Research Paper: Evolution of Extreme Sports

Pages: 5 (1674 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Evolution of Extreme Sports

Extreme sports have been around for hundreds of years, though the definition of such activities has changed as people's ideas, goals, and the technology surrounding sports have evolved. For some, these sports were personal challenges meant to test their own strength and perseverance. In more modern times, the commercialization and glorification of these sports have given the mainstream public motivation to participate. Access to the technology and areas required for these sports has also changed, and as they become more and more accessible, and as the danger has been slowly weeded out of them, these sports have been popularized more so than ever before.

Extreme sports are considered dangerous by the mainstream public for a couple reasons. First of all, these types of sports go largely unexperienced by the majority of the public, and therefore, they are seen only on TV or talked about anecdotally (Horton, 2004). This creates an artificial mystique or fear of the unknown or unfamiliar in many people. Secondly, extreme sports are still considered extreme due to people's beliefs about the inherent risks and dangers associated with the sports (Horton, 2004). Of course, in recent years, these sports have become safer and safer statistically, but the public is largely unaware of this fact and still considers them dangerous. Often, people do not realize how often these sports occur, and only hear about them when something goes wrong. Also, fatal skydiving and mountain climbing accidents involve a certain amount of horror when recalled. These accidents and fatalities occur in situations and environments that are largely foreign to the general public and people do not usually consider these methods of losing one's life.

The danger associated with extreme sports comes in a completely unrealistic context. Many of the people who have been familiar with these types of recreation for a relatively long time recognize that as these sports have matured, much of the danger has been eliminated from them through the commercialization of the activity. This is seen in the statistics associated with skydiving as well as mountain climbing (Horton, 2004). As more and more people begin to explore extreme sports, fewer and fewer people are killed or are injured each year. One would expect to see a rise in fatalities and injuries that is proportionate to the rise in the number of people partaking in these activities, but alas, there is no correlation within the statistics (Horton, 2004). Technology has done quite a bit to help take extreme sports out of the dangerous realm, yet the reputation and mystique of many of these sports remain, as they have for decades; which don't help to alleviate people's fear of injury or death occurring during these sports activities. The more people participating in a sport, the more the sport is commercialized and the larger the incentive is for innovators to come up with safer and safer methods and technologies for enjoying these activities.

These types of sports have, in recent decades become more commercialized as people's appetite for fear has increased. Much of this has occurred because access to these sports has increased exponentially (Puchan, 2005). Also, extreme sports have been popularized on TV, and people commonly see others participating in these sports more often than they did in years past (Puchan, 2005). This helps to desensitize people to the novelty of many of these sports. Though the general public is still relatively clueless about mountain climbing specifically, they do understand that technology has reached a point where mountain climbers are safer than they have been in the past, and rescuers have much greater access to information and tools that are vital in reaching stranded or injured climbers. For example, twenty years ago, before handheld GPS devices, climbers who were stranded would often have to wait hours or days for rescue teams to locate them, depending on the particular situation and the weather. Currently, technology exists where climbers can push a button to send a "help" message via GPS to rescuers anywhere in the world. These rescue teams can pinpoint the climber's location within minutes and begin a very accurate and effective rescue. This is but one example of how extreme sports have become safer, yet the general public is unaware of the many previously dangerous aspects of these sports that have been reduced or eliminated.

This commercialization of these types of sports has been largely due to the fact that media interest and accessibility have both increased, as well as the fact that the inherently perceived danger can also be used to generate both genuine interest and profits from people looking to take part in them (Puchan, 2005). A certain mystique and level of "coolness" surrounds those who participate in these sports and being a desirable commodity, commercialization has taken over at the point where sport and personal identity meets.

Traditionally, extreme sports have served a purpose only on the very fringes of the sports or outdoor world. Those who participated in these sports were participating out of some sort of personal need to push the envelope, to be the first, or to challenge themselves and their surroundings (Brimer and Oades, 2009). People looked at these sports from a distance, and many of them did not even come into existence until the modern age. Many extreme sports are combinations of multiple sports, whose culmination was only possible through technological innovation. In general however, those who were willing to challenge themselves completely were looking for the next greatest thrill or fulfilling a personal goal or desire to participate in these sports activities (Brimer and Oades, 2009). As media accounts began to tell tales of adrenalin and personal challenge, more and more people were given an accurate view of these sports. Also, as technology changed and advanced, access to the places and equipment required for these sports changed as well. They went from being personal challenges that were taken up by the fringe of the sporting world to a sort of personal or ego-centered trophy to be presented in the everyday battle to best one's neighbor.

Thrill seekers were attracted more and more to these sports not because of the promise of personal gain, or the fact that people were looking to prove that they could handle the most challenging activities on their own, but because these activities were popularized and glamorized both in real life and in movies and other media vehicles. People have always viewed extreme sports as a way to confront the danger and risk of death and injury (Brimer and Oades, 2009). It has always been a game of mitigating and weighing risks. But as society moves farther away from outdoor experiences and experiences that are direct expressions of man's direct relationship with nature, danger, fear, and death, these sports become more an more a vehicle to experience these things. Symbolically, extreme sports are a way for people to overcome death and the fear of their own immortality (Le Breton, 2000). This is arguably one of the original reasons why people participated in these sports, but this reason is becoming more of the norm than the exception.

Technology has had many different effects on extreme sports, both directly and indirectly. The direct effect that technology has had can be seen in the sports themselves, many of which would not exist today without specific technological advances and mixtures that took place within the past decade even. Technology has also directly reduced many of the risk factors within extreme sports, making them less fatal and more of a matter of technological edge than human will or courage (Horton, 2004). Indirectly, technology has also brought these types of sports to a wider audience, through the internet and TV. More and more people are familiar with extreme sports and as technology costs inevitably drop,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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