The Norman Transcript

National Sports

February 5, 2013

Re-examining an entire sport

(Continued)

DENVER —

“We permit so many events and they’re all so different in nature, too,” said Mike Kraemer, a planner for the department that handles special event permits in Aspen. “We’ve never had machines go into the crowd. We may need to ask, ‘How can you mitigate for those types of actions?”’

That question, along with equally big issues of rider safety, will be on ESPN’s plate over the upcoming year.

“ESPN’s Safety and Security departments go through a diligent review of all venues for the safety of staff, athletes and spectators,” Scott Guglielmino, ESPN’s senior vice president of Programming and X Games, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Among the core issues network officials will have to discuss is whether the thrills, spills and ratings provided by snowmobile tricks are worth the risks that became so apparent in Aspen last month. ESPN’s average of 1.1 million viewers for nine telecasts hovers around the same area as the PGA Tour but below that for NBA telecasts.

Snowmobile jumping is hardly the first sport in which athletes willingly subject themselves to severe and sometimes life-threatening injuries. But even sports such as football and NASCAR, which are an ingrained part of American culture, have been under pressure in recent years to improve safety.

“I guess the question is, do we acknowledge that there are certain sports that are so established that danger has become a fact of life, and are we OK adding more to that list?” said Robert Thompson, a professor who studies popular culture at Syracuse. “But certainly if we said we should not legitimize a sport where the possibility of serious injury or death is there, then we’d have to look carefully at some beloved institutions in this country.”

Sporting high-wire acts used to be the domain of Evel Knievel, whose jumps across the fountains at Caesar’s Palace and elsewhere made news not only because of their intrepidness, but because he had a willing media partner in ABC, which put them on “Wide World of Sports.”

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