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Skateboarding is Not a Sport

 

 

A visit to the Maloof Money Cup- billed as The World’s Greatest Skateboarding Event- reveals the inherent contradictions present in the skateboarding world.

 

For more photos from the Maloof Money Cup, check out our gallery.

 

Greg Lutzka was crowned champion of the 2011 Maloof Money Cup skateboarding competition on Sunday, the 27-year-old Wisconsin native taking home a cool $160,00 for his troubles in the Flushing Meadows summer sun.

 

Though overshadowed by the corporate bent of the show itself, the amateur and professional performances in the cup competition were truly a joy to watch. All twelve pro finalists showcased incredible technique, if not endurance, during Sunday’s final rounds; from Ryan Decenzo’s massive airs to veteran  skater Andrew Reynolds, who looked to be riding on clouds while everyone else landed on concrete. Lutzka saw off Decenzo, Jackson Curtin, and finally Dennis Busenitz in a series of head to head matchups during the final round of the two day event. .

 

2011 Maloof Money Cup winner Greg Lutzka

 

The competition was sponsored by Joe and Gavin Maloof, billionaire owners of the Sacramento Kings, who entered the skateboard industry in 2008 with the first Maloof Cup in Orange County, CA. According to their website, the pair want to “Raise the bar on competitive skateboarding” and leave behind world class parks for young skaters, like the one in Flushing Meadows.

 

The hosts of the Cup constantly announced that the unseen Maloof brothers were watching the live webcast, perhaps from the deck of some anchored yacht. They must have basked in their notoriety as the organizers demanded the awkward chant of “Maloof Money Cup” from the crowd before casting freebies into the stands. While the fans applauded the best tricks every ten minutes or so, the giveaways garnered the only real noise from the quiet spectators. They screamed like hyenas for pairs of limited edition Vans.

 

That kind of atmosphere pervaded the event. The occasional brilliance of a kickflip or grind was lost in the reek of corporate influence, from the advertising posters to the emcees routinely referencing sponsors to the brands printed on the chests of almost every young spectator.

 

Young fans show off their autographed loot.

 

But then what else is skate fashion than the next coolest billboard for Emerica or Neff or Five Boro on the bill of your fitted or the front of your tee? Good reasons all for a pair of businessmen to involve themselves in advertising to the critical young male demographic, to teenagers like 13 year-old Antony Adipietro from Staten Island or 14 year-old Carlos Quaranta from Jamaica Queens

 

“I just love seeing the Baker guys, I look up to all those guys. It’s so sick that Carlos got Figgy’s board!” said Adipietro, showing off his skateboard deck with autographs from pro skaters Don Nguyen, sponsored by Baker Skateboards, and Cody Davis, from World Industries. Adipietro’s friend Quaranta meanwhile held up pro skater Justin “Figgy” Figueroa’s deck, given to him after Figgy was beaten by Dennis Busenitz for a spot in the finals. “I just love seeing the pros, they’re so up close!” said Quaranta.

 

What American teenager wouldn’t look up to these guys and want to live their lives? Between three or four minute runs, they sipped Budweisers and passed around American Spirit cigarettes. They sat flanked by beautiful, tattooed women as a DJ spun one power metal track after another on the Skullcandy sponsored sound system. They played videogames on on massive flatscreen televisions in the VIP tent and collected tens of thousands of dollars for less than a cumulative half hour of competitive skateboarding. In the seating bowl, their adoring fans jostled and leaned dangerously over the grandstand railings, hoping for an autograph from any one of them.

 

David Gravette signs autographs.

 

The discerning eye might see the Maloof competition for what it really was – a onetime underground hobby turned sickeningly mainstream as people realized that a fantastic amount of profit could be made from the sport. That is if skateboarding itself, with its aspirations of Olympic fame, can even be called a sport. The pros are clearly gifted with balance and technique, but they are far from athletes. At one point the announcers claimed that the 16 total minutes of flawless skateboarding required to reach the final round should be considered endurance event, especially after all of the drinking that the skaters presumably engaged in the night before.

 

Yet rather than impress, the “endurance event” statement glares with pitiful falsity, as if the ageing former pros emceeing the show were telling jokes they weren’t even themselves aware of. The Maloof Money Cup became a joke precisely because everyone but the skaters was trying so hard to make as much money as they could off of something that is inherently just simple entertainment. The organizers inadequately covered up the charade of promotions and advertising with the cheap veneer of tricks and celebrities, and in the process, put the real definition of “Money” in Maloof Money Cup.

 

For more photos from the Maloof Money Cup, check out our gallery.

 

By Adrian Fussell

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