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Protecting Our Children

Helmets Won't Protect Their Hearts

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

Kids from five to mid-teens, as well as people in their 20's, gathered in Carbondale, Colo., in August to watch the professional skateboarders test the town's skateboard park with its bowls, ramps, jumps, half-pipes and a full-pipe.

According to Tom Neven, as sports heroes go for boys ages 12 to 19, skateboarding phenomenon Tony Hawk ranks in popularity only behind former NBA star Michael Jordan and Atlanta Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick. Of course, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger riding a skateboard has also helped boost the sales of skateboards and accessories.

Sales have increased 54 percent since 1998, to $8.3 billion dollars. Eighty percent of U.S. skateboarders fall between the ages of 6 and 17.

“The sport requires incredible athleticism and physical coordination, and assuming one wears the proper protective gear — helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards — it's a pastime most parents could easily encourage,” Neven said. “This sport allows kids a chance to just play and express themselves in unregulated ways.”

Unfortunately, according to Neven, there is a dark subculture of anarchism, insubordination and even satanic activity involved in this sport. No, not all skateboarders succumb to this side of the sport, but there needs to be an awareness of the subculture.

One example Neven uses is that at the Carbondale event, a DJ blared out heavy-metal and rap-core music loaded with obscenities. He added comments of his own that were totally inappropriate and embarrassing to many. He adds, “This element of skateboard culture is long on insolence and short on courtesy, as a quick flip through most skateboarding magazines, including pioneer Thrasher, will show.” Thrasher magazine pictures skateboarding as an almost nihilistic activity, Karl Taro Greenfeld told Sports Illustrated. A quick reading of these magazines will show most parents the negative values associated with the skateboard culture.

Many of the sport's graphics have origins in Southern California gang graffiti. The subculture of skateboarding toys with the occult. Board art often contains dark and often sinister graphics. Sometimes the images are sexual.

Skateboarding is divided into street skating and transitional skating, which is done in bowls and half-pipes. Street skating can be defiantly anti-social. Tony Alva in Heckler magazine said, “Defy authority. Don't let people tell you how to run your life. . . .” “Proudly reinforcing such in-your-face defiance are t-shirts sold by Thrasher magazine that read, ‘ Thrasher: Contributing to the delinquency of minors since 1983.'”

We see pictures of street skaters flying down stairs, skidding along rails and we also see signs that say “skateproof,” areas where street skaters are not allowed. The issue is that skateboarding does damage to public property and is a safety issue for pedestrians. Philip Goldsmith, managing director for the City of Philadelphia, estimates that skateboarding has cost Philadelphia tens of thousands of dollars.

One mother brought her son and a few of his 10- to 12-year-old friends to the skate park in Colorado. When asked about the subculture of skateboarding, she quickly dismissed it as a boys-will-be-boys distraction. She seemed oblivious of the anarchy, the sexuality, the raw language and the satanic symbols, which often seem so “cool” to teens.

Years from now, will she say, “What happened to my son? His core values are so different from mine.”

Hopefully we will remember that everything that goes into the head of a child influences how the child thinks and acts.

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