Sport, turned on its head


June 29, 2008|By Gene Sweeney Jr. | Gene Sweeney Jr.,Sun photographer

If you thought that kids outgrew small bicycles and skateboards, you probably weren't one of thousands at the AST Dew Tour last weekend near Oriole Park. However, if you attended the sold-out event, you saw men in their late teens and up through their 30s doing tricks on "kid" toys that you never dreamed of. The "athletes" performed tricks with names I can't even begin to spell, but trust me, the names don't do them justice.

On the "vert" ramps, (wood ramps, curved to form a high-sided "U") or in the "skatepark" or on piles of dirt, with ridiculously high ramps, they somersaulted, flipped, tumbled and spun tricks that left the crowd roaring and the winners with $50,000 checks.

As with anything new, some people, (including a co-worker of mine who covered the event), scoff at the idea of calling such events sports. Well, call it what you will, but these were well-conditioned teens and men doing athletic feats that a vast majority would never even dream of trying, for entertainment and money. Sound like any other sports you know?

All this comes with a downside of course. Last year, a competitor suffered life-threatening injuries that left him a quadriplegic.

As in many endeavors that thrill, the participants know the risks full well, yet choose to compete for the rush and the rewards. There is only so much one can do to protect the human body as it is propelled into the air, doing twists and turns, with only a hard landing awaiting a failed trick. As with the millions who come to NASCAR races, only a small percentage enjoy the crashes; most come to be thrilled at the skill of the competitors, I believe.

Baltimore has been such a successful stop on the tour that organizers plan to make this an annual event for the early summer. If you want to feel young and be entertained by music and a culture you may not fully understand, stop by next year.

I guarantee you'll never look at a bicycle or a skateboard the same way again.


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