Sheltered, old-fashioned, country bumpkin -- call me what you want, but covering the X-Games for the first time as an official reporter was an experience I would compare to Farmer John going to Wal-Mart for the first time.
This realization came to me somewhere between eating my free lunch in the heated, spacious tent marked "Media Only" and flashing my press pass to get access to areas only for journalists, photographers and cameramen.
Last year I made the trip to Aspen, but I didn't apply for a press pass so I was basically a spectator with a camera. This year my brown 3-by-4-inch laminated pass introduced me to camera lenses that gave me an inferiority complex. My lack of lens length made me feel like one of those guys who feel the need to buy a big truck because they're 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Once I got over my lens-envy, I had to battle for position with lenses that are probably insured for more than I'm worth. Nonetheless, I think my equipment performed well, although I couldn't count the number of pores on a racer's nose like those big boys' shots. Who needs a lens that belongs on the Hubble Space Telescope to shoot hillcross anyway?
What I felt from a lack of big-time equipment in relation to the other cameramen must have been similar to what Phil Vallem and his team experienced when they pulled up Monday to get ready for the races. Parked among the tractor-trailers that are probably more expensive than an average house in Craig, Vallem and crew pulled up in a dually with a snow machine in the back and a trailer with the other machines and parts. While the racer and photographer from small-time Northwest Colorado may have appeared under-equipped, Vallem's 11th-place finish and the photos in the paper (at least I hope you like them) show that we can hold our own among the factory- sponsored riders and nationally syndicated photographers.
I will admit that I separated myself from the big boys when I took advantage of as many of the free gimmicks as I could. Beyond the competition of the X-Games is a corporate flood of free stuff and promotions. I made off with free deodorant, no-cost samples of pop and to top it all off, a foam taco that is designed for your head. (See above mug shot.)
As I write this column, I'm looking for myself on television as ESPN shows the quarterfinals of the hillcross event ... Nope, they didn't show me. Maybe I need a "ginormous" (I learned that word today) lens to get on television. Come to think of it, they didn't even show Vallem's third-place finish in the first round. Oh well, I'll trade the big-time for a foam taco hat any day.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org