Chris Moran - Musings From Uranus
Working on a snowboarding mag teaches you many things; how to lickspittle to powerful brands, how to survive in one of the world’s biggest cities on the same salary as a unskilled busker, and of course, how to 'top up' that salary with more back-handers than a Tory backbencher on a Tuscan holiday with some Russians.
But one thing that seems impossible to fully grasp is the online reaction from readers on the subject of competitive snowboarding. No matter how many times we’ve run contest stories, it’s always surprising.
The Olympics – an organisation that should be to snowboarding what McDonald’s is to the Islamic State
Some competitions get folk frothing like a werewolf on its eighth cappuccino. Take the Olympics – an organisation that should be to snowboarding what McDonald’s is to the Islamic State: a pretty clear-cut no-no. But while there have been times since Nagano ’98 that the very mention of the IOC was followed by a sideways spit, it seems we have a collective short memory. Point to a snowboarder who didn’t blub like a three-year-old when Jenny Jones won that medal and you’ll be singling out the most heartless rider in Christendom. And when Sage Kotsenburg – the snowboarder’s snowboarder – won gold in the slopestyle, we forgave en masse the fact that they stole our sport and smashed our legit governing body to pieces.
It’s like we turned into Carrie Fisher’s character from the Blues Brothers, jilted at the alter by Jake Elwood and ready to enact revenge, only to capitulate every four years. “I ran out of gas," pleads the IOC when talk of boycotting the games comes up. “There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts, it wasn’t my fault I swear to God!" “Oh Jake, honey," we reply, smooching up in forgiveness, before getting dumped in the sewer again as another snowboard contest goes down the swanny because of the four-year cycle of the games.
And on the other hand, there are some competitions with bona fide snowboard heritage that get the kind of reception from the online snowboard community that's normally reserved for a pube in trifle. Last year we ran a story on how the TTR was re-formatting the entire World Tour. According to the online analytics, barely a handful of people read it, and just two commented. The previous day a skier doing a naked backflip was viewed by tens of thousands and got three hundred comments.
And of course, there are those who couldn’t care less about competitions at all. In fact, many of them take it to levels that could only be described as ‘competitive not-caring’ – an oxymoronic feedback loop that could keep the internet buzzing like a perpetual motion machine for ever. I guess that's what perpetual means right?*
A ‘jam’ format – the equivalent of going to see the Rolling Stones and watching them riff with the hired bongo player
It would seem that most online commenters are prepared to forgive any kind of dodgy ethics as long as they get a good show. Which naturally leads to the question - what makes for a ‘good’ competition anyway? Experience tells us that there are three cast-iron dos and don'ts that every organiser should heed. The first is that any event ran by those actually participating inevitably descends into a ‘jam’ format – the equivalent of going to see the Rolling Stones and watching them riff with the hired bongo player while the roadies skin up. Just play the hits and do that pouting thing like the gig is one enormous selfie, Jagger; I had to eBay two snowboards and a set of goggles for this ticket. The second is that by grouping all the contestants by nation you’re able to stir up long-held xenophobic hatred. This is always a good thing, especially if you've got shares in a face-paint company. Lastly, you must aim to suck every cent out of the host country whilst simultaneously showing a total disdain for the sport you’re officiating. Witness FIFA’s recent masterclass in Brazil. So in summary, it seems that if you want a good snowboarding competition, then you'd be halfway there if you got the worstest, most conniving bastards in the world to run it.
If anyone complains, just strip naked and immediately launch a frontflip on some snowblades
A decent hypothesis I’m sure you’ll agree, but is it testable? Well, how about the next time you’re with your mates on the hill, instigate a race back to the pub. Charge each of them the price of a liftpass to enter. Don’t show up at the pub yourself, instead blowing most of the cash on hard drugs and prostitutes, stashing any remainder in a Swiss bank.
If anyone complains, just strip naked and immediately launch a frontflip on some snowblades. It's the perfect way of deflecting any unwanted attention.