Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
The X Games turns 11 this week, which represents action sports' transformation from novelty to big money.
By DAVE SCHEIBER
Published August 4, 2005
[ESPN photo, 2004]
Fabiola da Silva competes in the in-line skating competition of the X Games. A study found 17.3-million people participate in in-line skating.
TAMPA - The sporting empire ruled by a self-described former nerd from Southern California barreled into town recently with the megawatt, eardrum thumping force of a sold-out arena concert.
But forget the Rolling Stones. All that matters to this generation is the rollin >g rocks.
Nowhere do you see it in more spectacular fashion than at Tony Hawk's Boom Boom HuckJam, created by the man synonymous with the burgeoning world of action sports. The 30-city, multimillion dollar aerial carnival showcases the most talented performers on wheels in the youth-powered troika of BMX biking, motocross and skateboarding.
That has brought out the pumped-up crowd in full force - little kids with parents in tow, teens and 20-somethings, a faithful legion of fans in everything from mohawks to motocross gear, swirling tie-dye to colorful skateboard T-shirts.
Before the show, they stand in line at elaborate interactive booths trucked in by event sponsor Fuel TV, the fast-growing Fox cable network that offers 24/7 coverage of the action genre.
When the jam finally kicks into gear, they scream and cheer as motocross stars soar the length of the St. Pete Times Forum overhead - and the BMX and skateboard pros fly 10 feet above the half-pipe and display their arsenal of dazzling flips and landings.
"I didn't think I'd ever grow up," says Hawk, clad as an old man reminiscing on his career during a kitschy skit beamed on one of several big HuckJam screens. "Did I?"
Did he ever. And along with him, so has skateboarding and the entire extreme genre. Today, action sports of summer and winter, from wakeboarding to snowboarding, surfing to superpipe skiing, mean business. Big business.
You can see it in TV commercials, movies, magazine ads. And you can definitely find it at the local skatepark. A decade ago, there were only an estimated 100 around the country.
"Now, there are more than a thousand," says Ryan Clements, general manager of the bustling Skate Park of Tampa, founded in 1993. "Skateboarding used to be punk. Today, it's normal."
This week, the summer edition of the X Games, nurtured with coverage by ESPN, marks its 11th anniversary; no longer a novelty, but a part of mainstream youth culture.
"Kids like the freedom of what we do, no coaches, no strict practice regimen, and it's an artistic pursuit as much as sport," Hawk, the grand old man of the sport at 37, said in an e-mail. "It also provides constant action. There's no sitting in the outfield waiting for something to happen.
"The professionals in our sport are also much more approachable than the mainstream superstar athletes. We never expected any of this, and we don't take it for granted. And we still love what we do."
Perhaps that is why skateboarding has become a $5.7-billion a year industry in apparel and equipment sales, according to Forbes. The magazine also noted in a 2004 profile of Hawk that 11-million U.S. kids use skateboards, more than those playing youth baseball.
Hawk is credited with helping skateboarding shake its image - as merely a parking lot pursuit for slacker teens. He has come a long way himself, from the gangly San Diego kid who often would get picked on in school.
"The skaters in my high school, all three of us, were lower on the totem pole than nerds," he recalls. "There was no hope of making a career out of it."
He never dreamed that he would one day earn some $9-million annually, according to Forbes, with sales of his clothes, skateboards and Activision video games amounting to $300-million. But it's not just skateboarding that has made inroads. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association released a study in May of extreme sports participation. In-line skating (recreational skaters and gonzo kids doing all manner of crazy stunts) ranks No.1 among 12 with 17.3-million. Skateboarding (11.5-million) is second, snowboarding (7.6-million) fifth, wakeboarding (2.8-million) eighth and BMX biking (2.6-million) ninth.
"The big statement is that if you go back five years, you didn't have numbers like this big enough even to do a release," says Mike May of the Sporting Goods group. "The fact that we have 12 in a category that's nebulous is a sign these are established trends, not fads."
To many industry observers, a shift in the youth culture has gradually been taking place.
"Certainly skateboarding and surfing have been around now for a couple of full generations, and they've had their peak moments in pop culture," says C.J. Olivares, senior vice president of Fuel TV. "But I think the big driver in the past 10 years has been a move away from team sports into individual sports.
"What also plays into this is a universal desire among teens and pre-teens to define themselves and finding ways they can set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd."
Action sports once were viewed as pursuits for outsiders and rebels, Olivares adds, but no longer.
"One of the things that appeals to kids now is there's not necessarily a need to compete," he says. "But there's a need to excel. I would say that in the high 90th percentile, most of the participants don't compete. They go out and skate and surf and snowboard or whatever and do it just for fun. They do it to express themselves."
In addition, action sports are linked to youth fashion, heightening the sense of identification.
"There are a lot of people getting into action sports who are considered so-called mainstream kids because they like the fashion or they want to be a part of the lifestyle," says Kathleen Gasparini, senior vice president of Label Networks, which studies youth culture and markets.
"In more traditional sports, they play because of the sport itself or because it's offered in school. With action sports, it's part of what they want to be identified with."
In June, Label Networks conducted a skateboard-related study of people ages 13-25 in North America. The most, 32.2 percent, said skateboarding's appeal is tied to the lifestyle associated with the sport. Another 80.6 percent said the 2005 skateboard movie Lords of Dogtown, about 1970s California surfers turned skateboard pioneers, is steering more people to the sport.
The company also has tracked a growing popularity of Western lifestyle and trends, including skateboarding, in China. That was certainly evident last month when American skateboarder Danny Way, 31, made international news by leaping 70 feet over China's Great Wall, propelled at 55 mph by the largest skateboard ramp ever built.
It's one more sign that action sports have arrived, a sentiment echoed by veteran BMX pro rider and HuckJam emcee Rick Thorne.
"I think it has a lot to do with feeling good about yourself, setting goals and working on them and enjoying all the camaraderie that goes with it," he says.
Thorne, a regular rider on the Van's Warped Tour - a traveling alternative rock and rap concert - the past 10 years, says the link between music and action sports is essential: "It's always been there. That's one of the appealing factors to kids."
Of course, without network TV exposure, the genre would have remained in the shadows.
"ESPN and the X Games definitely helped bring attention to our sports that was long overdue," Hawk says.
Another breakthrough occurred in February when NBC Sports and the USA Network signed on to televise 32 hours of the 2005 Dew Action Sports Tour, the first season-long pro competition in action sports.
"We certainly believe things will continue in an upward trend," says Dew tour general manager Wade Martin. "The more exposure it gets, the more parks are built and the more kids are introduced to it. And to have a network dedicate 32 hours of programing and have corporate America so accepting of these sports is a good sign of potential growth."
Circe Wallace-Hetzel, an action sports pro athlete manager, echoes the sentiment.
"There's growth in the foreign markets and consistent growth in the American market," says Wallace-Hetzel. "Now we have consistent TV programing, which will allow stars to be built and for fans to identify even more with the athletes. That's what we needed to take it to the next level."
Flying higher than a famous Hawk ever imagined.
THE X GAMES
WHEN: Continuing through Sunday. Tuesday, Cory and Shea Lopez of Indian Rocks Beach helped the East Coast Team win an unprecedented third gold medal over the West Coast Team in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.