Before I dive into this week's column, I want to offer a disclaimer: Unlike some Roaring Fork Valley residents, I have nothing against the X Games. They bring local merchants and hotels a lot of business, they give Aspen a tremendous amount of exposure with young people and they've somehow managed to change Buttermilk's image from boring to rad. I'm glad the X Games are here, and I'm glad they'll be staying in Aspen for the next few years.
That being said, I don't get it. I honestly don't understand the appeal of the X Games. I realize that it's because I'm a crotchety, old fart, but they just strike me as really, really lame.
Don't get me wrong; I understand the appeal of the sports being contested at the X Games (except slopestyle, but more on that later). The halfpipe and snowmobile events are pretty badass when they're actually happening, and I have the utmost respect for all the athletes involved. If they'd had halfpipes when I was a kid, I probably would have been skiing in them for at least a concussion or two.
But the X Games itself, the actual event, is so much more style than substance that it's almost laughable. The ratio of hype to action over the course of the X Games' four days has to be about 90 percent hype. It seems like something sports-related is happening roughly 10 percent of the time, and maybe not even that often.
My experience with the X Games this year was pretty typical.
The first night, I tried watching a halfpipe preliminary round on ESPN. I endured five minutes of loud, in-your-face ads for products with no relevance to anyone over 25, then I watched a dull, five-minute athlete profile, and then a girl did a halfpipe run for all of 20 seconds. Then the ads began again.
Being old, I wouldn't have gone to the X Games myself, but I have a 6-year-old son, and he wanted to see the snowmobiles, so we went to Buttermilk on Sunday morning. We rode the bus up from Basalt to avoid the living hell of the intercept lot and walked into the venue looking for free stuff, just like everybody else.
My son got a couple of cheap, inflatable thundersticks that were meant to be banged together to make noise, and I was given a bracelet by a cute girl standing near the two new Jeeps that my son crawled around in for 20 minutes. She told me that if I had the bracelet scanned at the Jeep pavilion, I could win a prize.
We walked over to the snowmobile track and watched the snowmobilers practice for that afternoon's snocross event, and for about 10 minutes the X Games were really cool. We cheered the athletes on and banged our thundersticks together like lightsabers until they both deflated. It was great.
Then the practice rounds stopped, and the crushing boredom of nothing worthwhile going on for the next two hours set in, with its booming music, lame posers and people yelling stuff over a loudspeaker in annoying hip-hop jargon.
We threw the thundersticks away, and I went to the Jeep pavilion to get my bracelet scanned. A trendy young fellow with an iPad did the honors and then ushered me up to another iPad with a tic-tac-toe grid on it.
"Go ahead and play," he said. "You get three turns, and if you get three greens in a row, you could win some skis."
I tapped the center square, and it came up red, so I turned to walk away.
"Keep going," the guy said.
"Why?" I said. "I can't get three in a row in two plays."
"Oh yeah," said the guy, and he tapped his iPad. "I actually already knew you weren't a winner."
"Then why did I play?" I asked.
"Because it's fun!" he said.
"If you say so," I countered.
In the end, my son's favorite part of the X Games was the black Jeep he got to crawl around in. My favorite part was when after an hour of nothing happening my son turned to me and said he wanted to go home.
Anyway, on to slopestyle. Really? That's seriously an Olympic sport now? As I said, I have the utmost respect for the athletes; I could never hope to do what they do in a million years, even if I were their age. But if there exists a more "meh" Olympic event than slopestyle, I don't know what it is.
Todd Hartley is a many-time TH Games gold medalist in numerous events. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.