Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Dropping in with Andy Mac
Dropping in with Andy Mac: The Life of a Pro Skateboarder
This is one of those books you semi-reluctantly pick up thinking, “This can’t possibly be very interesting.” But it IS interesting. In fact, I find myself continuing to think about it.
I was already a fan of Andy MacDonald, but that didn’t necessarily mean I needed to know his life story. For one thing, he’s younger than me. How much life story can he have?
Plenty, as it turns out.
When you see Andy on TV, he seems like this nice guy who just happens to be able to dial in insane tricks -- so much so that they no longer look insane. The real story is that the tricks took lots of work, getting a chance to work on them took work and that, yes, the tricks are insane and Andy probably is, too:
“I do admit that from the earliest age, I’ve had a fascination with anything that can result in bodily harm…”
As with most books about a world-class athlete, a big chunk of it is about determination. This insane desire to “make it” “against all odds.”
The odds against Andy Mac are an interesting assortment, many specific to the sport of skateboarding. Any kid with a basketball can follow that dream down at the playground. But a kid who wants to be a Skateboard Vert champ is going to need a Vert ramp and back in the day those were hard to come by. I was stunned to find out the lengths MacDonald was willing to go to. (I.e. midnight missions in black clothes and blackened face to steal plywood.)
Even when he hit the big leagues, money was still a problem. Another shocker: he skated conservatively -- aiming at placing, rather than winning -- because he needed the prize money to get to the next competition. He literally couldn’t afford to take big risks.
Risking his life, however, didn’t seem to bother him. The story and picture of his world-record-setting jump from an preposterously dangerous 4-story ramp make me wish someone had stopped him. It was just plain crazy.
The book’s not perfect. One glaring omission is “the letter.” Early in his career, Andy wrote an outrageous letter which leaked out and made him the laughing stock of the skating world. It took him years to overcome it and it’s one of the most interesting things in the book. Except that the letter itself isn’t in the book.
Obviously, I think this book would be a great read for young skateboarders. But I’m not a skateboarder -- nor young -- and I got something out of it, too.