopestyle rail rides. Just like that, you're back in. They're coming to you for advice. They're saying nice things about you to their friends. They're maybe even inviting you to play a game or two on the ol' XBox. You'll feel warm all over about the renewed bond between you, and you might even feel a little hip. But more important than either of these things, you'll feel pretty sure that when the revolution comes, they and their friends won't Logan's Run your sorry butt right out of existence.

So that's my eight.

You in?

Still have doubts?

Check item No. I one more time.

All right now. You in?

Thought so. Now go get your snacks and settle in and enjoy the Games.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



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