Saturday, May 15, 2010

Three Dollars

And then came the day when six of our Activity's best known dudes stared into the camera and explained something they seemed to find very important. Free of charge, we got: Dyrdek with his fingers interlocked, rising and falling in heavy drama; Koston's hand going pedestal, his famously charming arrogance inching closer toward discomforting entitlement; Mike Mo scratching his chin and trying very hard not to call anything gay; Vallely looking hungry and crazed, his eyes much closer to each other than I'd realized; old heroically sincere Guy, a man whose voice's pitch alone convinces me his intentions are good; and Jeron Wilson, a personal hero ever since the "Oh My God Remix." All here in one little window.

But does anyone else find a strange coincidence between this confession-style couch chat and a Proactiv infomercial? And why the forced gravity to their language? The…dramatic pause. It's…it's what makes….it's what makes my point exactly what my point…is...

Like flameboy and wet willy (names that will go uncapitalized) and Joe Camel (respect), the targets of Berra's (and Staba's) Pay to Play campaign would seem to be the innocent youth, kids untarnished by cynicism. How else to explain the cryptic "5-15-10" ad campaign, exploiting our most base curiosity, a la Gabbo!? Why else the sneaky hidden cameras aimed at pros who, now that I've seen the video, I can't exactly believe were as hyped as they appeared? The faux-candid question to Greco, "would you pay three dollars to watch that?" Like all good advertisements, this Berrics algorithm has been designed to make viewers:

1. Wonder

2. Desire

3. Consume

Step #3, though, gets kind of tricky, because for the first time ever in this long, storied history of our Activity, the men in charge would like us to pay for a single video part. Staba goes so far to hint that it might just be the future. And so we get this star-studded lecture that confusingly returns us to "back in the day" while pushing against "this is where skateboarding is right now", all amounting to the silent fourth step in this process, aimed at the adults among us:

4. Guilt

Because it's pretty obvious where skateboarding is right now: everywhere. It's on a French website where I can watch the video for free. It's at the countless revenge Youtube postings, popping up quickly enough to overwhelm even Steve's impassioned litigation. It's all over the web for us to watch, if we want, while we're not out skating.

I'm confused sort of, but I do have a point. Which is that, yes, a skater's first professional skateboard part is important today, and even perhaps "more" than it was in 1994. But only if we assume "importance" to be a financial discussion. Otherwise, what? Who would argue that this kid's first arms-down video part (which is rad, totally rad) is more important than Gonz's Blind part? Or Dennis B in Real to Reel? Or Carroll in anything Carroll's ever been in? In fact, what this six-headed plea assumes is that we viewers, skaters all of us, consider professional skateboarding a business. It assumes we treat these talented skateboarders like bona fide, professional athletes.

Which is hard, because skateboarders are, at our core, assholes. All of us. Skateboarding is assholes running through a city, treating it like the playground it is instead of the money factory the men and women in ties and sweater sets want it to be. Skateboarding is blood and filth and beer and laughter, maybe a nut-slap when one asshole catches another off guard. It's about shinners and swelbows and sketchy landings that prove how badly you want it. And finally, it's about cheering madly for a friend who lands a trick even if that trick is easy for you.

And how poetic that 5-15-10 is also the day when a full Chad Tim Tim part appears free of charge, or that we've spent all week echoing daaaaaamn for Wes Kremer. How poetic that Dyrdek is here arguing for a form (the professional skateboarding video part) that he has the luxury of phoning in.

I'm rambling. But one final point: Would I pay three dollars to watch a Randy Ploesser section? Fuck yeah. But not through paypall, nor through the hands of a middle-man whose intentions I've been questioning since he began his website. Instead, I would buy Randy a beer. And a shot. And the next time I attempt to see a Nike demo, I'll elbow through the swarming hordes of pre-teens, carrying a can of Bud with Shane's name on it. Because his video section is rad and he's earned it. He's also earned to be paid for board sales, along with his contracts with Fourstar, Nike, and whoever else. But that's where my guilt ends.

Because yes, skateboarding might be a business, but only to a very, very select few skateboarders – those who've had long careers and have found ways to maintain a role in the industry, along with those who are young and ambitious, who see the Activity as a valid career path. But I'm a thirty-one year-old man who's been skateboarding for twenty years. The Activity has been a vital component of my life, and thus a giant financial drain on my wallet.

For me, as for the vast majority of us, the Activity is no more or less than goddamned hoot, and we prove our commitment to it by purchasing boards and shoes and wheels and griptape, bearings and new bushings and videos to sit with homies on the couch and watch. These small, stuttery windows on our Macs, these Mag Minutes and more…these are icing, the advertisements that we remember once we're in the shop. To charge for these windows is exploitative, manipulative, and pornographic. So I'm personally gonna hold onto my three dollars and spend them on something way, way stupider than this.


  1. i've never read an entire page of text on the internet uninterrupted by pictures in my entire life. nice job kyle

  2. so what do you think of street league skateboarding? though im sure youve heard of it ill give you the link anyway.
    its pretty weird how berra knocked the maloof money cup, in a way, and is now endorsing an even more exploitative version of it to the fullest extent that he can on the berrics. i dont know, ive thought a lot about if berras a good guy or not and to be honest im still not sure. regardless, youve made a really good point here, this whole 3 dollar thing is kind of shitty.

  3. "skateboarding," when he says the word, means something different than when i say it.

  4. and also: thanks, tim, for stopping by. i award you one free dude life shirt if there ever are any more made (by ryan).