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In 1995, ESPN, one of the world’s most popular sports broadcasting programs, created the X-Games.
Ron Semiao, now an ESPN executive, is the creator of the X-Games, according to an article in the New York Times, written by Matt Higgins, from August of 2006.
According to an article in TIME magazine from Jan. 22, 2009, written by Katie Pickert, ESPN executives realized they were missing out on a very large, profitable piece of America in 1995.
Pickert said executives realized that not every sports fan is watching Sportscenter every day because this program doesn’t cover ALL sports. Some of the major sports they were missing out on include extreme sports.
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The TIME magazine article said that ESPN spent $10 million on the 1995 X-Games, drawing 200,000 extreme sports fans to the first ever competition held in Rhode Island.
The X-Games were originally scheduled to take place every two years. But due to the popularity and success of the first X-games, ESPN decided to do the X-Games once a year.
According to TIME magazine, in 1997, the X-Games had achieved such unexpected and high popularity, that ESPN decided to create a “winter X-Games” featuring events such as skiing, ice climbing and snowboarding.
Writer Katie Pickert said the first year of the X-Games included sports such as skateboarding, bungee jumping, roller blading, mountain biking, sky surfing and street luging.
Since 1995, the popularity of the X-Games has grown drastically. But for a competition that was originally named the “Extreme Games,” some of the most extreme events have been discontinued over the years.
“The X-Games, both winter and summer, have become a proving ground of sorts, with organizers unafraid to experiment with burgeoning sports, some of which have stuck around and some which have fallen by the wayside after just a single season,” TIME magazine writer Katie Pickert said.
The first X-Games competition in 1996 included aggressive in-line skating, but since then, the X-Games committee has completely phased in-line skating out. In-line skating events still exist in the Asian X-Games, but no longer in any U.S. versions of the X-Games.
According to an article written by Robert Burnson for the website “inlineplanet.com,” ESPN began phasing out in-line skating in 1999 when they cut the number of in-line events in half.
Burnson said ESPN didn’t comment on why they cut the sport, but he said he believes that the ratings weren’t high enough to justify keeping the event in the X-Games.
The ESPN Uncyclopedia said that the last in-line skating event, vert, occurred in 2003.
Another interesting summer X-Game event that never quite took off was sky surfing.
Ron Semiao, creator of the X-Games said in an article written by New York Times writer, Matt Higgins, said he originally found the sport in “Details” magazine when he saw a photo of someone sky surfing.
Semiao said that he had no idea that there were only two professional “sky surfers” at the time; the man photographed for Details magazine, and his brother. Before learning this information, Semiao invited dozens of competitors to Newport, Rhode Island during the first X-Games competition.
Semiao said of the original competitors, “Some of them crashed into the rocks like Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoon. One of the guys got blown down the course of Newport, R.I. When he finally made land, he flagged down a cab, put his kite ski in the trunk and took the cab back to the venue.”
In this article in the New York Times, Semiao explained why some X-Games such as street luge, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, snow mountain biking, climbing, ice climbing and windsurfing were ix-nayed from the most extreme sports competition in the world.
Semiao said, “Stuff like bungee jumping is in essence an amusement-park activity.”
Semiao added, “Those have been the events that dropped by the wayside because there isn’t really a participant base or an industry for it to continue to evolve.”
One of the most interesting events I found on the discontinued X-Game list from the ESPN Uncyclopedia was “Super Modified Shovel Racing.” The event lasted one year in the Winter X-Games, being introduced in 1997 in Big Bear Lake, Calif. and never to be seen again.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, written by Miguel Bustillo, in February of 2010, super modified shovel racing is basically sledding down the side of a mountain, sitting on a metal shovel.
Die-hard super modified shovel racing fans may not understand why the event was ever removed from the X-Games after only one year, but I sure as hell understand.
And according to the Wall Street Journal, mountain resort owners have also begun to understand the dangers of this sport.
Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, canned the sport due to the liability and danger of the event. It was brought back four years later but with drastic rule changes involved.
According to the Wall Street Journal, these modifications include certain specifications that need to be made to every metal shovel before competing.
The X-Games list of events changes every year. Sky surfing and bungee jumping may be on the list one year, only to be replaced by another skateboarding event a year later.
The creator of the X-Games, Ron Semiao said, ““I don’t think there will ever be a situation where we say, ‘These are the sports of the X Games and there will never be any changes.’”
He added, “The first time we say that, you’d see a decline in the X-Games, because we wouldn’t be progressing, like the athletes are progressing.”
The X-Games will continue to be ever-changing. In fact, only two events remain from the original line up of events from the 1996 games; skateboarding and BMX.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org