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February 6, 2013
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Risking it all: Why?

I often wonder: What drives people to do the things they do? I'm not sure there's usually an easy answer.

What motivates people, especially those who partake in what many might think of as something too dangerous, came to mind again when I read Olympic gold medal winner Lindsey Vonn seriously injured her knee a few days ago and might not be well enough to make the next Olympics.

Then, of course, there was the death of extreme sports snowmobiler Caleb Moore after he attempted a backflip in the freestyle event at Aspen's Winter X Games, the skis on his 450-pound snowmobile catching the lip of the landing area, sending him flying over the handlebars. Moore landed face first in the snow and his snowmobile rolled over him. He died a few days later at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction at the age of 25. It was the first death in the 18-year history of the X Games.

You might not know, but his brother, Colten, was injured in a separate crash at the X Games, too. He suffered a separated pelvis.

Now, athletes getting injured doing what their skills, desire and hard work drive them to do isn't new. I'd imagine one of the very first Olympic athletes

in ancient Greece pulled a hamstring

or two.

But, what pushes someone to barrel down a mountain on two pieces of wood (or plastic or whatever they make skis out of these days), or get on a 450-pound snowmobile and perform tricks and stunts on slick ski slopes?

Now, I don't mean to disparage Moore or any other young, talented skier or athlete at the X Games. They're certainly entitled to do what they want to do. What they do is usually pretty amazing. And I'd say most people would have no desire to do what they do. Again, I'm just asking: What drives people to do the things they do?

Competition is certainly part of it. The rewards that come with success. I get all that. But isn't there something more, some thrill or high that comes with risking life and limb? And why do these athletes still do it?

Another one: Mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That seems to me to be way too violent and harmful. Yet it's very popular, with a pay per view business similar to boxing and professional wrestling.

Confession: As a youngster, I followed boxing, back when Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and the like were beating each other up. That was before we knew how much damage getting hit in the head can cause. Although you'd think we would have at least had an inkling. But I never had an urge to get in the ring myself.

And look at the all the issues surrounding football and the damage those hard hits can, and have, caused players. It apparently drove Junior Seau and maybe some other former NFL players to take their own lives.

Yes, anyone who partakes in potentially harmful or dangerous activities likely realizes it. But that circles back again to my original question: What drives people to do the things they do? Especially when they know the risks?

In other fields, motivation doesn't usually lead to potential physical or mental harm, even death. OK, maybe it can in law enforcement or something like that. But when it comes to entertainment - and that's what all sports are - I ask one final time:

What's drives people to do the things they do?

Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.


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The Post Independent Updated Feb 6, 2013 06:05PM Published Feb 6, 2013 06:04PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.