SBJ/July 30 - August 5, 2007/SBJ In Depth

Popular no matter what you call sports

The addition of supercross to the X Games this year has fueled a debate about whether supercross and motocross are action sports or motorsports.

“It is the original action sport,” said Steve Astephen, president of action sports at Wasserman Media Group. “It’s an individual, hard-core event. They’re warriors.”

Camp Woodward President Gary Ream disagreed, saying, “It’s a motorsport with action sports appeal.”

Coy Gibbs, who will launch a supercross team next year for NASCAR’s Gibbs Racing, said, “It’s a team sport to me just like NASCAR. As long as it’s a team sport, I’ll think of it as a motorsport.”

For Chris Stiepock, X Games general manager, the issue is moot.

“It’s a moto-action sport, to be honest,” he said. “We don’t have anything in our bylaws that says it has to be an action sport. It’s who wants to race in it.”

The ability of supercross and motocross to have a foot in both motorsports and action sports has already paid off in increased exposure. Speed, a network dedicated to motorsports, broadcasts more than 60 hours of programming from both sports, while ESPN’s X Games, a competition devoted to action sports, will broadcast its first Moto X racing competition — its own version of supercross — next week.

The sports’ blend of action and motor has allowed them to appeal to the various disciplines of action sports, as well. While BMX riders tend not to watch skate competitions and skaters usually avoid attending BMX contests, both appear willing to watch a moto or supercross race.

“It’s appealing to everyone,” said Derek Sausman, a skater who attended the Las Vegas supercross event last May with two other skaters and a BMX rider. “Everyone is interested in this sport.”

Bob Walker, a sports marketing executive with Omnicom’s Connexions Sports and Entertainment, said, “All action sports funnel into supercross. They all think they’re the gnarliest dudes out there.”

At the professional level, the debate over what supercross and motocross are is immaterial. Both NASCAR drivers and action sports competitors enjoy the sports. For example, NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson took a helicopter from Fontana, Calif., to Las Vegas to watch a supercross race three years ago, and skater Ryan Sheckler and snowboarder Danny Kass attended the Las Vegas supercross race in May.

Many NASCAR drivers and action sports pros consider themselves amateur motorcycle racers, as well. Former U.S. ski team member and downhill champ Daron Rahlves said that if he weren’t a skier, his second pick as a pro athlete would have been motocross.

“It’s an incredible challenge and takes tons of skill, confidence, balls and physical strength,” Rahlves said. “The reason why lots of action sports and other athletes ride dirt bikes is for that feeling we get in our own sports. We don’t have to be great at motocross to feel that same rush.”

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