31/10/2013 | by Nina Zietman
Yesterday ESPN announced that they are cancelling the X Games in Tignes. But will we really miss it asks Evan J Chanago?
So last night whilst trudging through the endless reel of Facebook updates from lovers (oh yep, that’s plural!) friends and colleagues, I happened across the breaking news that ESPN had pulled the plug on both summer and winter X Games in France, Brazil, Germany and Spain to focus their gargantuan efforts on their domestic events in Austin and Aspen for the 2013/14 season.
Having read this memo that leaked from X Games operations manager Severn Sandt over the summer from the Brazilian stop of the X Games, it didn’t come as a massive surprise that they had pulled the plug on the European travelling circus of their franchise. To run six global events a season is what’s commonly known as spreading yourself a tad thin. X Games has always been about commercial impact on the mainstream market and well, I don’t really think they got as much bang for their buck in Europe as they did in the States.
Whilst I’m sure there are many people across our fair continent mourning the loss of the X, I for one am not that fussed. By no means am I dancing on the grave of its demise, but I felt it never really had the prestige of the Arctic Challenge or the BEO, it just never actually felt like a European event.
To run six global events a season is what’s commonly known as spreading yourself a tad thin
I mean there’s the blindingly obvious difference between calling a section of a course the kicker section and then the coke swilling, burger chomping and gas guzzling version of calling it the ‘Financial District’ and describing a rider landing a trick as ‘making a down payment’. It’s just not cricket is it? It’s not even football, or “le foot” or whatever they call it on the continent, it’s just cheese.
Then you throw into cauldron ESPN’s invite system, which was seemingly based on nothing more scientific than a guess at what the American public might want to watch on TV, and caused no end of controversy. Not least when Jamie Nicholls was overlooked in favour of riders hailing from the States and Canada at the Real Street competition, despite the fact that the other riders wanted him there. Surely a competition should always be about getting the best possible riders on the best possible course? Tailoring your invited riders list to what you believe the public wants to watch means it’s unfair before it’s even started. And if you pander too much to what your average Joe on his couch wants, you end up in the ridiculous situation where Travis Rice’s sketchy 10 beats Torstein Horgmo’s pitch perfect switch back 12… Even Travis himself said that was a travesty (or should that be Travis-ty? Badum tish!).
Admittedly it did sometimes give the opportunity to up and coming riders to launch themselves on a global scale (if they got the invite), but I never felt like there was the ‘wildcard’ element of other competitions. Think Yuki Kadono squaring up against Peetu and Stale in China for the Air & Style. Think Heikki Sorsa boosting 9m out of the quarterpipe in Norway for the Arctic Challenge in 2001. Very few people could have predicted these young whippersnappers would take the top spot, but that’s what makes them so interesting. You never know who’s going to fight though the qualifications and make the super pros blush.
Don’t get me wrong, it is great to see all of the best pros battling it out on the same course, and X Games did usually have an incredibly heavy hitting roster the likes of which you don’t see at every event, but there is that perverse pleasure in watching people progress through the quails, quarters, semis and finals to snatch the prize from under the noses of the elite.
Even the mighty Red Bull conceded that running an event this season would be tough
We’re guessing in the end though it’s not their sense of fair play that has seen them pull the plug on X Games Europe, it’ll be down to the money. With the ‘lympics a few months away and the media hype machine already revving its engines, there’s no real motivation for ESPN to spool out dollar bills when it can’t really compete. Even the mighty Red Bull conceded that running an event this season would be tough and cancelled the Supernatural for 2014.
All I hope is that after the dust settles in Russia, an event rises from the ashes of the X Games. A European project from European companies that can rival the X Games in terms of impact, both on the mainstream and core. An event that doesn’t feel the need to come up with cheesy names for features. Something that we can be proud of as a continent: We’ve got the people, we’ve definitely got the parks. Maybe all we need are the pennies. Kickstarter anyone?
What do you think? Welcoming the change or sad to see the end of X Games’ trans-atlantic affair? Let us know in the comments below.