Seven Things I Love About the X Games

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I spent most of my childhood unable to do sports. I watched from the sidelines with envy, knowing my deformed foot wouldn’t allow me to jump into the action. Maybe that’s why I love having active kids. At any given time in our house you’ll find ramps being built, new flips being practiced on the trampoline, and skis being loaded and unloaded from our worn out Suburban. I love watching my kids run, board, ski, skate, and jump–all the things I couldn’t do when I was their age.

My boarder, in his Paralympic shirt Photo: Judy Berna
My boarder, in his Paralympic shirt
Photo: Judy Berna

This is why we are an X Games crazy family. You’ve gathered a bunch of really talented athletes and have them doing extreme tricks on creatively built courses and half pipes? We’ll show up for that.

This week we’ve been gathered around the television, as the X Games hit Barcelona, Spain. As usual, it was a jaw dropping experience. I’ve realized that I love the X Games for many reasons. And if you’ve never tuned in to, or attended the Games, let me tell you why you might think about taking them seriously.

1) The athletes seem to really support each other. I noticed it as we attended the Winter X Games in Aspen a few months ago, and then saw the same trend playing out in the Barcelona Games. Older athletes high-five younger competitors, like little brothers who’ve just impressed an older sibling. When any new trick was accomplished, every other athlete in that competition showed full respect and admiration. You get the feeling that on the ride up the hill or half pipe, these guys are really friends, kidding and teasing each other. Sure, they’re competitive, and every one of them wants that gold medal. But they’re nice guys and decent human beings too. As a mom, I love my kids seeing that example of great sportsmanship, being demonstrated by athletes they truly look up to.

2)  Age isn’t an issue. Many of the X Games events have young teenagers competing against athletes old enough to be their parents. The young ones are throwing up new tricks, the older ones are showing what years of training and practice can do for an athlete. Everyone seems to be on equal ground, no matter what birth certificates say. Unlike the Olympics, these are sports you can practice, and master, no matter what neighborhood you live in. All you need is a board or bike, a public skate park, and a whole lot of motivation, and the ball’s in your court.

How can you not like watching a competition where 16 year old Mitchie Brusco can earn a medals in Big Air and Vert (skateboard events) in his third X Games appearance? Incidentally he did it by being the first athlete ever to land a 1080 on the MegaRamp at the X Games, and only the third in history to land it at all. Not sure what a 1080 is? Check this out.

And let’s hear it for the girls. Alana Smith became the youngest X Games medalist ever, as she claimed silver in the Skateboard Park competition. Just how young is Alana? She’s in the sixth grade. She celebrated her 12th birthday a few months ago. And she’s earned an X Games medal, mixed in with women more than twice her age. Yeah, I like my kids seeing that play out on our TV.

Photo: Alana Smith
Photo: Alana Smith

Then you can watch Jaime Bestwick compete in the BMX events, at the age of 41. He isn’t the only one out there who’s celebrated a 40th birthday. Bucky Lasek is still competing in skateboarding, at age 40, and Mike Brown is still on the podium stand, as a motorcyclist who just turned 41. I love any sport where my kids and I can watch together, and see athletes who are their age and my age.

3) Like the Olympics, the X Games are full of feel good stories. Any sport is more fun when you know the stories behind the athletes. ESPN has done a great job of bringing us the tales of some of the competitors, and the obstacles they’ve faced to get to the Games. One of my favorite stories of the Barcelona Games is about a guy named Gary Young. Gary has shown up for the past 12 Summer X Games, riding consistently in the BMX competitions, but he’s never actually won. This year was his year. He celebrated by cuddling his daughter, who was born just weeks after he competed in X Games L.A. last summer. That’s one proud papa.


4)  The X Games continue to be free to the public. The Winter X Games we’ve attended in person were not only free, there was also a free shuttle from the satellite parking lot to the venues. There were many opportunities for ESPN to make a buck off some excited fans, but so far they haven’t.  As a mom to four kids, I appreciate this more than I can say. For my kids, the day was about fun and inspiration, not about squeezing big bucks out of mom’s wallet.

5)  The variety of sports has something for everyone. In our house, we seem to gravitate toward the skateboard and BMX bike events. Maybe it’s because these are sports my kids do themselves and can truly appreciate their level of difficulty. Within those categories you can find things like Big Air, Skateboard Park, Street, and Vert. Each has its own quirks and unbelievable tricks.


There are also events for motorcyclists. The Enduro X events put competitors on motocross bikes and make them navigate a pretty tricky obstacle course. I was thoroughly entertained by this event, even though I knew nothing about it, mainly because it actually looked really hard. In many sports the athletes make their accomplishments look easy. But in Enduro X, there is no question how hard it would be to take a motorcycle through piles of boulders and over large logs.

Then there’s Moto X Whip. Not sure what that is? Neither was I. But boy is it entertaining to watch those guys ride their bikes up a huge ramp, then do amazing flips and turns in the air, before they touch back down like they’d just come off a school yard particle board jump.

If you’ve ever heard the name Travis Pastrana, you know about RallyCross. That’s the event with the really fast cars, doing very quick laps around a race course. Unfortunately, after hauling their cars halfway around the world, the RallyCross drivers had to leave Barcelona this year without a chance to race. Heavy rains ruined their course, the day of their event.

6)  One of the biggest reasons I love the X Games is because they are inspiring girls to push their way into these stereotypical male dominated sports. If there’s one thing that readers of GeekMom will relate to, it’s feeling like you don’t fit in. You’re not mainstream.

X Games is making “guy” sports feel more mainstream for girls. Which is great for those girls who might prefer hanging out on a board to picking out finger nail polish and hair ribbons.

The Barcelona X Games 2013 debuted the Women’s Skate Park competition. Here’s a little peek.

Women’s Skateboard Street and Women’s Enduro X (motorcycles) have been solid staples at the X Games. Several of the women athletes have been working behind the scenes to bring additional women’s events to the Games. The more we see the X Games broadcast on our televisions, featuring top notch female athletes, the more the little girls who are watching with their dads and brothers will see there’s a place for them at the table too. One of the top boarders in the country found her passion only because her little brother wanted to skateboard and her parents needed someone to supervise him at the skate park. She quickly discovered that boarding fit her personality and just three years after her first visit to a skate park, she was the best in the country. Now she’s leading the charge to show other little girls that boarding isn’t just for their little brothers. It’s for cool chicks too.

If you have a few extra minutes today, and need to be inspired, check out this link, of the Women’s Eduro X Finals. Yes, these are some tough women, forcing their bikes over logs and through water pits, then making their way through turns, over piles of boulders. Watch this then tell me your drive to the grocery store was stressful.

Photo: Laia Sanz
Photo: Laia Sanz

Names like Karen Jonz and Lizzie Armanto need to be as recognizable as names like Tony Hawk or Shaun White. And we’re on our way. With young athletes like Alana Smith leading the way for her own generation, and the older women athletes who have medaled in their sports pushing for more exposure, we will hopefully be seeing many more options open up for women in the upcoming X Game competitions.

7)  And then there’s the reason why I was inspired to write this post. This weekend I found myself holed up in our man cave, surrounded by my husband and three of our children, ages 12, 16, and 21. My 20-year-old son would have given anything to join us, if he wasn’t hunkered down in military training three states away. The X Games is one of the few things we can all do together, and everyone enjoys it equally. There are few movies that entertain the males in our family and also hold the interest of my daughter and me. Even board games are hard to come by that will keep everyone around the table. But this weekend we were in our zone. There were squeals and laughter. Snacks were passed around. Several times I was made fun of, when I’d smack my hands to my cheeks, unable to believe the trick I’d just seen on my TV screen. I saw most of the athletes in terms of “some mother’s child,” so waiting for those kids to land safely nearly stopped my heart. It was good hearted teasing, of course, and I soaked up every second of family harmony.

Next to me, my boys were plotting and planning their own new tricks. They were discussing what kinds of ramps they should build this summer, and analyzing which sponsors had taken on which athletes this year (note to sponsors: from my experience, kids do notice which companies sponsor which athletes, so choose wisely). They periodically told me stories about their favorite competitors, which made me more determined to get this post written. There are so many great things going on behind the scenes with these athletes. It made me thankful for my kids to have such positive role models. We came out of the weekend with so many new, positive family memories.

Granted, our interest in the X Games grew exponentially, once we’d seen some of the events in person at the Winter X Games, but I know for a fact that a wide demographic of people can actually get sucked into these events. While working one shift at our local recreation center this weekend, I turned the lobby television to the X Games broadcast. More than any movie we could have been broadcasting, the excitement coming from the screen stopped people in their tracks, from six year olds to their sixty-five-year-old grandparents. And they all walked away discussing the amazing things they’d just witnessed.

If, unlike my family, you didn’t get a chance to fill up your DVR with the Barcelona X Games, you can still see many of the events. You can find the sports that sound interesting to you, and watch videos on ESPN. Trust me, there are many, and they will suck you in. Gather your kids around and get comfortable. Or you can tune in to ABC’s “Best of X Games” special broadcast, that airs on Sunday, May 26th, from 3:30-5:30 EDT.

Either way, there are many good reasons to watch these Games. And so many ways they can inspire you, and your kids.

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