Shaun White’s Private Halfpipe Could Make me a Philanthropist

The corporate world of big companies, with big money and big budgets, has allowed the pros in any sport to advance to a level where all the previous achievements and records are broken so easily that there is almost nothing special about them anymore. Think about the Moto GP, F1, Running, Swimming, Basketball, Sailing and much more, where the records of the past are not even comparable to today’s achievements.

Shaun White in the halfpipe

One of these cases is snowboarding. As many people know, Shaun White may be one of the best snowboarders in the world right now. His primary sponsor, Red Bull, has endorsed what is known as the “Project X”, which consists of creating the best snowboarding condition for its star, to allow him to take snowboarding to “the next level”. One of the greatest achievements in Project X was to create the best halfpipe in the world, completely isolated from any ski resort, accessible only by helicopter, and built from controlled avalanches and 300 man working hours. If you want a full view of the enormous effort (of time, people, money and resources) that this project has requested, check out the Project X Website.

Surely such an initiative would have been unthinkable without the support of a company like Red Bull. But when we close our mouth and regain consciousness from the astonishment that such an enormous effort, a few questions start to rise:

  1. Is such a massive construction justified just to allow Shawn White (and maybe a few members of his crew) to train in perfect conditions?
  2. If we allow athletes to train in nearly perfect conditions -unthinkable until a few years ago – aren’t we just creating an unreasonable gap between the present and the past that makes the sport completely different between generations?
  3. Is it the corporate world evolving or destroying the world of sports?

I don’t have the answer to all these questions, but I can take educated guesses:

The King of the halfpipe
  1. The video you’ll find below has, at this time, almost 1.4M views, and it is only one of the many made by the Project X team. Every video has been ripped and replicated a few times so we can easily guess that the number of “unique views” is huge! I don’t want to take wild guesses on the overall views number, but with this perspective, the investment doesn’t look so wreckless.
  2. I believe that creating the perfect conditions for an athlete to perform doesn’t alienate the sport itself, but it reduces the ability to establish benchmarks.
    • As Moto GP riders this year will set a lap record that will only be meaningful for a short time-span because technological improvement will allow it to be easily beaten next year.
    • The divide between pro and everyone else will increase to the point that the sports we will watch on TV will become completely different to the ones we practice in our free time.
  3. I wouldn’t be able to take a stand on eternal conflict between the positive or adverse effect of corporate money on sports. The only thing I can say for sure is that it very much depends on the circumstances: as it happened in the financial world, increased involvement of large institution is one of the leading causes of the recent economic crisis, but at the same time, private banks allow many people to take loans and mortgages to emancipate themselves.
  4. Big corporate partners like Red Bull allow athletes like Shaun White to push themselves to limits that were not even imaginable a few years ago, and give us wonder-tricks like the Double McTwist 1260, that stand to the Snowboard world as the Mona Lisa stands to art.

I didn’t want to get too philosophical when I thought about sharing this video, but now that you have read it, please do me a favor: next time you order a Vodka-Red Bull at the club, think about this for a second “Am I destroying the true nature of sports ordering this drink… or am I just doing a philanthropic gesture?!”


Author: Paolo

Economist by education, marketer by profession, coffee roaster by hobby.

2 thoughts on “Shaun White’s Private Halfpipe Could Make me a Philanthropist”

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