Why is skateboarding cool?
Or, to be more specific, why did I spend a healthy chunk of my life thinking skateboarding was the coolest thing ever?
Looking back as an adult, I understand why I liked a number of my childhood obsessions. Dinosaurs are unruly behemoths the likes of which a five year old can only imagine, so of course they’re cool (and, while no longer technically a thing, the pterodactyl was always my favorite for that whole “avian threat” thing). Transformers are robots that shoot lasers and transform into cars and jets, so they get a pass. Voltron features a giant fighting robot made of brightly colored mechanical lions, and I don’t have to explain why that’s cool. I was starting to age out of the demographic by the time they became popular, but I can understand the appeal of the “teenagers with attitude” of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were rude, crude, badical dudes that kicked Foot.
But I recently revisited the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series (I was not nearly cool enough to read the Eastman Laird comics as a kid), and I realized something: these turtles are dumb. They’re barely a step up from clowns! Raph, the turtle known for his ‘tude, is, at absolute best, prone to occasionally mocking the childish antics of his brothers. These aren’t radical teens! These turtles are barely even mature enough for a trip to the roller skating rink. I demand to speak to a manager! Where are my “cool” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!?
Unfortunately, it seems the Turtles that I remember from my youth are not quite as badical as I had remembered. Okay, that’s fine, my dad has also somehow gotten shorter since I was five, I suppose a change in perspective is only natural as one ages. I can acknowledge that something I once thought was cool is cool no longer… but why did I think these mutants were cool in the first place? Ninja are always cool, so that has to be a factor. And… eating pizza? Is that cool? Was it something to do with the toppings? No, I think what really made these reptiles cool was skateboards.
Skateboards are cool! Bart Simpson has a skateboard, and he’s all attitude! Doug was kind of boring, but his radical dog Porkchop could totally shred. And, oh! Max from Goof Troop! His dad was a goofy loser, but, man, Max was tearing up the pavement. In short, if you wanted to know whether or not a fictional character was cool, you looked for the skateboard. Does he (inevitably he) thrash down the sidewalk, and grind those sick rails? We’ve got a cool kid on our hands! Bonus points if he doesn’t wear a helmet.
But that takes me back to… why? I don’t think I ever knew a kid with an actual skateboard. Wait, no, that’s not true. I wasn’t allowed a skateboard (my parents wisely ascertained that my general dexterity was somewhere below that of a flipped turtle, so I can probably thank them for having a few less broken bones than my contemporaries), but most of my friends had one… for all of five minutes. No, nobody else had parents that routinely limited outside activities thanks to falling out of a tree house one time, Mom; no, everyone that I knew with a skateboard eventually gave it up because it was boring. It’s like riding a bicycle! Except kinda slower! And with more effort! Maybe my neighborhood didn’t have enough hills? I know we didn’t have a skate park…
Maybe that was the problem? In my hometown (well, technically, the more affluent next town over… my hometown only has one golf course!), there is and continues to be a contingent of the population that wants to build a recreational skate park, but countering them is an even larger group of people that vote that skate park down every other year because it’ll draw out the hoods and the rascals and all the other undesirables that naturally skulk around skate parks. They might start dealing marijuana cigarettes! And, incidentally, I’ll note that this same stupid debate has been occurring in the same stupid town since the stupid 80’s. The generation that thought skateboarding was cool is just about in charge now, and now they’re the ones shrieking about thinking of the children. Skateboards: threat or menace!?
And I keep coming back to a simple truth: there are exactly zero skateboarders worthy of praise or derision in this area. The proposed skate park? It would be no different than the football field or baseball field that no one ever had a problem with. There would be kids playing there, and they’d all be dreaming of becoming Tony Hawk like the children on the football field aspire to be Paul Turner. Skateboarding is just another sport, and it’s not even a sport that encourages running into each other at top speed. And, in the meanwhile, most skateboarders are barely ranking above Donatello for coolness points. They’re not cool enough to know the kids that actually have drugs!
Of course, as I’ve already tangentially mentioned, there are skateboard stars. There’s Tony Hawk, and… uh… uhh… Look, I only know that name from videogames. I’m assuming there are other skateboard stars, but Google is all the way over there, and I was planning on looking at some centaur porn later, so I’m not switching out of incognito mode to wiki up some thrashers. And, yes, these stars of the sport seem to be cool, but, not, like 90’s Bart Simpson cool. They’ve probably never told their dad to not have a cow, man. And, what’s more, I can’t think of any prominent skateboarders before Tony Hawk. I’m forced to go back to my original source of cool: Saturday Morning Cartoons. Did Big Skateboard make sure every last animated cool kid had a board? Was this all reckless indoctrination to force an entire generation into loving the smell of pavement in the morning? Did Street Sharks cause the inevitable collapse of the coolness industry?
Ugh, now I’m even more confused than when I started.
Oh, one question more: Why did anyone ever think skateboarding in a videogame would be fun?
FGC #218 Skate or Die!
- System: NES is the real version. But the other kids with Commodore 64s, Ataris, or Macs may have claimed to have played such a game.
- Number of players: Technically eight, but I think two is a lot more likely.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Okay, Skate or Die isn’t the worst thing in the world. As skateboarding sims for early systems go, it’s pretty good, and isn’t a complete waste of a day like a certain game featuring an idiot in a tiki mask. That said, the whole thing is an extremely limited experience, and I have no idea how the neighborhood kids and myself got approximately twelve billion hours of playtime out of this thing.
- Favorite Event: Race is the one where you can whale on Lester, right? Joust feels too random, but Race allows you to straight-up punch your opponent in the face. That really spices up your average competition.
- Shopaholic: What was the point of the “Skate Shop” where the game begins? Could you buy better boards or equipment in the computer versions? As it is, it’s just a dude with a Mohawk reminding you why venturing into a Skate Shop in the 80’s could be a distasteful experience.
- Did you know? A modern take on Skate or Die was in the works around 2002, and its producers spent about a year on… a game that was never released. We got Burnout 3 instead, though, so… I guess that’s okay?
- Would I play again: I don’t think I’m radical enough.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse! Couldn’t have picked that back when the movie was relevant, ROB? No? Fine, whatever, I’m always down to teleport around as my favorite X-Men. Please look forward to it!