Feb 042003
Authors: Ken Hamner

For the second year in a row, I went to the Winter X-games in Aspen. While the games themselves were truly wonderful, the atmosphere sometimes left a little to be desired and clearly illustrated how much our society has … evolved over the past year.

The first thing that strikes you is security. Before people can even leave the parking area and take the shuttle to the mountain, their bag must be searched for things like booze, drugs, weapons, explosives, concentrated acids and bases, napalm and McDonalds chicken McNuggets to be sure nothing bad reaches the games. That would be excessively Xtreme, I guess.

Once your bags are checked, they get tagged with a colored tape, which got progressively more and more lame as the days went by (green, to yellow, to stupid, frilly pink). Yeah, I guess security checks were a good idea. Even so, the security measures were half-assed at best but more than likely reaching the seven-eights-assed level. How so? For one, the searchers were very bad. A friend of mine, for example, put tampons on the top of her backpack and, when observed, the bag was instantly zipped and she was told to move along. How dangerous is that? Not only could hazardous components be under the tampons, but the tampons themselves could have been cleverly disguised plastic explosives! Then there’s the fact that people themselves were not searched (remember the shoe-bomber?). Inside the games, I saw that many people easily smuggled in booze in flasks and glass bottles on their persons and when I sampled some, sure enough, there was even alcohol inside.

When we arrived at the front gates, announcers again stated things that were not permitted in the area – drugs, alcohol, firearms, sharp objects including pocketknives and umbrellas. I’m not making this up. Umbrellas were not allowed at the X-games. Machine guns and chemical weapons hidden in umbrellas went out of style with the Penguin years ago. Could it be because of the pointy metal tip on the umbrella? Maybe. But then they turn around and hand out sharp, metal ski poles to help you hike up the snowy mountain. Ski poles are fine, folks, but umbrellas are way too Xtreme.

That’s another thing about the X-games – everything is Xtreme. Some things you would expect truly are Xtreme, like Skier X, Snowboarder X and Moto X (motorcycles jumping over 90 foot gaps on snow and ice). Then there are the sponsors, like Verizon Wireless. Yeah, when I think Xtreme, I think Verizon and its wonderful cellular coverage. There were also food sponsors like Reese’s, loaded with Xtreme peanut butter, and Taco Bell, for those Xtreme runs to the border, I guess. And let us not forget products like (I’m not making this up) Right Guard Xtreme sports stick that were being passed out everywhere, which must help protect against Xtreme body odor.

Oh, one thing that definitely was Xtreme was the beer prices in the small, heavily security guarded food court – $4.95 for a 12-ounce can of horrid American lager. I guess that’s one way to curtail Xtreme drunkenness, except for everyone that smuggled in whiskey.

Let us not forget the Xtreme volunteer service. Some of these folks were helpful, but more often than not, they got it into their heads that it was time to imitate the Nazi SS. Take, for example, the “Bleacher Police” that patrolled the bleachers near the half-pipe competitions. Each bleacher stand had an arbitrarily declared entrance side and an exit side. Woe to the person that tried to exit from the entrance side, even if there were absolutely no freakin’ people trying to enter for five minutes. Boo and hiss to the volunteers.

Oh, probably the best Xtreme thing at the X-games were the Xtreme pacifists, handing out ski-bibs with the slogan, “Make snow, not war.” Uh, yeah. Sorry, folks, but that doesn’t make any sense. Assuming snow did prevent war, how are you going to get it to Iraq? Even more important, all snow melts. Eventually, the blessed peace-bringing snow would go away and you’d be right back to war. Far be it for me to underestimate the superpowers of snow (particularly after that jerk of a groundhog made Feb. 2’s drive home some much of a joy), but please, folks, give me a break.

Summary: the X-games were good, but the Xtreme hype, lame security, crazed volunteers, commercialistic fluff, completely ineffective peace-mongering snow-hippies were bad.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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