Get Primed for X Games

By Natalie England – May 1, 2014
image provided by ESPN

By now, the curiosity has to be peaking—even if a skateboard or BMX bike aren’t familiar fitness accessories. The Summer X Games are coming to Austin for the first time, as the Circuit of The Americas racing complex will be transformed into an all-out action sports festival June 5–8.

Brandon Graham, who will co-host the games on ESPN, grew up skating and surfing in the Bay Area and experienced his first X Games at San Francisco’s Pier 32 in 1999. Here, he visits with Austin Fit Magazine about the artistry and athleticism inherent in this burgeoning sports scene.

Q&A

Do you have any memories of those first X Games you witnessed?

I can recall my 14-year-old mind being pretty blown. It was just surreal to see this all-encompassing festival with all my favorite athletes together in one place. The incredible energy matched any live sporting event tenfold that I had ever witnessed.

To what do you attribute the growth of the X Games and particularly its fan base?

First and foremost, the X Games filled a void for core audiences that previously weren’t able to get their proper fill. They did a good job of reaching out and giving the endemic fans something to truly sink their teeth into. The X Games was and is the Olympics of action sports—the model put in place by the broadcast platform was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. As ambitious as it was, it gave a lot of credence to the athletes. Over the last 20 years, they haven’t been afraid to find out what the men and women participants are progressing toward to provide the best possible stage, especially for the casual, more traditional sports fan to be entertained, but also educated.

How would you describe the X Games athlete compared to an athlete in a more traditional sport like football or basketball?

There’s a nasty misconception out there that our X Games athletes are glorified stuntmen. It’s totally not the case. Our competitors are world-class athletes, and they push their boundaries and bodies as much as someone in football or baseball or basketball. With the level of risk involved, our athletes have no choice but to push themselves to the max in training. They understand the physical commitment necessary to compete. The physical aspect has to match the mental approach.

Travis Pastrana is a great example. He has gone from being the king of motocross freestyle to now more of a rally racer. But at the height of his freestyle days, he’d get into the weight room, and it looked like CrossFit before CrossFit was popular. He was pushing endurance along with weight training. The one unifying theme, paramount to X Games activities, is the core. Those exercises are so vital.

As an analyst and play-by-play caller, how do you prepare?

A lot of homework, first and foremost. Every discipline is fueled by progression so it’s important to know what new tricks athletes are working on. This summer, I’ll be calling skateboarding, so I’m constantly scouring for new video footage online. Social media helps a ton. When we do get out to the event, watching the practice is so key. It’s one thing to know what a guy has in his back pocket, in terms of a trick, but it’s a whole other thing when they’re exploring the course for the first time. Every course is different.

For sports fans, but who might be unfamiliar with X Games, what would you say to prepare them?

First, please come out. I cannot say enough about the experience of seeing the X Games live and in person. It’s really an incredible experience. The energy involved is so awesome. So, really just take it all in. Creativity, along with progression, is the name of the game. That’s what you really see at practice, because they’re out there figuring out what tricks they can do and what their line is going to look like. It’s not enough to just know you can do a trick, but the judges are looking for how they combine them together. Creativity is vital to the scoring of all events. 

 

 
 

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