Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/22/2006 03:19:00 PM
My Sportsman: Danny Way
Danny Way used a 65-foot "Mega Ramp" to jump over the Great Wall of China.
By Karl Taro Greenfeld
"Evel turned and let loose a stream of tobacco-brown spittle that stained the white earth; he despises the ground, he has proclaimed, disdains gravity and resents its ineluctability. He jumps, he explains, to expand our consciousness, our very sense of what is possible. 'I blow minds,' he says, ripping off another hunk of chew. 'That's what I do.'"
So began Sports Illustrated's 1975 Sportsman of the Year profile of Evel Knievel. OK, I made that up. Evel Knievel was never Sporstman of the Year and no such profile was ever written. (In 1975 it was actually Pete Rose who was so honored.) But wouldn't SI have been so much radder if Evel had been Sportsman of the Year?
That's why I am nominating Danny Way, who has been blowing minds for almost a decade now by jumping higher, further and faster than anyone ever had before -- not on a motorcycle, but a skateboard. Last year, Way expanded our consciousness -- and that of about a billion Chinese -- when he rolled into a 65-foot jump ramp and soared 70 feet over the Great Wall of China. He said he got the idea one afternoon as he was flying in an airplane over the ancient monument.
For those of us who grew up skateboarding and building driveway ramps which were considered gnarly if they had, like, six inches of vert at the top, the idea of dropping into 30 feet or so of vert and then ollieing 70-plus feet over the frickin' Great Wall of China is the equivalent of telling a football fan that Tiki Barber just ran for 935 yards against the Eagles. The feat is so completely outside the realm of what once seemed possible that you wonder if somehow the laws of the universe have been repealed while you weren't looking.
And Way does this all the time. He has repeatedly won virtually every skateboarding award: three straight X Games Big Air Gold Medals, Transworld Vert Skateboarder of the Year in 2006, and he was the 1991 and 2004 Thrasher Magazine Skater of the Year (the only two-time winner). But more importantly, he's in the vanguard of a generation of skaters for whom huge jump ramps, some with hand-rails on the landing ramps so the skater can land into a rail slide, have become the sport's proving ground.
What Way, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek, Andy Macdonald and a few of their brothers are achieving is a total redefining of an insanely dangerous sport. Ten years ago no one had conceived of soaring 70 plus feet, never mind taking flight and ripping a backside 180 or 360 tail grab. Or jumping the Great Wall of China. Now, thanks to Danny Way, our sense of what is possible has been obliterated.
Danny Way should win because his domain of sport involves something few other sports do; deadly risks. You can't tell me that messing up a sixty-plus vert launch over the Great Wall of China will only get you a broken leg. The many launches Danny attempted and made are dangerous. He pushes the limits more than any other athlete in any other sport.