I never met Dave Mirra, never shook his hand, never watched him ride. I never walked up to him and said hello, yet I find myself struggling to say goodbye. It's amazing how much of an impact somebody can have upon you without any personal interaction.
I grew up messing around on my bike. Before I was ever a die hard park rat in the winter time, I was deep into bmx. It was everything to me. My transportation, my fun, my outlet in the good times and the bad times. Dave Mirra was somebody I looked up to. From his posters, to articles in ride bmx, xgames appearances, and parts in movies I had on vhs, he was someone I idolized.
I would set up my cd walkman with a greenday album and some shitty speakers and ride for hours and hours. I spent several summers, from dawn to dusk, digging bmx trails through the woods. Trips, an hour + to the nearest skatepark, and dreams of riding with him and other pros at the infamous Jaycee park in Greenville North Carolina.
On one road trip with my family I whined and whined, until we drove several hours out of our way just so that I could go to the park one time.
When his video games came out, I played them religiously. There was always this rotation, where I would take a break from riding, play the games, go back to riding, come in for the evening, and stay up late playing more of the games. It's kind of weird looking back at your youth, and thinking about the impact certain sports and people had on your life.
This morning Dave Mirra was found dead. When I saw the news earlier this evening, it wasn't real. It couldn't be real. When you are a child, your idols are superhuman. This man pioneered the sport with some of the craziest tricks out there, the double backflip, 360 flip, and several others. Dave Mirra achieved so much in his sport, could he really be mortal? Many times I feel emotionally void to an extent, I feel like I should cry, or feel more sad than I do. When I heard the news tonight, there was none of that. The instant rush of emotions, struggling to fight back tears, and sniffling as I tried to repeat what I had read to my friends without losing it.
One word hit me harder than anything else, "Suicide". As somebody who has struggled for more than half of my life with severe depression, those words were tough to read. When Colin Winkleman(another bmxer) killed himself 11 years ago, some of these same feelings came up. Many times people say things like "You have this or that, you shouldn't be depressed". What those people fail to understand is that regardless of who you are, your accomplishments, your financial situation, or any other factors, depression can be a huge burden in your life. Sometimes, we see the joy in others, the happiness they project, but miss the pain that's hidden deep within. The truth is, that we don't really know enough about depression. It's a discussion that's easier to sweep under the rug and ignore than bring to the front. It's not a fun topic, it's not glamorous, it's not exciting. Depression sucks. Unfortunately it is something that impacts millions of Americans.
We look at our idols and see the success, we see the accomplishments, and we never really think that these people could have any demons. To me, events like this are a reminder that we need to be more aware of depression and suicide. As much as we might wish, it will not go away if we ignore it. It may not be something that's profitable to market like other things, but there needs to be more discussion, there needs to be more research, and I hope that one day events like today are far more rare.
So Dave, I never met you, I never shook your hand, I never watched you ride, I never said hello, but tonight I'll say goodbye.
Goodbye Dave Mirra.
Thoughts are with your friends and family through this difficult time. You will be sorely missed.