The question of extremeApril 4, 2008
Whether a sport is classified as extreme or not continues to play on our minds. Doubtless the skydiving that you have just read about has its extremes, you are traveling at maximum velocity, you are in an alien environment for a creature without wings, there is a chance of fatality, although at 0.00175% this is extremely (!!) small – in fact you are far more likely to get taken out in a downtown suburb by some crazy junkie looking for his next fix – but that aside – what is the single defining factor which makes a sport extreme? Does it have to have the potential for an association, however small, with fatality?
Of the sports we look at on a regular basis there would seem to be a chance of death. But if you talk with practitioners of these extreme sports about the potential of a fatality they will say ‘yes there is a chance…..’ but that is about the limit of what they have to say about not coming back from their experience, as they move quickly on to talk about speed, independence, freedom, adrenaline, the fun and the rush and extreme excitement.
What is the ‘thing’ in our psyche which makes us put our lives at risk to participate in these sports? Is not a game of boule where the competition is intense and the score at 12 – 2 before ending at 12 – 13 an example of extremely exciting sport? But boule would never be classified as an extreme sport – there is a chance of a fatality, you might trip and hit your head on one of the metal balls and pow – you’re a gonna, but thats not going to win the argument.
Is it that our lives are so dull and boring that to provide a balance we have to tip ourselves to the other end of the scale with a near death experience? But its not as if everyone participates in these crazy sports, nor are all the participants teenagers who generally have no concept of ‘fear’. (Are we saying that we – who are rather more advanced in years than the teenagers – have simply not grown up – that may well be the case!) But that is a digression – for be you a teenager or a senior citizen we are still putting our lives at risk for our own kind of adrenaline fix. Even that we find unsatisfactory, for whatever sport it is there is so much more than the adrenaline. Competition must be part of the equation – that fascinating human attribute which says subconsciously that ‘I can beat you’ – but again we are not all so competitive that we would risk life to win.
The more we think about this issue we realise there is no single trait which makes us extreme – you may do it to go faster or higher, you may do it to be a winner or for the adrenaline, perhaps it gives you kudos and confidence. We also share a common belief that although we recognize there is danger involved we are unanimous in our belief that we will not be involved in that danger. A reflection perhaps on the extraordinary and indomitable human spirit – and an interesting paradox – and one that we will leave to be answered by someone with an above average intelligence quota and who probably specializes in psychology.