Dave Shively: Living the dream
The video clip was impossible to ignore, seeing that one motocross guy whip his bike through the air two full rotations and land to the cheers of a packed Staples Center crowd at X Games 12.
Tom Ross joked that even, he, a bona fide adult, knew who Travis Pastrana was.
Knowing that he would be in town for this weekend’s Colorado Cog Rally, a public relations spokesperson for Rally America gave me a prompt ‘shout back’ after contacting Patrana’s publicist, who called the Vermont SportsCar marketing director, who asked Travis if he had time to meet and catch up on his life in the month since the defining jump.
With the X Games stereotype burned in my head, I expected a brash, sunglassed and tattooed character, numbed by having to get off a motorcycle to sit in a chair and answer questions.
That’s why I was initially surprised when Pastrana bounded into the Pilot & Today, practically running up to introduce himself. There’s nothing about Pastrana’s demeanor that’s extreme, except for his general levels of enthusiasm. My first question concerned his spectacular crash at last year’s rally. Pastrana answered with a degree of self-critical “aw-shucks” modesty, saying the problem, “was either too much speed or not enough talent.”
Pastrana looks back on the X Games jump, “not as an ending chapter,” but more as closure to his motocross career, having accomplished his goals. At the old age of 22, realizing there’s no such thing as long-term “career” in freestyle motocross, rally car racing has become his singular focus.
For a guy that was world freestyle champion at age 14, Pastrana has an interesting explanation for gauging his success, choosing to concentrate on his love of racing “anything with wheels,” rather than dwelling on sacrifices he made, like the regularities of a typical high school experience. Pastrana was home-schooled from fourth grade on, to train in Maryland in the summer and Florida in the winter.
“Every four-year-old has a dream, and then reality sets in further. For me, reality never really set in,” he said.
I realized that I wasn’t so surprised by Pastrana’s ordinary demeanor and world-beater enthusiasm when I compared him to Tao Berman, the other Red Bull athlete I met this summer, in town for the Paddler Magazine Pro Invitational. After notching a world-record 98-foot waterfall and backing it up with race wins, Berman has been skewered by peers for being a tireless self-promoter.
But talking to Tao it became apparent that he, like Pastrana, possessed the keen self-actualized grasp on his abilities and limits that magnetically attracts attention and corporate dollars.
It’s refreshing to cross paths with these athletes for whom reality has not set in, because it reminds you that behind the outrageous clip is an ordinary person that’s identified, cultivated and mastered the one thing that makes him tick.
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