Mr. Gray is faulty in his assumption that others my age are looking for an easy way out of the world of conventional work, or even much less a way to 'get-rich-quick'. What most of us, who started skating during the last boom (85-89) are looking for is a way to put our talents and hard earned skills to work. And why? Because we want to have the right that seems to be more of a priviledge based on the good fortune of being born in California or some other part of the US sun belt. What right could that be, you ask? I'm talking about the right to enjoy what one is doing for a living; the right to turn one's love into an occupation rather than being forced to pick for a career that which is merely least distastful.
He also commits a slight-yet-unsubtle faux pas when he lays down his idea of a typical young adult skater who should give up on unrealistic expectations and join the rest of the real world. I don't know whether to point out his position as a palm-tree-land ex pro puts him in La La land or paycheck land. He benefits greatly from his pro career, and I am truly happy for him. But I do know that most skateboarders in my position do have the goods. In my home area I am for all intents and purposes a professional. I share with most skaters a joy and passion for the sport identical to that of someone half my age. I enjoy the respect of the locals, and the support of a local shop. The only barrier to my progress in the world (besides my obvious displacement from Sou Cal), seems to be the growing prejudices of a bunch of industry personalities.
Did I say prejudices? I'm referring to this youth-means-everything myth that has infected the training ranks of the major companies. My net-associate Maciej wrote to me in the spirit of support about the strength of small companies and how readily they accept riders of the older persuasion. I took exception to several of his lines of reasoning, a couple of which I will lay out here along with my rebuttals.
"Small companies are for the late-bloomers, Big companies are for those who get sponsored young" The general tone of his statement and his evidence supporting it seems to be the offering of small-company professionalship as a sort of consolation prize for at least trying to make a difference in one's skating. Well, most self respecting skateboarders, including the ones in my crew, would scoff at any attempts to offer us recognition in the form of a Valentine with somebody else's name scratched out. I don't mind the possibility of being in on the ground floor of a future World, Powell, or New Deal. But giving me a present that was just dropped on the floor can be very offensive.
Plus, I didn't start late. I started before my teens, and had the right stuff at the right time. If I had been raised in California like a lot of my contemporaries, I might be getting credit with them today. This is not an excuse, because my eventual success will require none.
His second one I will mention was a response to my stating something to the effect of "a kid in his early teens is a lot more likely to act unprofessionally and skip from sponsor-to-sponsor (leaving the nurturer argument by Mr. Gray open for attack) than one in his late teens or early twenties." Maciej stated that "This is of absolutely no effect to a big company. They can absorb this."
To that I say, what better a way to defeat the purpose of getting only young guns for a team? You're saying that a large company can absorb an unproven talent who could easily end up getting a car and quitting when he's 16, whereas they can't absorb the potential loss (whatever that may be) of an experienced, proven, reputed 18+ year old? If that is of no effect, than what kind of risks are they trying to minimize? Can these 'risks' even be dealt with by age discrimination?
So, what if professional skating is not something I need as a part of my growth? Well, something neither folks touched on that I feel needs addressing is the fact that in order to have clout in the industry after, somewhat of a pro career is neccessary. Even if it's only a couple of years, those two years of making skate history in the soap opera that is the media (paper and metal tape) mean everything in running a company afterwards. Never mind all the non pros who did work their way up to getting to run magazines, darkrooms and editing suites. In order to be the honcho of a company, the credit seems to go to those with the name. I'm not neccessarity aspiring to be Rocco however. Spike Jonze is more like it.
Well, that's about all I can come up with for now. In order to summarize...
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