What You Didn’t Know About the X Games
When it comes to extreme sports, professional skiers, snowboarders, BMX bike riders, and skateboarders are right up there with the most intense athletes on the planet. However, while the X Games is a household term nowadays, it wasn’t that long ago the X Games didn’t even exist. How did these popular competitions come into existence and become a nationally televised competition at the Olympic level?
The Beginning of the X Games
The first X Games were in Rhode Island in 1995 with the summer extreme sports competing for medals and prize money. Two years later the first winter X Games were held at Big Bear Lake in California. According to an article from National Geographic, the games get their name from several influences. At the inauguration of the event, the target market for attendees were in Generation X, and most of the athletes competing were Gen Xers too. Of course, X also is short for “extreme” which the games certainly are. In mathematics, X symbolizes the unknown, and there is an element of the unknown in the X Games for sure.
During the early years of the games through today, athletes are constantly displaying their unseen tricks for the first time. For example, Tony Hawk completed the first 900 in skateboarding at the X Games, Travis Pastrana did the first double backflip in freestyle motocross, and Heath Frisby did the very first front flip on a snowmobile. ESPN covers the games—hosting, producing, and broadcasting them on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. Besides television viewers, the events continually draw tens or even hundreds of thousands of attendees each time.
Summer X Games
The sports in both winter and summer X Games vary each time. There are some sports and events that are consistent each year. Summer sports include motocross, mountain bike, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle. Within these categories, there are a number of different events for both men and women. Not all events from past X Games have stood the test of time. Some past summer events are street luge, wakeboarding, bungee jumping, and rally and off-road truck racing.
Winter X Games
Winter events include various ski, snowboard, and snowmobile events. Skiing includes big air, slopestyle, and superpipe. Snowboarding includes big air, slopestyle, superpipe, and snowboard X. For snowmobiling, competitors race in freestyle and speed style. Past winter events include snow mountain bike racing, ice climbing, ski boarding, and more.
The 2016/2017 season is the first season the X Games have hosted the Real Games, allowing athletes to compete for seven major resorts on only inbounds real terrain (no man-made elements allowed) to determine which resort has the best terrain. The voting was open to the public and according to the X Games website, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was the clear winner. To check out some jaw-dropping footage submitted, see Real Mountain videos here.
How Did We Get Where We Are Today
While people have been participating in extreme sports long before the X Games came around, it was really ESPN that propelled the X Games into mainstream sports entertainment. An article from Time Magazine by Kate Pickert explains how in the mid 90’s execs at ESPN realized they were missing a part of their target market. According to Pickert,
“There came at a moment when a good chunk of young people were getting a little bored with football and baseball, while even more were on skateboards practicing their Ollies in mall parking lots across the country.”
The first few X Games drew such crowds EPSN knew they had something good on their hands and continued promoting and growing the event. Unafraid to try new events each time to draw in new viewers, the X Games keep people coming back for more. Viewers watch in awe as people risk their lives to complete more and more extreme stunts, and athletes compete for sponsorships doing sports they love that are now legitimized largely because of ESPN and the X Games.
While they have only been around for a little over two decades, the X Games are very successful. They provide a place for extreme athletes to compete, and the games continue to stay relevant by including audience participation and voting. With a history this impactful, it will be fascinating to see where they X Games go from here.