Thursday, June 25, 2009
Normally, I wouldn't pay attention to something so inane as a Fox News commentator ranting about the disrespectful nature of Tony Hawk's "weak ass" manual in the White House.
I've heard my fair share of snide remarks about how a skateboard is a child's toy, and how I'm entirely too old to still be skating. So it goes without saying that one more narrow-minded opinion doesn't really shock me: much ado about nothing, business as usual. But, when an editorial like Greg Gutfeld's "Greg-alogue" goes as far as to belittle Tony Hawk and what he has devoted his life to, not only does it spit in the face of Hawk, but it belittles what skateboarding means to millions of kids worldwide.
Gutfeld affirmed that Hawk skating in the White House made him mad ... that having Tony Hawk in the White House was an attempt by Obama to have the cool kids like him. He also lumped skateboarding in with MTV, Mountain Dew, "Road Rules" and Hot Topic. He said that if you disagree, "Then you, sir, are worse than Hitler," a remark which should be saved for the worst of the worse, not someone who disagrees with Gutfeld. These types of statements are nothing more than calls for attention, like the time Gutfeld took several little people (think Pancho Moler here) to a conference of the Magazine Publishers of America and had them be as loud as possible to generate buzz for the magazine Stuff, which he ran at the time (He was later fired).
I realize the White House holds a special place in people's hearts, but a brief manual in a hall of the White House (a nondestructive trick which requires nothing more than raising your wheels off the ground) is no more damaging than the years of baggage carts and traffic that go in and out of the president's home. Are we to assume that the White House bell boys are also being disrespectful?
So, from far away, I want to ignore Gutfeld's remarks. But when dissected, they are an insult to what skateboarding has been, is and will be and I think that should be spoken to. I'm not concerned about the political implications this attack has on President Obama. People will likely come to their senses and realize the insignificance of wheels on a floor, and Tony Hawk will come out unscathed. And, I am of the opinion that "this Iranian crap" as Gutfeld crudely described the contested presidential election and subsequent protests in Iran, is one of the most important events happening in the world right now.
Sarah Hall Productions, Inc
The manual in question.
It's hard to talk about this in the same breath as the clashes occurring in Iran. But, the question that remains is just how his comments help at all. Why skateboarding? If the current Iranian conflict is so worrisome to a commentator, what good does it do to complain about a manual at the White House during a First Father's gathering? As reprehensible as the events in Iran are, should America call everything off? No Father's Day?
The same could be said about what I'm writing right now. Like Gutfeld's, my words do not have a meaningful impact on the events in Iran. But, I write about skateboarding, so Gutfeld's words concern me on those grounds. In his monologue, Gutfeld described Tony Hawk as follows, "Look: [He] is in his mid-forties. He is wildly successful and a very nice guy." He added, "But he's a grown man and he skateboards ... in the White House." Under the video posted on the Fox News page it reads, "Tony Hawk is a Jackass."
For Hawk these seem to be nothing more than a few more snide remarks. In his role as an ambassador for skateboarding in some of its earliest stages, when it was ridiculed and scorned by the greater public, this was nothing out of the ordinary. Tony Hawk later responded on his Twitter (which is what got him in trouble to begin with), "Wow, haters! My passion, the sport that made me who I am, has allowed me to live the American Dream, disrespects the White House? Not at all." He later added, "I did no damage, as I also saw cart and trolley wheels rolling along the same floor. Funny how football on the WH lawn yesterday = no drama."
So, Why isn't football on the White House lawn as controversial? Why wasn't putting in the oval office met with the same contempt? Why is it that skateboarding is often viewed as a second-rate sport?
For any adult who still participates in a sport, you could argue that sports are irrelevant—that they do not benefit society. Theoretically, if that's the argument, we could do away with all sports. If skateboarding is an act which Gutfeld finds unfit for a guy in his mid-40s, then what's to be said athletes playing football or baseball or any other sport?
However, we covet sports. And, skateboarding, as fringe as it is and always will be, should be held in the same regard as any other sport—both for the athleticism and skill it requires, but more so for the outlet it provides boys, girls, men and women, aged 4 to 60. When the prospects of sponsorships and pro careers dwindle, skateboarding reverts to what it is in its essence—a chance to step outside the worries and ills of everyday life, at home and abroad.
Just the other day, I interviewed Oliver Percovich, an Australian gentleman who started the organization Skateistan. Two years ago, he brought boards to Afghanistan and has since used them to provide an outlet to children living in a war-torn country with a crumbling infrastructure. Skateboarding, the same thing that Gutfeld treated as second-rate, unfit for a man in his mid-40s and disrespectful, is being used as a vehicle to mix different socioeconomic groups in the city of Kabul. The program just laid the cornerstone for a complex which will include an indoor skate park and, when it's finished, will offer classes to both children living on the streets and those who are better-off, giving all of them skills to be successful and have a stake in their country's future.
This morning, I wrote about a Real skateboard which will be used to support the Second Wind Fund, a group that works to prevent teen suicide.
So, to dismiss skateboarding—to view it as second-rate or use it as a political chess piece—is disingenuous. It's much more than that. And, while it will always boil down to the feeling one gets from standing on the board, like any sport, it deserves respect
The last event I made it to on Go Skateboarding Day was Dennis Busenitz's shoe release/skate jam in Upland, California. This was the first time I had been to Upland and, maybe it was dilusion from being trapped in the car, but when I got out of my automobile, I kind of liked it. It had a beautiful landscape and a tranquil lifestyle. This happened to differ greatly with how the demo went. Apparently, it was packed in and non-stop skating. The Adidas van was there and a DJ bumped some tunes while kids shredded with Dennis and other Deluxe dudes