Jealousy, Idolatry, and Big Air

I remember the day I came home from school and my brother rode up on his brand-new metallic-blue flake-painted Schwinn Stingray bike, spun a big brodie in front of me, and lightly dusted my brand-new suede desert boots. He thought he was so cool with his flashy paint job and matching banana seat–ohhh, I was so jealous! Then he muttered those damnable five words, “Look what Dad bought me!”

I was infuriated by his boasting, and the only retort I could muster up was, “Where’s mine?”

On the way down to the local Western Auto store (a hardware/sporting-goods outlet), my dad apologized for not getting me a flashy new Stingray at the same time as my brother. That’s one lesson I’ve learned in adulthood by having two of my own kids: You buy something for one child, you have to buy an identical one or something of perceived equal value at the same time for the other child, or you make two trips to Target. Buying two in the first place saves gas, time, and keeps the peace. Lesson: Buy cheap things.

Dad and I walked into W.A. and I noticed right off that my younger brother had snatched up the “best car on the lot.” There were no flashy metallic-blue flake-painted Schwinn Stingrays with

the matching banana seats in the row of bikes in the W.A. showroom. There was only a candy-apple red Ross Stingray with a plain-old white banana seat. My heart sunk. I looked up at my dad, and I could tell by the look on his face he was thinking the same thing I was. This poor red bike was the “family wagon” to my brother’s “sports car.”

“So, whataya think?” My dad asked hopefully.

I looked at the bike one more time, sauntered over to it, and pulled my leg over the plain white banana seat and took the plain white handle grips in my eleven-year-old hands, and the realization spilled over me that there wasn’t much of a choice. In fact, there was only one. I looked at Dad’s expectant 30-something face and said, “Sure, let’s get it!”

My dad looked relieved. He’d dodged another bullet; he was off the hook. His eldest child was somewhat content, and now he could return to his stuffed chair, read his paper, eat his dinner, and rest up for another hard day at work in order to make enough money to buy god knows how many more bicycles, mini bikes, and motorcycles for his brood in the future.

Around this period in my planet’s history, there came a man among men who could blast his Harley Davidson hog up and over just about any damned thing he wanted–be it cars, buses, Pepsi-Cola trucks, or even large canyons. He didn’t always make it over. He had some bad landings and some horrendous falls, breaking bones and leaving him in coma after coma in hospital after hospital. His crashes were sickening to watch. He was known as Evel Knievel and he became a legend in my youth and remains one today. My brother, our friends, and I emulated this daredevil, this hero. We built jump after jump and soared through the air on our Stingrays with the not-so-greatest of ease and took our share of head-over-the-handlebars spills. We lost flesh and limped home crying to Mom. But, we were out the very next day jumping again, following the example of Evel, who always returned to jump, even after those gut-wrenching “Raggedy Ann” wrecks.

Years later a young boy growing up in Boston and spending his summers in Lansing, Michigan was also captivated by the antics of Evel Knievel. He graduated from jumping BMX bikes to ollieing skateboards, and inspired by a hero on a motorbike, he set his sights on setting his own record on his skateboard. On October 12, 1999, the boy (now a man) taildropped from a massive 40-foot tall, four-foot wide, roll-in ramp in his friend Charlie’s backyard in Lansing, flung himself off a kicker ramp, and over a huge gap and into the record books.

Andy Macdonald, assisted by his dad Rod and the financial support of his sponsor Swatch, organized and constructed an Evel Knievel-style jump ramp. Ramp guru Tim Payne and his Team Pain rammp crew were hired to build this monstrosity–and Andy’s dream came to life. Time after time, he flew down the tower at 30-mph-plus and reached out farther and farther each time with a variety of tricks: a 29-foot kickflip Indy grab; a 41-foot backside 360; and the 52-foot, 10-inch method air. Andy not only cleared the car-filled gap, but had so much speed after landing that he rolled another 50 yards before slamming into a four-foot thick crash pad. The guy did this a good 60 times without a break and hardly a scratch!

As spectators, we in attendance couldn’t help being awestruck by Andy’s feat. It was pretty amazing. In order to make the record official, Tim Payne and his crew documented each of Andy’s mind-boggling jumps for The Guinness World Book of Records. This record will probably stand until someone gets it together to build a similar ramp. But for now, Andy Macdonald holds the record for traveling through the air on a skateboard from point A to point B. Congratulations, Andy, and thanks for the show.