Seriously, it takes between six and ten iterations of the latest trend in popular culture to play out before I become vaguely aware of it. My friends will back me up on this – in the full bloom of youth, at my pinnacle of trend and fashion awareness, on my absolute best day…I was not cool.
I’m OK with this. I’ve made the necessary adjustments. I call my buddy Kels for updates and tutorials as needed.
But last week I had to face this deficiency head-on, for the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour was headed to Costa Mesa for the 3rd annual Maloof Money Cup – one of the premiere events on the pro skateboarding circuit. If skateboarders actually acquiesced to having an organized “circuit”.
And I was going it alone. I apologized in advance to all of the friends of mine who would no doubt be embarrassed by my attempt to blend in. I knew I would be a poster boy for “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others”.
But being pop-culturally challenged does not mean that I can’t tell time. And so it was a bit of a surprise to me when I arrived at the Orange County Fair event site and found nothing that even resembled the World Industries Am Street contest that was scheduled for 4:00.
After wandering around for a bit and asking apparently difficult-to-answer questions like “What time does this thing start?” and “Is there a competition here today?”, a flurry of activity around a small stage signaled to me that we were about to get rolling. With the Nelly and Yelawolf concert that was originally slated for much earlier in the afternoon.
You could look at this in one of two ways. On the one hand, this must have been what Woodstock felt like – all good intentions, but short on executional expertise. In both cases, the event organizers were ultimately captive to the whims of flighty musicians and therefore unable to keep to a schedule.
Or you could just look at it as basically sloppy event production. Even then though, the burning question is whether this sloppiness is an intentional part of the aura of the skateboarding experience – that is, to eschew organization and professionalism…or whether the producers themselves are essentially just slack.
I gave the production team the benefit of the doubt that they had come fully equipped to present a world-class event. Until later, when in the middle of the action a voice came over the P.A. system asking “Does anybody have a Phillips-head screwdriver?”
Once things got rolling, it wasn’t long before I began to get that “if you aren’t cool enough to know this stuff already, then you’re not cool enough to be here” vibe. The three guys who were emceeing the event used their time mostly to trade inside jokes, make snarky comments, and ensure that everyone listening knew that they had at one time made a living as skateboarders.
Their patter attained a certain level of above-it-all coolness for a while…then descended into glibness…then executed a free-fall into the realm of annoying, where it remained for the rest of the contest.
Occasionally, one particular emcee remembered that people were actually listening, and made a brief attempt to set the stage for the event, conveying that the 42 competitors were all amateurs who were vying for 12 spots in the field for the weekend’s World Industries Street Contest – which, depending on who you listened to at any given time, would either include pros…or not. They were still a little light on the specifics.
As for the competition itself, I couldn’t exactly tell when it actually started. There was no formal introduction of the contest, and the participants basically kept doing what they had been since I arrived there – riding all over the elaborately constructed skatepark while experimenting with different stunts and jumps. The only difference was that at some point they began to receive scores for what they were doing.
After a while I began to decipher the ramblings of the emcees and picked up on the fact that the competition was broken down into “jams” that lasted five minutes each. A jam featured seven competitors that freelanced throughout, hoping to impress the judges with their…well, with whatever it is that they did best. Some concentrated on aerial acrobatics. Some focused on riding rails and benches. Some attempted to execute combinations of the two.
The panel of judges was comprised of a group of skateboarding experts. Theoretically. I’m guessing at least one of them had significant experience managing an outdoor public facility with lots of stairs, handrails and benches. Hey, you can pick up a lot about a sport from constantly chasing kids off the property.
And that experience no doubt came in handy, as throughout the competition there was constant pleading with random skateboarders to get off of the competition course. This drew a smile from me at first, mostly because it so fit the archetype of the skateboarder.
After a while though, it became emblematic of the looseness of the event. People continued to utilize the areas of the skatepark that momentarily weren’t in use for a jam. And every now and then they spilled over into the competition area. Picture a national ice-skating contest being conducted on New York City’s Rockefeller Center ice rink on a Sunday afternoon during the holiday season.
The total mystery behind all of this is that this event by far outstripped any other that I’ve covered in the number of sponsors it attracted. On the back of the official program was a tiered list of four different sponsorship categories, yielding a total of 47 sponsors. And here’s the thing – based on the three hours of prime time that I spent at the Maloof Money Cup, that number translated into roughly one sponsor for every 6 or 7 attendees.
If indeed there is that much financial promise in reaching the 12 to 24 year-old demographic, I propose that we seek to eliminate the national debt by simply raiding the piggybanks of this fiscally blessed group of Americans.
At this point, allow me to deeply apologize. I’ll be the first to admit that this dispatch was a little sketchy on the details of this tightly honed sporting event – but given the handicap previously discussed, it was the best I could do. I promise to make it up to you. Perhaps with a review of a Lady Gaga concert. She’s still popular, isn’t she?