You Can Know a Lot about a Man…

My brother Mike and I spent some good time together today.  We went to the X-Games, which have been held here in Los Angeles for the past few years.  Most of you probably know what the X-Games are, but in case you don’t, they’re basically the Olympics of extreme sports (in case you don’t give a rip about the X-Games, there is a moral at the end of all of this).

If you go to the X-Games, you can watch guys on skateboards scream down an 80-foot drop and huck themselves over a 70-foot channel, doing 360-degree rotations or front flips in the air.  If they actually land after this initial stunt, they’re offered the immediate privilege of using their acquired speed to fly 20 feet straight up in the air off the lip of an already-27-foot high quarter pipe.  Then they come down (naturally, or unnaturally, depending on how you look at it) and try to land.  For these guys, air isn’t just for breathing.

You can see guys on souped-up dirtbikes hurl themselves over 115-foot empty spaces doing backflips, one-handed landings, and twists, separating themselves from their bikes in every imaginable way, contorting their bodies while 5 stories above the ground, then rejoining their two-wheeled hunks of growling metal and landing as though they were so many 10-year-olds hopping over speedbumps on their new BMX’s that they just got for their respective birthdays.  Nate Adams was knocked unconscious when he landed in not the right way.  Ronnie Faist slammed into the dirt like a rag doll and was later seen grinning in the stands with only an arm-sling covering his dozens of tattoos (he’s part of the “Metal Mulisha,” in case you were interested).  For these guys, risk is something you eat for breakfast with your bagel and coffee.

You can see guys on bikes (the kind you pedal) launching their padless bodies off of a glut of inhumane ramps, looking like some twisted version of a gymnastics floor exercise.  In this competition, they have 75 seconds to out-stupid their fellow riders with tricks that I don’t think I could verbally describe if I tried.  But I’ll try one.  They do double-tailwhips (which means jumping in the air, holding onto the handlebars of your bike, and kicking one side of your bike so hard and so fast that it flies around you twice before you catch it with your opposite leg, locate your pedals, and land).  Oh, and sometimes they do this while doing a 360 themselves.  Stay with me:  This means their bodies spin 360 degrees in the air while their bikes are spinning 720 degrees in the air.  Which means that you’d better know your proportions.  One guy tried a 1080, which means that he tried to rotate three whole times in the air.  I say he “tried” not because he failed, but because he succeeded at rotating two-and-three-quarters times before he landed.  This means he landed on his wheels but facing sideways.  On a bike.  He separated his shoulder.  For these guys, Vicodin is probably like Mike-and-Ike’s.

I felt bad at various times throughout the day because it was clear that most of the spectators (myself included) had never done anything like what these guys were doing.  This left us ignorant of both the difficulty levels and the risk levels.  At least when I see a baseball game, I have a general idea of how hard it is to hit a 90-mph fastball, and I can appreciate someone when he does it.  When I watch a slam-dunk contest, I know that I’ve never dunked on a 10-foot hoop and I can sense how hard it would be to do what some basketball players can do.

But I don’t really have a experiential category for understanding what it would be like to literally risk your life and throw down the first double-backflip in moto X competition history (dirtbikes) in front of 13,000 people.  This is what Travis Pastrana did on Friday night.  It’s so out-there that (1) he practiced the trick (a double backflip on a motorcycle) by jumping into a foam pit (so he wouldn’t die before the competition); (2) “He said he’d never do it again.  After landing the first double backflip in moto X history earlier this year in Spokane, Washington, Travis Pastrana said he was done with the trick.  He told his parents.  He told the media.  He told himself” (EXPN.com); (3) he told his mom before he jumped that if anything went wrong, he wanted her to know that he loved her; (4) he apologized to his mom afterwards; and (5) the third-place finisher (who was also risking life and limb) said, “It’s pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

So what do I take away from all of this besides a genuine admiration for these men and a greater admiration for the God who designed them with the ability and the desire to be creative and mobile and flexible and daring?

I took this away from today (and I’m going to think about it a lot more because I sense that it’s a very significant proverb for me):

You can know a lot about a man by what he’s willing to risk.

Show me what you’ll risk and I’ll show you what you love.  Show me what you won’t risk and I’ll show you what you value.  Show me a man who will risk his life and I’ll show you a man who loves something more than he loves his life.

You can know a lot about a man by what he’s willing to risk.


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