Friday, November 30, 2007

RIP Evel Knievel

It was December 31, 1967. As an insane publicity stunt, Evel Knievel had the gall and balls to attempt to jump a heavy Harley over the expanse Caesar’s Palace fountains. After losing a $100 roulette bet and downing a shot of whiskey, Evel Knievel got on his motorcycle, ran a few laps around the large ramps and packed audience until finally revving up and taking off.

His slow-motion crash landing is stuff of legend. Flipping backwards over the handlebars, he smacked the pavement so hard, it split his pelvis in pieces. Like a rag doll, Knievel rolled over and over; his jumpsuit becoming a bag of bones and twisted organs. He only came to rest when finally impacting the cement wall that circled the parking lot.

He was in a coma for a month. When he woke up, he was an American hero. He went on to sell millions of stunt cycle toys and he was a huge hit on ABCs Wide World of Sports. Evel was an outspoken critic about recreational drugs, yet behind the scenes he was a raging alcoholic and infamous womanizer. Still, he was fair—even if he knew he wasn’t going to make a jump, he was going to damn well try anyway because folks spent their hard-earned money to see him risk death.

You wouldn’t see riders flipping light dirt bikes on Extreme Games if not for Robert Craig ‘Evel’ Knievel. My heart goes out to the Knievel family. Imagine the immense escalating tension that family must’ve felt before each gut-wrenching jump year after year. Did I mention Knievel wrote gold-plated checks? That way, no one would cash them. They’d be souvenirs. Which doubled in value today.

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