One night in San Francisco, a van full of rollerbladers walk into a bar. They’re having fun, getting drunk, and doing things drunk rollerbladers do.
A blader you may know is casually talking to a young lass.
Fish: We rollerblade.
Female (laughs): No, really, how do you guys know each other?
Fish: No, really, we rollerblade.
Female, looking extremely confused: Wait? You guys really rollerblade? Even that cool guy over there?
Female, still confused: Whatever.
The female walks away. She returns minutes later.
Female: Okay, are you just messing with me, or do you guys really rollerblade?
(EDIT: Unfortunately, the original version was not true enough. I was one of those drunk rollerbladers doing things drunk rollerbladers do. Anyway, Fish corrected the story to make it 100-percent true because Fish is a nice guy like that.)
See, we as individual rollerbladers can be cool. Shit, Stokley’s cool. Fish is cool. But as rollerbladers, we’re not cool. And it’s not just some random bitch at a bar that thinks so.
You know the jokes. You’ve seen the Dos Equis ad with the Most Interesting Man in the World on his view of rollerblading.
Whatever you’re doing right now, stop and ask yourself: am I being cool right now? It’s important if you want to fit into society. So yeah, always do what other people think is cool.
The public is fickle. We, as a collective society, have a limited attention span. We fall in love with something and immediately forget about it. Love and attention are fleeting things. Love what you have while you have it because soon — POOF! — it’s gone.
But love, in the terms of what the public wants so badly and then immediately despises, is all about saturation. The public loves something until it’s had too much. Then it moves along, passing judgment and washing its hands along the way.
When it comes to the idea of public opinion, I firmly fucking disagree with Mark Twain.
Think of your favorite song. Not your favorite song right now, but your favorite song of all time. Now think what would happen if you listened to it all day, everyday. You’d get fucking sick of it, right? So that’s why you only listen to it when you need it, like getting ready to lace a huge hammer or you finally have the best edit ever and need the right fucking song.
Well, skateboarding is the song that’s being sung. right now Unfortunately, everyone’s signing it and society as a whole is getting a little tired of hearing it. Maybe not right now, but soon.
The same way blading was everywhere in the 1990s, skateboarding is there now. You can buy a T-shirt with Justin Bieber skateboarding. We’ve all seen the ads with MC Hammer kick flipping a skateboard. Advertisers are all about taking their product, adding in a skateboard, and calling it “edgy.” Skateboarding, right now, is being used as a tool to link popular culture with a fringe culture. It happened with rollerblading. That’s where the mainstream exposure, sponsorships, and attention came from. It’s gone now, and it’s in the hands of skateboarders.
Skateboarding is cool… for now.
That is changing. People are seeing skateboarding less as a hip thing, and more of a thing that everyone does. That’s why when you tell someone you skate, they automatically think skateboarding. Or, when you tell them you rollerblade, they’ll still think skateboarding. The collective brain of society has had skateboarding mashed into their skulls for so long that they can’t separate it from something else. It’s like we’re all suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or something.
It’s not skateboarding’s fault. Yeah, everyone who rides a skateboard (which is completely different than a skateboarder) thinks they belong to this uber-chic subculture that still maintains a pure soul.
Skateboarders are the dudes that live for what they do. People that ride skateboards want to be part of the culture. They see what’s out there and want a piece of the action, yet they can’t get their board off the ground. It’s a fashion statement more than a way of life. I’m old enough to remember when rollerblading was that thing.
The difference for us is that when people think rollerblading, they think of people awkwardly clomping around on rec blades. They think spandex, and clumsy movements, and fanny packs.
You never hear about “recreational skateboarding” although I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of the money poured into corporate contracts for skateboarders come from that money. If you carry a skateboard around, the general impression from others is that you’re more like this:
Still, that doesn’t mean the most badass motherfuckers on boards aren’t the sickest dudes to share a skate spot with. These are the old school cronies that can shred a bowel at 30 mph, the guys who love when you wax everything up, and the guys with more scars than tattoos. Those dudes are awesome. However, they’re also the image of their sport. They skated for decades not giving a fuck what greater society thought of them. They just skated.
That’s who we are.We keep doing what we’re doing and most of us don’t give a shit about what society has dictated as the cool thing for the moment.
There are thousands of people who rollerbladed, loved it, and now talk shit on it. Why? Because it’s cool to hate on things that lots of people think are uncool.
Even if they’re doing Superman front flips.
This idea of cool is largely dominated by the mass media, mass culture, and mass consumption. Whatever people are buying is cool. Whatever is on TV is cool. Whatever is being said by the people who own the magazines, TV stations, and multi-million dollar advertising budgets is cool.
Therefore, since we don’t see rollerblading anywhere any of that, that makes us uncool by the means by which all else is cool. It’s simple math.
So people say we’re uncool. Now, maybe rollerblades are becoming cool again, the same way Grunge is slowly making a comeback. So get ready to see more people taking off their Doc Martins to put on rollerblades while they wear their flannel shirts tied around their waists.
See, we’re just getting through the 80s neon color phase, so that means the 90s are next. Rollerblading went from cool to the gayest thing since AIDS and now it’s retro.
That’s right. Most of us old dogs have been blading long enough that we went from its infancy to being retro. Let that shit sink into your head.
That being said, we need to seriously lighten the fuck up.
People talk shit. That’s why the internet was invented. It gives a voice to those who have the courage to say, but not to do. No matter what you do, someone is going to hate it. Now, we can either keep our calm, let people say what they want, and keep them in their ignorance.
Or, we can try to say something when we’re feeling overly-emotional, but there’s a good chance our angry words will fall on deaf ears. Worse yet, they’ll fall on ears who could hear our response coming a mile away.
It all started when Vice magazine did a light-hearted piece about slapping some skates on a dude who’s never bladed and having him roll around the city. There was no research into market trends, rollerblading as it is now, or anything like that. It was just a simple, funny piece.
The article title, I imagine, was the main thing that pissed everyone off.
Yeah, you know the answer to that one.
The response was SO big from the Vice article that it warranted a follow-up based on the reaction of skaters and bladers alone.
Why man? Who, besides anonymous commenters could spark such ire that they had to throw off the gloves and strap on the Boneless?
See, these are all golden opportunities to go in there, drop some links to some great edits, act like members of a civilized race, and represent rollerblading as something that’s secure with itself.
You could be all cool and say something like:
You should check out what other bladers are doing since we were ‘laughed out of the public domain’.
Okay, it’s not the most riveting comment in the world, but if you leave it to a fucking cool edit like the one from Mark Wojda, you’ll get a lot more people to pay attention to blading.
Nope. Instead it’s all:
Fuck your dead mother’s vagina with a broken off broom stick like Jeffrey Dahmer in a prison shower. — John Bolino
We out here and shit. Fuck all you pussy-ass bitches. We’ll rain paper because we getting paid here at the Razor’s House! — Sneaky
Please don’t mention rollerblading again. If rollerblading became popular, we’d stop making skates. Because, you know, we’re hipsters and shit. Also, we don’t like Bon Iver anymore. He’s too mainstream. — Team Valo
I imagine everyone would prefer all stories end up like the one that was on Slate this week:
Please don’t take any of this the wrong way because I fucking love blading. I think it’s the sickest shit out there. But, since I’m a blader, I’m not cool. I don’t do cool things like skateboard, or ride fixies, or wear Ray Bans, or all sorts of other shit really cool people do.
We have to admit it, or we’re going to keep looking like pissed off little children when we go crying to places that say even one single ill word or attempt to throw some kind of humor in the situation.
I rollerblade. I wear rollerblading clothes. I go to Detroit in the fucking winter to hang out with my rollerblader friends and watch some badass rollerblading. I fucking love it.
No, I’m not cool. And I’m fucking cool with that.
Blade or Die,
— Brian Krans
P.S. — If you found any reason in any of these ramblings, you might want to check out my next book, Freeze Tag on the Highway. Yes, one of the characters blades. Deal with it.