Nobody’s darlings.

August 1, 2010 by Scott Heisel

Nobody’s darlings.

I've been obsessed with ESPN's 30 For 30 documentary series for months now. For those unfamiliar, ESPN asked 30 filmmakers to each make a documentary about essentially anything sports-related from the past 30 years. There have been some truly incredible films thus far (if you're looking for a good place to start, try The U or June 17, 1994), but the most recent installment, The Birth Of Big Air, really hit me.

The film, directed by Jackass' Jeff Tremaine, tells the story of pro BMX rider Mat Hoffman and his quest to always go higher. He didn't do it for fame or fortune (as in the late '80s and early '90s, there really wasn't any in BMX); he did it because he had to do it. He was just a kid from Oklahoma who found his calling, and nothing—not broken bones, not a coma, not 100-plus concussions—could tear him away. In the process, he practically invented every trick common in BMX riding nowadays. He was a true trailblazer and a legend of the sport, and as such, has never gotten his due.

It's funny how well that translates into the contemporary punk/hardcore/emo scene. Pick any subgenre that's come to prominence in recent years—odds are, there was a band or two that slogged it out in the trenches for years with little to no recognition (or financial security), doing it just because they had that fire inside of them that was impossible to snuff out. But eventually, real life—husbands or wives, kids, bills, lack of health insurance, lack of a savings account—caught up with them before the mainstream did and they called it quits. But the funny thing about that flame is that it might flicker, it might shrink, it might be at the very end of its wick—but it will never, ever burn out.

Despite suffering a ruptured spleen that nearly killed him (and landed him in a coma for three days), Mat Hoffman never stopped riding, never stopped trying to go bigger and bigger. In the film, his doctor describes Hoffman as being 38 with the body of a 60-year-old, and I imagine it's only going to get tougher every year for him. But still, he soldiers on. He knows no other way.

Recently, I learned of a band considering getting back together. I can't tell you who, but I will say they were around in the '90s and were semi-overlooked during their time. I imagine their motivations wouldn't be for money nor for increased recognition; I assume it's the same as what drives Mat Hoffman: the need to create things that were otherwise uncreatable. Whatever else comes is just gravy.

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