July 24, 2006


Crooked Grind

(Photo by Cara Grae Meling)

...In a recent “This I Believe” segment on NPR’s All Things Considered, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk discusses being proud of his career and also describes how skateboarding is viewed by many people who aren’t members of the skateboarding community: “It was a kids’ fad, a waste of time, a dangerous pursuit, a crime.”
...While Mr. Hawk probably didn’t break any laws throughout his skateboarding career, it’s necessary to say that many people view skateboarding as a crime only when it’s perpetrated in a criminal manner. And yes, those of us who choose to live in the real world are fully aware that skateboarders have committed crimes—namely vandalism and trespassing, but sometimes worse.
...A few months ago a new Subway was erected in my hometown. As soon as the cement was dry on the steps and ramp leading to the front door, several local skateboarders made sure that they had christened it by riding their skateboards over it, grinding their wheels into the steps and leaving chunks behind for the owner to pick up the bill. The local police had to patrol more than usual just to make sure that the kids weren’t destroying more of the private property.
...In June, a town a few miles away was the scene of a similar situation, where a new woodworking shop was built, complete with a brand new set of steps and lengthy ramp—almost identical to the local Subway. Before you knew it, that town’s skateboarders decided to lay claim to those steps, leaving chunks of concrete in their wake, too.
...Finally, as I had mentioned earlier, sometimes skateboarders do things that are worse than vandalism, and unfortunately this time it hit closer to home than I could have imagined. Three years ago, a family member’s high school friend had been experiencing routine problems from three skateboarders in his neighborhood. His house had a large brick wall in front of the sidewalk with steps to one side leading to the home, and the three skateboarders had decided to call the brick wall their own, using it for tricks and destroying it a little more each time that they used it. He and his wife had been growing frustrated with threatening to call the cops, and even when they did call, the kids would make sure that they were out of the area by the time that the cruiser rolled by.
...Then one day things took a turn that he hadn’t expected. It was another afternoon when the three kids were using his brick wall as a ramp, loosening a few bricks and knocking out a few more. This time he decided to let them know, face-to-face, that their parents would be getting a bill for the repairs to the wall, and that he had called the police yet again. What happened next, no one would have predicted.
...One of the kids picked up his skateboard and used it to sucker-punch the homeowner, leaving him unconscious on the ground with a fractured skull and broken jaw. No one was sure if he would recover, but over time he has.
...None of the kids were prosecuted because the homeowner’s memory had been affected by both the blow to the head from the skateboard and the fall to the ground. The only witness didn’t see the actual attack—only the kids running away from the scene (and it wasn’t even enough to make a positive identification).
...It should not be assumed that I’m suggesting that all skateboarders break the law. Instead, I’m suggesting that an unusually high percentage of skateboarders are willing to break the law—mostly by trespassing and vandalism, some much worse—and thus give the rest an extremely bad image.
...With all due respect to Mr. Hawk, those of us who view certain acts of skateboarding as crimes don’t do so simply because we don’t like the act of skateboarding; we do it because too many skateboarders are actually committing crimes.
Source: NPR


Blogger a.m. said...

Holy cow!

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Legally Insane said...

as traditional tsunami folklore warned indonesians never to turn one's back on the sea, so to should you never turn your back on potential thugs or allow them to get within one arm's distance of you...

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Dana said...

I have to say that this is so terrible. I think these kids need to learn respect. Surprisingly, in my town we had some problems until the village build a skateboard park. No more vadalism, no more trespessing. Not that this works in every town, but it sure helped ours.

July 25, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

A skateboard park was actually talked about here, but the problem was that the town’s council was considering using a tennis court as the location, which had tennis players angry because not only would they be losing their court, but it would be to cater to kids who would otherwise be vandalizing local homes and businesses. It looked a lot like extortion (an “If you don’t build us a park, we’ll have no choice but to use your front steps” kind of deal) and didn’t have a lot of support from many taxpayers.

The tennis players had a lot of leverage on their side, too, because it was pointed out that: (1) the tennis players had never broken any laws; (2) the homeowners near the tennis court were pushing to have the tennis court (and tennis players) stay there; and (3) the tennis players and nearby homeowners were voters and taxpayers. The third reason probably had more leverage than the first or second.

I look at it like the Catholic priest molestation scandal. Are all priests child molesters? Of course not, but a disproportionate number have been and the Church helped to cover it up too many times. Similarly, in this area (even the photo for this post was from a 2002 Penn State University story about campus vandalism by skateboards) we’ve experienced a disproportionate number of skateboarders ruining steps, railings, walls, etc. Each case of vandalism has been defended under the guise of “having fun,” but it’s not fun for homeowners and business owners who have to repair their property for someone else’s “fun.”

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Wild Mtn Honey said...

Skateboarding is one of those sports that attracts punks, in fact they are proud to be punks, they shout "I'm a punk" in they way they dress, talk, walk, etc.

The young punks who skateboard have a rep to protect, that of being an asshole. For some reason that I now forget, being an asshole was considered very cool at 18-years-old.

I took my 2 yr old son to a skate park because I thought watching them do their tricks would be fun, but we had to leave because these teenage punks were talking like the future convicted felons they will surely be.

Most of them probably mellow-out over time, like the rest of us did.

p.s. My jaw about dropped when I read in your profile about you being a member of the 'radical center.'
Check out my blog, I thought I coined that phrase!

I think Tony Hawk

July 25, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

I didn’t steal “radical center” from you—I swear! I heard it somewhere else a few months ago and thought that it fit, although I’m still toying with “friendly fascist”—but that one might be interpreted the wrong way.

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Ms. B said...

I agree with most of the comments here. It certainly is not right that these kids are destroying property or attacking people who catch them. That's just obviously wrong on so many levels.

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. I have to say, however, that it isn't fair to stereotype ALL skateboarders. They're not all assholes (and I'm sure that isn't the intended meaning of Wild Mtn Honey's post, or anyone elses for that matter.) I've taught quite a few kids who are considered "skaters." Yes, some of them can be crap heads. Some of them can be GREAT KIDS, however, and they truly appreciate it when people don't assume that they're losers, druggies or jerks just because they like to skate, wear super-baggy jeans and spike their hair. They just want to be themselves and have fun doing something they love. Absolutely, though... doing what you love doesn't entitle you to destroy property.

Many kids, not just skaters, talk like "future convicted felons." No, it's not an excuse...it makes me cringe whenever I hear some kid swear in my class or the hallway at school, and they certainly get in trouble for it. The thing is, they're learning it somewhere...and perhaps many of them are learning that it's not that big of a deal. Maybe from parents, older siblings, other friends. The same goes for the respect of other peoples property. I used to live next door to a family who had a young boy (maybe 4 years old?). One day I was working in my garden, and I saw this kid toddle into my yard with his wiffle-ball bat and take a whack at my tulips. He cleared one of the buds right off of the stem. His mom was sitting on the front step watching him, and after he did this, she just got him out of my yard, saw me, and then went inside!! No apology, no reprimanding her son, nothing. By not saying anything, she taught him that it's ok. I think that's the situation in alot of cases...kids aren't learning what is ok and what isn't. Who's fault is that? Theirs?

The bottom line is that kids can be disrespectful, regardless of what crowd they hang with...whether its the jocks or the cheerleaders or the artsy kids or headbangers. They can also be great kids if they're given a chance.

Providing them a place to skate is a great idea. It keeps them out of trouble, gives them something fun to do, and steers them away from destruction. It's a shame that your town can't manage to find a way to provide a skate park. Perhaps getting the kids involved on the planning and building, even fundraising, would be a good move. Who knows?

July 25, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

I can understand your concern with stereotypes, but that’s why I’ve mentioned that not all skaters are bad. There are going to be a few out there who are into skateboarding for the sake of skateboarding, who have no interest in the bad-ass, rebellious image. Like it or not, a lot of them do.

Since you mentioned headbangers, I’ll use that as an example (especially because you know that I was big non-metal head metal head when I was younger). Yes, I was into that genre of music, but I was also cognizant of the other people who were metal heads and their outward appearance (and that extends beyond their clothing to their social graces, use of profanity, substances, run-ins with the police, etc.). Those were the guys who listened to metal to be rebellious; those of us who listened to the music but didn’t get into the “scene” didn’t have to worry about being stereotyped because we were aware of it to start and had no interest in the superficial nonsense that came with it.

I’m fully aware that not all skaters are bad because one of the kids at the school where I work is a skater and he’s never given me any problems. He’s quite polite, and that’s why I’m saying that not all skaters are bad.

What I am asserting is that I’ve seen—firsthand—skateboarders who have been more than willing to destroy property for their own recreation, and unfortunately it’s been several. Is that stereotyping? I’d say that it is no more than what the priest analogy which I used earlier. Would it be stereotyping to equate priests with molestation scandals? I’d say no, simply because too many cases have occurred, but at the same time one could say that not all priests are molesters. That’s because not all of them are.

If we’re talking about stereotyping, I’d sooner reserve it for things like all blondes being dumb or blacks eating certain types of food—their origins are questionable and their basis in truth are in doubt. My suggesting that skateboarding has had criminal activity related to it is based on the fact that it has. Again, it goes back to what said above: I’m not suggesting that the rate is 100%.

I think that a lot of it has to do with something that Wild Mtn Honey said that explains why it has happened, and that’s the point about many skateboarders getting into the scene because of its mystique of rebelliousness. A lot of them are looking for that rebel/punk outlet—if they weren’t, they’d probably be doing something more “socially acceptable.” It’s a lot like motorcycle gangs of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; most of the gangs had an outlaw image and most of the guys trying to get into the gangs weren’t interested in looking like choirboys. Does that make all motorcycle gangs lawbreakers? Of course not.

This is why I think that I haven’t seen them doing fundraisers around here for a new skate park. Bake sales aren’t very bad-ass.

July 25, 2006  

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