Why Isn’t Sportbike Freestyle in the X-Games?
Obviously we are not the first people to ask that question, but we are going to try and answer it.
Check the embedded videos, Paul Rodriguez winning a gold medal at this summer’s X-Games and Rafal “Stunter13” Pasierbek performing one of his first place runs from last year. Side by side these sports are what they are, it’s comparing apples and oranges, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say Rafal’s performance was anything less than gold medal quality.
So why aren’t we given the opportunity to go cheer Rafal, Nick Apex and Bill Dixon on during the summer X-Games? There are quite a few intricate reasons, but the one that stands out the most is, given the opportunity most stunters wouldn’t go (as fans) in the first place. Our subculture is rapidly growing and turning into a sport, but for what end? We don’t have fans.
As proven by these YouTube videos, stunting is as exciting as skating to watch, the problem is it’s not accessible or understandable. Kids can buy a skateboard, skate to elementary school, wear P-Rod Nikes, play Tony Hawk video games and dream about growing up to be like Bam. Stunting functions backwards: young adults buy motorcycles, learn to wheelie and then think they are famousthemselves; which is why they are unlikely to go support the pro’s at events and competitions. The scene is a bit different in Europe, especially in Poland. Due to the popular 50cc motorcycles, more kids are actively stunting and effectively idolizing older riders, giving Europe a larger “stunt fan” population.
Beyond missing the young fans, top stunters are hard to connect to, we don’t have recognizable characters like Tony Hawk, P-Rod or Rob Dyrdek. Most riders appear to be a sea of unrecognizable, anonymous helmeted creatures on motorcycles – so how could someone cheer or get excited about any one rider? Where is the connection? Stunting is like stew, everything is boiled down in the same pot and no one can appreciate the individual ingredients.
To succeed, we need to break it down and invite potential fans to get to know us and what we do.
Here I feel a few pro riders are on the right track, for example Team Empire’s latest video clip, featuring Ernie Vigil, Nick Apex and Shin Kinoshita in character. The clip’s intro does an awesome job of introducing the riders as people, any viewer will naturally associate with one of the characters, Nick – the eccentric stunt gypsy, Ernie, the international man of mystery or Shin, the Japanese gansta-ninja. With that intro (to what becomes an epic riding clip) viewers are cheering for their favorite and engaged on a personal level.
P-Rod’s career took off after his role in “Street Cinema” where he appealed to the fun-loving kid in everyone - then tore up the streets on his board. Visual roles like these turn riders into icons and that is something fans can get excited about.
So back to the point, why isn’t Sportbike Freestyle in the X-Games? Stunting isn’t speaking to the people, it’s still a misunderstood or unknown sport and the participants are usually faceless riders.
There certainly is nothing wrong with that, stunting doesn’t need to be mainstream or sell Mountain Dew. But if your goal is to make a living off this sport, take a lesson from P-Rod. Your success is reliant on who you make yourself, the story you tell with your riding and the dream you provide for your fans.