Wischnewsky 1Louis WischnewskyProfessor Shawn QuirkEnglish 10011 April 2011 Living on the Edge “... [Y]ou cant help yourself from fallin, Living on the edge!” shouts a 1980s era song bythe ageless rock band, Aerosmith. Among risks taken by the pre-teen boy in the music videoaccompanying the tune, the main character and his friend steal a car. The scene becomes intenseas the camera flashes from the rear of a big truck to the uncertain boy in the speeding car, backand forth at an increasing pace until the truck seems to assure viewers it is solid and will not losethe coming battle. At the same time the boys expression changes until, when it would be too lateto change his mind anyway, his laughing face registers finality in his determination. Yes, the car collides squarely with the truck, totally demolishing the car and leaving notonly the truck unscathed, but the boy and his friend are joyously unharmed, as well. How? Thecar had airbags (Aerosmith). Upon deeper reflection, participation in extreme sports is a little easier to understand thanit might first appear. Not only do people stay in shape, there is a sex appeal. For example, beingthe spectator of an incoming tsunami is, oddly enough, quite different from the surfer dude ridingthe wave for fun. It is of notable interest that the participants are highly likely to make sure allthe safety precautions that can be made have been prior to partaking in the extreme sport.Weighting why men and women are drawn to physical activities in the first place, their utmostcaution before participating in the dare helps reveal the mysterious draw of extreme sports. Thereare temptations to dismiss differences between controlled danger and real danger, but thosedifferences are real, nonetheless.
Wischnewsky 2 True, there is an instinctual need to witness conflicts that pit man against the direst ofcircumstances. However, while it might make sense that people are eager to watch calamityunfold, what is it that draws others to actively place themselves in dangerous circumstances?Consider five California tsunami watchers that were recently swept to sea. Placing some thoughtinto what those five had wanted to do arouses laughter realizing they should have known theywere placing themselves in harms way. Still, their collision with disaster came about from eitherstupidity or carelessness. That is quite different from the surfers that openly jumped into thetsunami to ride the wave. The voyeurs simply wanted to watch a might of nature; the athleteswanted to face that might head on. It is those surfers that throw any theory that people succumbto viewing disaster due to instinct, pardon the pun, out of the water. They are not wanting to learnhow to survive, they are literally, living on Aerosmiths edge. Or are they? In “Life on the Edge,” William Dowell and company haphazardly point outsome interesting tidbits about extreme sports. In the very opening of their article, the authorselevate the drama of the base jumpers descent noting the jumper “... prays his parachute willopen … that his canopy will not collapse” (Dowell, et al, 455). BASE jumper Chance McGuireseems like quite the testosterone filled twenty-five year old American male. He dares to jumpfrom someplace with many dangers that could do him in! Harrowing! However, in describingthose dangers, Dowell, et al, conveys there is nothing to worry about because McGuire has takenevery precaution (Dowell, et al, 455). Perhaps clearer perspective is needed.Watch the nightly news for a month or two andthere will be a story about a plane crash. Plane crashes are interesting news because they are stillrare, not because audiences are hopeful of survivors. And that is the point. Plane crashes are rare,especially in the scope of how many flights take place across the globe every day – thousands!The rarity, though, is because every precaution is made to ensure the safety of the people flying.
Wischnewsky 3 However, is flying in an airplane any less dangerous than jumping out of one? No. In fact,at altitudes far higher than those from which sky divers jump, in a chunk of metal and plasticweighing hundreds of tons, being the passenger of an airplane is outright dangerous. There has tobe something besides the danger itself that draws people to life on the edge. Jaime Schultz, author of “Discipline and Push-Up: Female Bodies, Femininity, andSexuality in Popular Representations of Sports Bras,” may not like the answer to the draw ofsports, extreme sports included, but she has the answer. Going through great lengths to considerthe reasons a simple article of sports clothing has gotten so much attention in recent years,ultimately she finally concludes that women do have a choice when it comes to sports.Womencan either participate in a way that makes them more attractive to the opposite sex or they canthrow BASE jumper McGuires caution to the wind and compete at levels that eventually erodewomens aesthetics to the eyes of men (Schultz, 481-484). She can take solace, though, inknowing that, after all, men are left with (at least in the minds of some men) the choice of beingsexually appealing to the opposite sex with “adequate” athleticism or being potentially maimedand disfigured, thus quite unattractive to the opposite sex, by extreme participation in sports.Because, ultimately, thats why extreme sportsmen are partaking in these activities. Not only doesthe tsunami surfer stay in shape riding one of the most dangerous waves in history, he has abragging right that extends far beyond the sands of Malibu beach: he gets to brag about it laterthat night to the awed bubble-headed-bleach-blond at the bar after she reports the daily “dirtylaundry” on the Local 9 (Henley). It is very tempting to think of such a view as worthy of disposal, something from someold fart that hides when the clouds grow thick outside. However, what should also be consideredare those people that regularly step into dangerous situations without the luxury of planningcontingencies for everything that could possibly go wrong. Factoring the randomness of human
Wischnewsky 4nature into truly ominous situations, it is especially debatable which competitor is truly brave:the BASE jumper or the Army Ranger stalking an enemy in a conflict that demands one of thetwo participants dies? It might be argued that the Ranger made his choice, too. However, that isnot wholly accurate. The Ranger trains tirelessly to deal with dangers he may encounter, yes.Certainly he does not actively seek those encounters, though. Rather, he remains in waiting forthe unpredictable call to go encounter something that is just as actively pursuing him. The BASE,the tsunami, they do not pursue people; people pursue them. Big difference. And if the surfer orBASE jumper decides the risks are not worth it or that the equipment is not up to par, as Dowellpoints out, he can just turn around and go home (Dowell, et al, 460). Do not misunderstand: that extreme sports are not the most dangerous activities on theplanet does not deny the guts of those participating in extreme sports. It does, however, bringinto perspective that tenacity. That is a point well taken when Dowell describes Adam Fillipino,another BASE jumper, and his decision not to make a second jump on the same day withMcGuire (Dowell, et al, 462). These are men looking for controlled danger that. If they reallywanted the ultimate level of the “danger element,” they could just as easily parachute fromextremely high altitudes and open at extremely low altitudes into areas where people are waitingto shoot at them. Certainly there is nothing wrong with seeking adrenalin fixes. Closer consideration ofextreme sports, though, does bring a rather simple perspective to actively seeking outinvolvement with controlled danger. Getting caught up in natures throes as spectators marvel is adifferent level of involvement with the cult of disaster than those that jump into the water. Just asdifferent, though, is making certain a parachute is in perfect working order before jumping froma bridge “for fun” as opposed to a pilot forced to eject after his plane is shot down. The fact is,sports are not just for keeping bodies in shape, they are activities that allow the sexes to attract
Wischnewsky 5company. The fact that many of those participating in the controlled dangers of extreme sportscould elevate their level of danger by participating in uncontrolled dangers supports this thesis.There is a difference between wrecking a car and purposely activating that cars airbags. In anycase, man “... cant help [himself] from falling, [hes] living on the edge.”
Works CitedAerosmith. “Living on the Edge.” Get a Grip. Geffen. 1993, CD.Dowell, William, et al. “Life on the Edge.” Common Culture; Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. Eds. Michael Petracca, Madeleine Sorapure. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. 455-462. Print.Henley, Don. “Dirty Laundry.” I Cant Stand Still. Elektra Entertainment Group. 1982, CD.Schultz, Jaime. “Discipline and Push-Up: Female Bodies, Femininity, and Sexuality in Popular Presentations of Sports Bras.” Common Culture; Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. Eds. Michael Petracca, Madeleine Sorapure. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. 481-506. Print.