21 July 2008
Open Letter to Ryan Sheckler
Dear Ryan Sheckler, I am writing this in response to a recent ESPN profile on you. I’m not writing this to ‘hate on’ you for your sponsorship choices, television show, body-building or tattoos. I’m writing this as a friendly suggestion that none of this is going to end very prettily for you. But more importantly, I’m writing this to thank you for killing skateboarding. Who am I to comment? No one really. I have never been that great of a skateboarder. Never even been sponsored. I’m a washed up old never-has-been in skateboarding terms but it still means the world to me.
There is no denying that skateboarding has gone through various cycles where it has made a lot of people a lot of money, some of them skateboarders, others not. Skateboarding has also gone through cycles where it was predominantly controlled by its participants. I am not going to pretend that skateboarding ever was ‘pure’ or immune from consumer culture. Nor will I pretend that ‘real’ skateboarders are too ‘hardcore’ to care about making money from skateboarding. That would simply be untrue. Consumer-culture and material trappings have been a part of skateboarding as long as ‘youth culture’ has been a commodity. In other words, there has always been a ca$h in- element to it, it has just been easier to do in certain eras like this one, than in others, say the early 1990s. At the same time, amongst all the popularity cycles and economic ups and downs, a significant segment of skate culture has always held onto an independent, if esoteric spirit.
Even in this day and age of Nike SB, skateparks in every town, traveling extreme sport freak shows, Tony Hawk Video Games and the Life of Ryan ‘reality’ television shows, skateboarders still have a vested interest in what is healthy for their ‘culture’ and what isn't. In other words, Skateboarders still have some sense of pride, a belief that skateboarding is theirs, by them, for them.
Signature mouthwash, deodorant and whatever the fuck else is just plain whack and I’m sure even you yourself are aware of this. Its as whack as ESPN having any control over how the masses view skateboarding. You don’t need anyone to spell out why skateboarders hate you or why your fans are not skateboarders but a ‘target consumer audience’ of teenage girls and pre-pubescent boys who are being raised by television and the internet. Over the next few years these people will out grow you and out grow any interest in skateboarding. It will become a joke and die, and hopefully shrink back into the sewers (or better yet drainage ditches, pools and the streets). And a part of you will die with it. Maybe you’ll end up like Hosoi, Gator, or Adams but you could still survive.
I do say I have to admire your unapologetic intent to “capitalize on everything I can” but as you might be aware, Ryan, the economy the United States is in the toilet. The dollar is worth fuck-all, jobs are disappearing, housing prices are plummeting and most relevant to your kind, consumer spending is tightening up.
Some economists posit that we are entering ‘late capitalism.’ There is no getting around the fact that at a very base-level capitalism is dependent on the denial that the earth’s resources and raw materials are infinite. I don’t really understand economics but I do understand skateboarding and even have a crude understanding of its relationship to the economy. And your version of skateboarding is as unsustainable as capitalism.
Skateboarding like capitalism is on its deathbed but unlike capitalism there is a good chance it will survive an economic meltdown and come back stronger and more vital because we will be in control again. You see some of us are like filthy rats, Ryan, we can survive without signature deodorant, in fact we can survive without any deodorant at all. So don’t be so sure when you say, in ten years time, “I'll still be skating, doing my business things, doing everything I want to do. Clothing line. Acting. Only with more downtime.” There is a very good chance life will not be that cushy for you and even if it is, there is a good chance that you will feel shitty about it and have to finally succumb to the medication that you are currently refusing to take (which is commendable by the way). But there is also a chance that you’ll embrace The Death of Ryan ShecklerTM as readily as you embraced The Life of Ryan ShecklerTM.
You are killing skateboarding Ryan and now it is time to kill yourself. We’ll thank you on the other side.
In the words of Jason Jesse, “I love it so much, I wish it would die.”
Your Foulweather Friend.