My views of Shaun White have been changing recently. Here are some thoughts–although a little jumbled–on why that is.
On Shaun White
An Essay by Jack Haren
It’s easy to become a fan of Shaun White as because of how much attention he gets. The media, especially on the X-Games, make him out to be the only snowboarder alive; and sometimes, the best snowboarder that has ever lived. This is why all the haters hate: it simply isn’t true. There are many other facets of snowboarding that the mainstream audience doesn’t know about. Only the contest scene is really represented to the mainstream audience. In my mind, the filming aspect is just as big as the contest scene. The X-Games is moving toward representing that side by implementing the Real Snow Street and Real Snow Backcountry video contest, but it’s kind of hard for the mainstream audience to hear about it if it doesn’t get any broadcasting coverage. But, anyway, back to Shaun White:
Shaun White is definitely the best half pipe rider in the game; he has definitely proven that with his dominance on the contest circuit, not to mention a couple of Olympic gold medals. But that doesn’t make Shaun the best snowboarder alive. To be that guy, you’d have to be a more of a well-rounded snowboarder. To do that these days is becoming more and more difficult because every facet has progressed so much. You almost have to concentrate on one discipline to keep up. Shaun has shown that he has skills in slopestyle competition, and even some skills in the backcountry with the film First Decent, but the past few years have been exclusively pipe riding for him.
Hype and media coverage often make people jump to the conclusion that people with fame are full of themselves. For those of you who think that, think again, because I know two people that can vouch for him being a nice guy because they’ve met him multiple times in person. Even if that changes your mind on him being a dick, there’s still the “he doesn’t have passion for snowboarding anymore, he just does it for the money”. I think his last half pipe run puts that allegation to rest because he had the contest won, and he still put down arguably the best pipe run ever. You may say he was a dick for crushing the competition when he had it won, but I think he did it for the sport of half pipe snowboarding, to progress the level even more.
White compared to the rest of the field isn’t that much amazing trick wise. I mean someone has a switch double McTwist now, and multiple riders in the field can do many variations of the double cork. Shaun is usually one step ahead, however. This year, it was the regular double cork 1260. Nobody else can do that. What sets white apart is his ability to do the tricks higher than most, and also link them together with ease. Both of those things actually say a lot about his riding. His average height is usually five feet higher than everyone else, and nobody else can keep their speed and bearings when linking two, three, four–and in Shaun’s case– and entire run of heavy tricks. And by heavy, I mean HEAVY with all capitals.
Being arguably the best pipe run ever, I don’t think the X-Games judges were out of line when they gave a perfect score. By definition, nothing can be perfect, but after watching his run again, I think it was pretty close, at least for a snowboarding pipe run. The X-Games weren’t saying that is the best pipe run that can EVER be landed EVER. They were just saying that this run is the best that could be landed as of now. Next year, that run may not get a perfect score because the riding level will once again be raised.
My biggest problem with Shaun White is that he has this weird, robotic, contest like style. I think most contest kids get that way when they ride too much in front of judges. I was pleasantly surprised while watching the X-Games; he actually did a decent looking method!
He is a huge sellout. I don’t blame him for wanting to make some money, but he’s gone way too far with the crappy acting career and Stride gum commercials. But on the other hand, his popularity also has made the snowboarding much more popular and in turn one of the most highly anticipated events in the Olympics. I commend him for that. He’s spreading the word, the love, and the joy of something that most people can't even express how fun it is. The more people know about this fun activity, the better.