The X Games files
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
My friend Jamie calls the X Games “10,000 Teenagers.”
“Mom,” my 16-year-old said in apparent confirmation, “every teenager in the valley will be there.” Our 13-year-old strongly believed he should be allowed to miss school for Friday’s daytime events.
Teddy, the older one, only attended on Saturday, but stretched the day into the evening’s Ghostland Observatory concert, with the lead singer in long braids, the keyboard artist in a cape, and a laser show bouncing high off the back of Aspen Mountain.
Roy, the other, was barely seen for days. He spent Saturday night at a friend’s, and when we called the next morning, the father said, “Oh, Roy is already headed back up there.”
Startlingly independent these days, the boys moved up and down valley with bus passes, though I checked in with a vigil of calls and texts. The younger one agreed to stick with a group – which was easy, since his schoolmates convened on the X Games daily. What seemed to amuse my own friends was that I, too, spent days on site.
“You’re there?” said Lori when I called from Buttermilk on Friday night offering her kids a ride home.
I have no connection to the X Games. Once I did. I participated in the first Summer Games, in Newport, Rhode Island, in climbing. I don’t relate to the event any more, though sometimes I would like to be a part of it, if only to cut the long lines. But, unlike many of my friends and my spouse, who deplore the crowds, I am drawn to the X Games: for the competitions, the immediacy, the athleticism. I like to hike up the sides of the superpipe – it’s thrilling to see the underside of someone’s skis from 10 feet away as he/she soars 20 feet up.
Friday night, Roy and friends were caught trying to sneak up beside the superpipe before it opened to watchers. A kind-hearted snowcat driver, though, proffered a ride to the top, where they high-fived Shaun White.
“You’re there, again?” Lori said, phoning me the next day. “You’re a good mother.”
I wasn’t being a good mother, though. I just wanted to see 50 Cent.
The “Fiddy” concert was great, too: He was right on time, and poured a variety of short mixes into his mere half hour. He chucked a puffy white vest into the crowd, then the pimp hat he wore for “PIMP.” What struck me most, though, was his charisma. On covers he looks as if he’d kill you. In person he continually smiled a broad, sweet smile. I could have hugged him. That day Roy’s friend Noah found a VIP pass on the ground, and, as Roy marveled enviously, commenced to “standing in the good areas, riding around in snowmobiles, and eating good food.”
I did have one item of personal interest: watching Peter Olenick, son of local friends. In 2004, I was part of a yowling, sign-waving section of Carbondalians as Peter competed and won medals in two events.
But superpipe tricks are hard and can be low-percentage, and in intervening X Games he’s had a number of falls. Peter doesn’t hold back.
This year I saw his successful qualifying runs in person, but on Sunday, I went skiing myself, then watched the finals from home. Through the TV camera we picked out Peter’s brother Michael at the start, hugging Peter before his run.
In each of his three runs Peter started out smoothly, soundly capable of a podium. But three times he fell. The last was an awful thump onto the side platform; thankfully, he stood again quickly.
I grimaced in sympathy, shrugged, and drove off to schlep several kids home from the bus stop. In my car, one boy received a text message that Peter had just won gold.
“That can’t be,” I said, confused.
The boy checked, then said it had been in the new pure-height contest. Elated, we all cheered.
“Are you sad it’s over or have you had enough?” I asked an exhausted Roy as we returned home.
He said: “Very, very sad.”
– Alison Osius (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Carbondale.
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