Action Sports Goes Hollywood

An awards ceremony broke out at the Black Sabbath concert on Saturday. Apparently ESPN wants to be down with all the skaters, surfers, snowboarders, and treadheads and was handing out awards to show they care. Who knew?

Indeed, the question milling around the office last Friday was, “Are you going to the Sabbath concert tomorrow night?” Not, “Are you going to the ESPN Action Sports and Music Awards show?”

The majority of the people who filed into the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on Saturday night were more concerned with which song Black Sabbath was going to play over whether Sunny Garcia was really going to take home best surfer of the year, male.

The folks at ESPN kept us on the edge of our seats all night (or on your toes if you scored tickets to the pit), because Ozzy didn’t go on until 11:00 p.m. But the three hours between the start of the show and the Black Sabbath finale were entertaining, albiet over the top — hey it’s showbiz.

We were told we had to enter the amphitheater by 7:00 — even though the show didn’t kick off until 8:00. But that gave me plenty of time to grab a handful of five-dollar Best Buy gift certificates, Do The Dew, ponder why GM OK-ed production of the ungodly Pontiac Aztec, and star gaze at all the “almost famous” people prancing around on the red carpet — which was actually an eXtreme lime green.

I saw Brad Gerlach, Jack Johnson, Tony Hawk, Juliette Lewis, Darryl Hannah, and Lars Ulrich. I’m really not all that up on what famous people look like, so there were probably a lot of other people I just missed.

ESPN got Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, LL Cool J, and Chris Klein to share the emcee duties, and hired celebs like Darryl Hannah, Rob Zombie, and a handful of Playmates to present awards.Their presence added an extra flair to the evening.

I was feeling ESPN’s show all night until the part when they honored the fathers of our sport. They brought up guys like Tom Curren, Tony Alva, and Matt Hoffman and showed a brief video spotlight that highlighted their contributions to surfing, skateboarding, and BMX. It was a good, tasteful tribute until Evil Knievel drove his bike on stage and delivered a three-minute harrangue about living life on the edge. I felt embarrased for the athletes who were up there. Hopefully they got paid for their time.

ESPN’s bountiful resources were realized in an exceptional audio-visual display. The videos of the nominees were top-notch. The AV highlight had to be the series of skits featuring Tom Green and Tony Hawk where Tom is the owner of Tom’s Skateboard Gym and Tony is his protege. In one of the parodies, Green shows Hawk how to do a “real” 900. Hilarious.

But there were a couple of questionables. I heard rumors that the skateboarders voted CKY as their favorite band, but the producers gave the nod to Eminem because he promised he’d do a live video feed at the event — which he didn’t. Also, the skateboard world — without taking anything away from Tony Hawk, because he certainly deserves every accolade — felt that Tony Alva, not Hawk, should have been honored with the Lifetime Action Sports Achievement Award first, but everyone knows who Tony Hawk is…

Before Ozzy took the stage, a host of action-sports (no longer “extreme,” thank god) athletes made their way to the podium to accept awards: Barrett Christy and Kevin Jones (snowboarders of the year); Eric Koston (skateboarder of the year); Travis Pastrana (motocross rider of the year); Sarah Burke and Shane “Mullet” McConkey (skiers of the year); and Dave Mirra (BMX rider of the year). Awards for the inline skater of the year, sky surfer, and street luger were suspiciously missing — despite the ample coverage ESPN gives these “profitable” categories.

McConkey should have also recieved an award for best dressed. He showed up in a lime green or banana yellow (I can’t remember exactly) WT tuxedo straight from the 80s, complemented by a mullet and a horrible mustache. He had the yahoos in the pit chanting, “Mullet, mullet, mullet…”

On the surfing side, Layne Beachley beat out Megan Abubo, Serena Brooke, Keala Kennelly, and Rochelle Ballard to win surfer of the year, female. WCT reigning world champ Sunny Garcia beat out Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, and Rob Machado as the best male surfer of the year.

Laird Hamilton towed into the Feat of the Year award, ahead of MX rider Carey Hart’s backflip and skateboarder Bob Burnquist’s fakie-5-0-kickflip on a vert extension rail, among others.

Bringing music and athletes together was a great concept — and smart too, as that’s what drew more people to the show (especially the folks who forked over real money for a ticket). Seeing Busta Rhymes, Ben Harper, Incubus, and Black Sabbath all perform on the same stage on the same night was a real treat. I wish they could have played more than one song each, but I guess that’s how these showbiz things go. We are all screaming for a Black Sabbath encore, but the tech crew was quick to tear down the set.

The eclectic mix of musicians was parallel to the blend of athletes who were there, but it seemed like surfers were the black sheep. Surfing’s not better or worse than any of the other sports, but it is different. And at the awards show, the inclusion of surfing was awkward — after all, it’s not an ESPN X-Games sport. In that way, it seemed appropriate that the awards show was at the same time as the launch of the Rip Curl Pro at Bell’s and none of the nominated male surfers showed up.

That said, the crowd was definitely blown away by the Laird Hamilton’s award-winning Teahupo’o footage. Seeing that larger-than-life wave on the three huge movie screens that lined the front of the auditorium got everyone psyched.

Perhaps Jack Johnson’s acceptance speech for surfing’s musical artist of the year best sums out how surfing fits into all of this action-sports mumbo jumbo. He said something like, “Nobody really knows who I am, so I’d like to thank the surfers — my friends — for voting for me.”