Jon Wile and Sonny Amato
Action Sports Editor and Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 12:00 PM
Action Sports Editor Jon Wile and Washington Post staff writer Sonny Amato were online Wednesday, June 21, at noon ET to examine The Post's special section on Extreme Sports. Wile and Amato welcomed your questions and feedback. Amato discussed his coverage of BMX, skateboarding and freestyle motocross.
The Post's special section, "Adrenaline," is a guide to action sports. It features video of athletes showing off their skills and teaching tricks.
Read the Section: Adrenaline
The transcript follows.
Jon Wile: Welcome to The Washington Post's first discussion on action sports. Our special section, Adrenaline published today in cooperation with our Web site and KidsPost. So tell us how we did. What specifically did you like or dislike? What can we do better? Do you have a great story idea? We want to hear from you as much as you want to hear from us.
Sonny Amato: Hello everyone. Thanks for checking out our first action sports section and joining up with us to chat.
I had a great time at Camp Woodward and talking to a bunch of the BMX, FMX, and Skate pros. I'm going to go ahead and answer some questions, but please ask us anything that's on your mind. If you're already active in any of these sports, let us know what you think or some of your insights on where the sports are headed.
Alexandria, Va.: What are your thoughts on dominos becoming a big time sport. One of the championship matches appeared recently on ESPN. I am waiting for the mystery board game CLUE to have tournament.
Jon Wile: It appears that anything ESPN touches turns to gold (X Games, Texas Hold 'em, PTI, and the list goes on), so I don't think this will be any different. I know a lot of NFL players play after practice, so its only will be a matter of time until we see athletes playing dominos on ESPN.
Louisville, Ky.: Mr. Amato --
Why is NBC investing so much money into a sport that only reaches a certain demographic? BTW, love your writing - I'm a huge fan!
Jon Wile: That demographic is the most sought-after group in any sort of media outlet (TV, radio, newspaper). With the popularity that the X Games has had, it makes sense that NBC would want to get into this market. Look at the other sponsors (Sony, Vans, etc.). These are all products geared specifically toward this group.
Sonny Amato: Yeah, as Jon said, it might be a limited audience, but it is the audience with the deepest pockets. That includes 20-something-year olds with disposable incomes and teenagers who spend their parents money.
It's also a sport with broad visual appeal. Motorcycles 50 feet in the air tend to get the attention of TV viewers.
Washington, D.C.: Do you think extreme sports will become more mainstream? Is the "field" growing?
Jon Wile: According to the numbers that the Sports Goods Manufacturers Association puts out, the numbers are all up for "action" sports over the past 15 years. Some sports are in decline more recently, especially inline skating, but I think that has to do with generational gaps. Inline skating was the thing to do in the early- to mid-90s, but now that Generation X has grown up it's become less popular. If you want to see the report it's available to the public on the SGMA Web site.
Vienna, Va. (soon to be Denver, Colo.): Whitewater kayaking doesn't qualify as 'Adrenaline'??
Or does 2.2 million participants (plus 9.6M rafters) make it too insignificant?? (see http://www.outdoorindustry.org/pdf/2005_Participation_Study.pdf (pdf))
Hucking yourself off of waterfalls isn't 'X' enough??
Or do the facts that it can be done locally disqualify it? Done well, by the way -- there are a good number of sponsored national caliber competitors in the area.
As a hockey fan, I've long assumed that The Post published a sports section only to make its anemic Metro section look good. This "special" insert just reaffirms that opinion.
Jon Wile: It was tough to narrow the sport list down to 12 reviews. We tried to get a good variety of water, air and ground sports. Kayaking will be one we consider in the future. And if you remember, our former colleague John Mullen was an avid kayaker who wrote about the sport in his Sunday column.
San Francisco, Calif.: If hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in pro team sports, what do you guys think is the toughest thing to do in action sports?
Sonny Amato: I have attempted (and failed) to skateboard and BMX, but from the action sports I've seen, I imagine the freestyle FMXers have the toughest job. I say that not only because of the risk factor, but how tough it is to train. Because of their distance and height, there is no real safety net, so trying new moves is risky.
One thing I did learn, though, is how in-shape these athletes are. They train for hours at a time and their bodies take a pounding. Mike Metzger, who was in a constant search for Advil, will be chatting here tomorrow.
Jon Wile: I have to agree with Sonny about the FMX stuff. Mike Metzger jumps 125 feet over the fountains at Caesars Palace last month. If something doesn't go right, it's not like he can call timeout and go back to the bench. But all these sports have their own unique challenges.
washingtonpost.com: Live, Thursday, June 22, 1 p.m. ET: FMX rider and innovator Mike Metzger fields questions and comments. Metzger recently jumped 125 feet over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Alexandria, Va.: Clearly you are a better writer than you are a BMXer. Did you ask Mike Metzger just how one gets a tattoo on the inside of their mouth? That can't be very hygienic.
Sonny Amato: I'm going to take that as a compliment, even though I'm not quite sure.
I actually just asked Metzger how much it hurt and he said it didn't hurt much. But when the tattoo itself says "No Pain", I assume you're required to say that. You can ask him tomorrow in the chat about the hygiene aspect...I'd be interested in seeing his response.
Washington, D.C.: Did you know that there will be an extreme sports event for athletes with a loss of limb - they are called the extremity games - extremitygames.com and will be in Orlando in July. There will be skateboarding, wake boarding, rock climbing and BMX biking.
Jon Wile: I had not heard of that. Thank you for passing on the link.
Sonny Amato: My brother-in-law just mentioned that this weekend. Some of the athletes look amazing.
Fairfax, Va.: I noticed that the Dew tour isn't stopping at any major NE cities. Is this because there is greater interest elsewhere?
Jon Wile: Not exactly sure why that is. Since it's only there second season, I am sure they are still feeling out where they can go and which cities are willing to grant them the access they need. When reading Tom Heath's story today, it's apparent that a Tour stop takes a lot of preparation from both the city and the Tour.
washingtonpost.com: Looking for High-Flying Rewards (Post, June 21)
Pittsburgh, Pa.: What do you think it is that is helping the young kids perform as well in these events as the veterans?
Jon Wile: These kids aren't afraid to fail. They want to show up each other, which helps push them to extreme limits. It also helps that innovators like Mike Metzger and Tony Hawk have set a bar for people to pass.
Sonny Amato: Not to mention the new safety features. The addition of blue foam and Resi to some of the facilities has accelerated the learning process so much.
It's a wonder to some of the older guys that learning new, difficult moves isn't accompanied by broken bones anymore.
Arlington, Va.: How is the judging handled in extreme sports? Is it completely subjective? Is there any chance for controversy and scandal like in figure-skating?
Sonny Amato: The judging varies from sport to sport, but they aren't all completely subjective. Like Olympic sports, they judge on certain criteria. For instance in FMX, the judge based on style, difficulty, and best use of the course.
Is there controversy? Of course. These sports are very new so everyone in the industry is pretty close. The FMX guys told me that almost every competition has some level of judging controversy.
Silver Spring, Md.: This may seem like a silly question, but it's not meant to be: Do the local Amish kids ever get to use the camp? I know they can't use motorcycles and such, but I imagine BMX bikes and skateboards would be acceptable.
Sonny Amato: There are no silly questions. Yeah, the Amish kids certainly could use the camp if their parents paid their way. And I don't know of anything in the culture that would prohibit them from skating or riding bikes. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)
In fact, any kid can get to the camp if they want. The site is at woodwardcamp.com.
Virginia: Why did you decide to do this section?
Jon Wile: These sports are booming right now, and if you need an indication of how legit they are then look at the purses that the Dew, X Games and LG events are offering. They have major TV deals, recognizable athletes and these sports are rising in popularity. It's a no-brainer!
Arlington, Va.: Sonny,
I remember reading in your fantasy football chat that you're a Steelers fan. Now that I see you wore a helmet for your BMX ride, I wonder about what you think about Roethlisberger. Should athletes in other sports be doing these high-risk things?
Jon Wile: Most teams have it written into an athlete's contract what they are not allowed to do. Baseball player Jeff Kent and former Duke star Jason Williams are two prime examples. In the case of Roethlisberger, coach Bill Cowher and other Steelers' brass had advised him to wear a helmet when riding.
Sonny Amato: Jon is right. And I personally think that athletes that make that kind of money have a responsibility to their employers to be smarter.
Especially Steelers. I'd like to see a sixth Super Bowl title. So, the only extreme thing Ben should be doing in the offseason is being "extremely" careful.
Kids, wear your helmets and pads.
Arlington, Va.: Aren't these sports dangerous? Is there a high percentage of athletes getting seriously injured, or what?
Jon Wile: The sports are dangerous, but aren't all sports? Football, basketball and auto racing boast some serious injuries. Precautions are being taken with these sports (i.e. the blue foam at Camp Woodward), but there is only so much an individual can do before limiting his overall performance.
Richmond, Va.: Hey - this weekend I was at the ASA Action Sports Tour in Richmond and it was awesome! Can you tell me more about them?
Jon Wile: ASA is sponsored by LG and has 12 more stops this season, with the last three containing only skiing. They have $1.75 million in total purse money and 820 hours of TV coverage from the tour stops. The next event is July 14-15 in Amsterdam. The closest they come to D.C. the rest of this season will be Miami.
TV deals: Speaking of TV deals, is it the TV deals that keep this sport going? Because it makes such good TV?
Jon Wile: TV drives a lot: They provide the money and the audience. But these sports will always thrive within their own culture. It will be interesting to see what NBC gets for ratings on these summer weekend broadcasts. As Sonny and I have said in this forum already, some of the sports like motocross and BMX are amazing to watch. The riders make it look so effortless. . . . . And if you think this stuff is easy, check out the video of Sonny's ride through the BMX park at Woodward. This stuff is hard!
Sonny Amato: TV deals are certainly important to the future growth of the sports, but that's a more recent phenomenon.
The money through ESPN with the X-Games helped bring up the prize purses and the Dew Tour is able to hand out considerable money because of the NBC deal.
There was a time when athletes wouldn't go to events because the prizes were so small that they were losing money. If they spent $5,000 in gas, equipment, lodging, etc. to get to an event and then finished 10th, they ended up in the hole. Now, they can at least reasonably expect to break even.
washingtonpost.com: Check out video of Sonny's ride here: Adrenaline Section
Steve, Miami, Fla.: There's a game down here that's being played on South Beach that's really cool: footvolley. Have you guys heard of it? I saw the U.S. players in a championship last year. Think that these non-Olympic sports pose a major threat to the IOC ?
Jon Wile: I have not heard of that. Sounds like another hybrid sport on the way. And the IOC seems to be embracing action sports, more than worrying about them. At the Beijing Games in 2008, BMX will be added in hopes of gathering a younger audience.
Sonny Amato: Awesome sport, isn't it? If I'm not mistaken, it's basically volleyball where you can only use your feet, body and hands--a lot of those World Cup skills come into play.
You know, it seems silly to say that "footvolley" would ever be an Olympic sport, but all sports seem like that at first. There was a time that snowboarding was laughed at too. I'll keep an eye out for it.
Arlington, Va.: Having worked at Woodward from 82 - 94 you really captured the spirit of Woodward. It was really fun to see my friend Bob Nelligan narrating/participating in the video on how gymnastics has helped X Sports advance and be safer.
Ironically, I was just at camp last weekend for a reunion (and to see my mom and step dad who work there) and it is always great to see what new cool things camp has done. But, as always, the best part about going to Woodward Camp is the PEOPLE. The people make Woodward what it is.
Excellent job -- it was fun to see your perspective and how you captured the spirit of Woodward Camp.
Jon Wile: Thanks so much for the positive feedback. Glad we could rekindle some memories for you.
Sonny Amato: Thanks, I'm glad the fun and enthusiasm of Woodward came through, because that's what I felt while I was there.
Most sports are defined by the people that play them. In the case of action sports, it's even more evident that they enjoy what they do and enjoy being around each other. In a cynical sports world, it's certainly refreshing.
washingtonpost.com: The Camp of Hard Knocks (Post, June 21)
Jon Wile: Thanks everybody for your questions and feedback. I hope you enjoyed the special section in print and on the web. Come back to washingtonpost.com/adrenaline in the coming weeks for more BMX and skateboarding instructional videos from the pros. We have 9 videos for each sport and will continue to post them online.
Sonny Amato: Thanks everyone for your insightful questions. Hopefully we did a decent job answering them.
Have a great day!
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