The History Quiz

The other day there were some kids in our office. They had come in to beg for stuff, which is pretty common due to the fact that we have a rack full of free magazines and stickers in the reception area. Smart, broke kids between the ages of eight and fourteen come by every month to pick up the new issue, and then they just kind of stand around for a while. I think they might be waiting for Smolik.

So, the last time I saw a few of them up there, hands full of as many stickers as the receptionists would allow, standing around in anticipation of something big, I decided to give them a quick quiz to determine their grasp of skateboarding’s history.

“Do you guys know who Jason Jesse is?”

“No,” they said in a sort of Three Stooges miscued harmony.

“How about John Lucero?”

No answer.

“Marty Jiminez? Steve Steadham?”

It was as if I were asking them to identify the names of obscure European economic theorists from the late Nineteenth Century.

“Jason Lee?”

“He’s an actor now,” the littlest one quickly responded.

Lucky for them, they all knew who the Gonz was, and I ended the quiz right there. I was a little upset that all those amazing films and videos, contests, demos, photo shoots, random sessions, and personalities from the first three decades of skateboarding’s history had disappeared into the great void along with Jay Adams, Larry Bertleman, the streetplant, Christian Hosoi, and Stacy Peralta. B’bye. And the scary part of the equation is, inadvertently, we may have helped them along on their road to forgottendom.

We are, after all, one of the major information channels in skateboarding, so does the fact that kids don’t know much about their sport’s history make us to blame for their ignorance? I mean, if teachers never mention George Washington’s name, can we blame young people for not understanding their country’s history?

But then I remembered how a history professor once told me that people in the United States played a form of football for 50 or 60 years before anyone organized it or started recording statistics. It’s interesting to think that football¿a sport that spends millions of dollars each year establishing a historical record for future generations to fanatically memorize and recite¿doesn’t know all the names of its originators. And even though these kids who linger longingly in our front office may not have the slightest clue who Jeff Phillips was, in an indirect but very profound way he and a thousand others continue to influence them in the same way your great grandparents influence you¿unconsciously, constantly, and unchangeably.

I don’t quiz anyone anymore. I’m done dwelling in the past; I’m looking ahead now. Maybe one day that kid who remembered Jason’s name will write an 800-page heavily footnoted dissertation on the history of skateboarding to obtain his Ph.D. from some prestigious university. He could discuss the importance of the ho-ho, Holmes, Corey Chrysler, Ray Rodriguez, the curb-hopper, and Winchester. Oh yeah, and Neil Blender. And he could even include Smolik, who, like Koston, Hawk, Saari, and Dyrdek, will then be historical figures.