Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel: R.I.P.

You know you're getting old when the icons of your youth start dying on you. Take the death of Evel Knievel for instance. For a man who broke every bone in his body and courted death with every stunt jump he performed, the fact that he lived to be sixty-nine and died of natural causes speaks volumes about the man.

Even though by today's standards sixty-nine doesn't seem so long, Knievel packed more living into those sixty-nine years than most centenarians.

If you are forty-something and were a regular watcher of ABC's Wide World of Sports then the endless replays of Knievel's thrills and spills are branded permanently in your brain. If you were a fan of Evel then you probably had a favorite spill. My two were the famous Caesar's Palace jump and another jump where Evel landed almost sideways.

I didn't see the Snake Canyon jump live (one of the greatest anti-climaxes in media history).

But still....

Evel Knievel entertained. How many kids bought the Evel Knievel action doll figure with the motorcycle? (One of my neighbors did and he and I used to play with it all the time).

How many kids rigged wooden ramps and rode their bicycles like daredevils?

I did with a bunch of other neighborhood kids at a wooden ramp rigged up at the local creek. After several successful jumps, my last jump culminated in me skinning my elbows and kneecaps.

No more stunt jumps for me after that.

In the 1990s when there was a 1970s revival, nostalgic documentaries on Knievel's career recaptured the magic of those heady days.

His son Robbie's daredevil career also helped revive the memory of his illustrious father.

Even in his elder years, Evel never lost his sense of dash and elan.

He was an American original--never to be duplicated or surpassed.

Rest in Peace.

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