Hall's influence going wrong way
By Scott Willoughby
Denver Post Snow Sports Writer
The topic of poise is hardly uncommon in the sporting world, yet the reality of it appears to be increasingly rare in the skiing world.
There is a certain irony in the definition that means everything from balance, stability and composure to self-assurance, ease and dignity of manner. And never was it more apparent than during last week's Winter X Games in Aspen, when superpipe skier Tanner Hall put on an inspirational display of catlike balance and stability in the pipe, only to follow it with the dignity and composure of a puppy that hasn't been housebroken.
No one can question Hall's superior skills as a freeskier. Despite coming away without a gold medal for the first time since 2001, he nabbed two silvers as a perennial threat to establish himself as the best skier at the X Games. And if you follow the new-school cyber-babble on the Internet, some of those kids are convinced he takes that title a step further as the best park and pipe skier in the world.
While that may be true, even some of Hall's chat-room devotees have started calling out his behavior as a sore loser who claims the judges hold a grudge against him, by disparaging the slopestyle winner's skiing skills by calling him a 'Rollerblader' and making a mockery of his post-pipe interview with ESPN's Chris Davenport.
'The executives at ESPN were flabbergasted that he had the spotlight on him and chose to act like a 10-year-old,' Davenport said. 'As much as I like the kid person to person, I think he is totally missing the beat as a professional. He's in a position as a superstar of the sport to do a lot of good, influence a lot of kids in a really positive way and be a great role model, and he's not doing any of that. In fact, he's doing the opposite. The weekend before, he got arrested in Vail at the U.S. Open. Then he shows up in Aspen and continues his bad attitude at the world's foremost freeskiing competition while all the media around the world has its eyes on him.
'Instead of acting like a professional, he chose to be a sore loser.'
Davenport and the ESPN executives are not the only ones in the close-knit skiing industry to note the shortcomings of new-school superstars. Perkins Miller of Warren Miller Entertainment recently pointed it out during an industry panel discussion, saying it's difficult to get Olympic-level spotlights shining on new-school athletes like Hall because they lack the poise of ski racers.
I'm not saying Hall owes me or anyone else in the media any more than what they offer, really. And at some level, I actually appreciate his honesty. Maybe he can't relate to the media because we want him to be humble and thankful and polite and speak in clichés like 'Nuke' LaLoosh from 'Bull Durham.' And that's just not who he is.
But I do believe he can do more for the young skiers who soak up his every action like a sponge. And I'm convinced that if freeskiing is to sustain itself as a sport - and people like Hall - its disciples are going to have to learn some respect. Seriously, if it weren't for ESPN and the X Games, he's just another kid in baggy camo and a crooked cap who happens to rip in the halfpipe. Because of them, he's famous - at least for a few more minutes, anyway.
Scott Willoughbycan be reached at 303-820-1993 or firstname.lastname@example.org.