There’s a current Twitter meme going around in which Twitter users are encouraged to post pictures of two athletes – one athlete that the 10-year-old Twitter user idolized, and then a current athlete that catches his attention.
So I did this.
Evel Knievel was a bad-ass stuntman. His whole raison d’etre was to race his motorcycle over whatever obstacles faced him – jumping over a fleet of cars, a series of school buses, heck, over nearly anything. And most times, he survived the experience. Other times, he crashed in such spectacular fashion, you would think he was due for last rites.
This looks like just a simple jump to the uninitiated. But there’s so many factors Knievel had to calculate for a successful jump. Speed of the motorcycle. Distance. Velocity. Pulling the bike up in mid-air so that the back tire landed on the ramp. Hitting the exit ramp in the perfect spot.
And when it goes wrong … well, check out Caesars Palace in 1967. The day Evel Knievel tried to jump his motorcycle over the fountains at the casino in Las Vegas. But he misjudged the landing, and … well … have you ever seen slow motion footage of a man breaking 40 bones all at once?
Trust me. Evel Knievel was a badass. I remember stories of classmates who tried to set up their own wooden ramps in the neighborhood – usually a plank of wood that was elevated by a cinder block – and tried to “jump” their Schwinns or Huffys into the air. Maybe if those kids used the Evel Knievel line of branded two-wheelers, there wouldn’t have been so many calls to the orthopedic surgeons after failed jumps.
Or you could have set up your own launch run in the backyard, pulled out the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle toy (from Ideal) and launched it as well. Licensing his name to those toys certainly made Knievel a wealthy man.
But getting back to the stunts. And of course, here’s footage of Knievel’s legendary jump over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling premature chute deployment. Ugh.
Then again, for all the failed jumps, there were the successful ones as well. And I kind of focus more on the successes.
And I get it. As an athlete, he was at the top of his game. As a person, he had flaws. Many flaws. Then again, all people have flaws. Even the flaws became part of Knievel’s legendary ethos.
Trust me. Even decades after that failed Snake River Canyon jump, Knievel still had the badass attitude about the situation, as noted in this radio interview with sports commentator Jim Rome.
So yeah. Evel Knievel was definitely worth watching as a kid. Heck, turn on Wide World of Sports, and you might see him attempting to jump a parking lot of double-decker buses in Wembley Stadium, or a row of cars at a county fair in Wisconsin. And if he made the jump, it was great. And if he failed, well, it just meant that after the bones healed, he’d be back on his motorcycle and setting up for another classic jump attempt.
Yeah, that was fun.
Back in the day.