It's Friday, I'm in love | Simply Ranked

Plus: Content honeymoon, Rowan Davis is PRO, the best play the sports world has ever seen, and more.

It's Friday, I'm in love | Simply Ranked
The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other online things that I cannot stop consuming and how they make me feel, personally.

It’s Friday, I’m in love

Rank: 1
Mood: <3

In perhaps the greatest about-face in the history of Simple Magic and potentially in the history of all niche weekly online newsletters, I have come to announce that I love content again. This abrupt change of heart comes after last week’s Friday Post, where I lamented the sheer flood of said content and our blind adherence to its unending creation and consumption, and how it leaves me suffering the lingering, burning question, why? So what was the dramatic change that turned me from asking, “Why is there so much of this” to “When can I have more?”

I watched Primitive Skateboards’ DEFINE. Behind the Missions Episode 2. Ender Season.

Primitive’s “Behind the Mission” web series is the perfect example of contentification — content made out of or about existing content to continue engagement with the original content long after its initial release — and should leave me in last week’s state of existential unease. A mix of talking head interviews accompanied by raw footage of various team riders, these mini behind-the-scenes docs are ostensibly about the making of Primitive’s previous full-length videos. In the case of “Ender Season,” the focus is on the stories behind, as you might assume, the last tricks of various skaters’ video parts in DEFINE, a full-length that came out nearly a year ago.

However, the production value is high enough and the narrative strength sufficiently compelling that this was the perfect watch as I sat on my couch on Sunday evening, unfortunately still quite hungover. The underappreciated Tre Williams takes us through the struggle and many return visits needed to ride away from his alley-oop bigspin over a large handrail and stair set. Williams recounts how, after finally, mercifully riding away, he gave his friend a long hug. This friend had accompanied him on each mission to offer his support and Williams appreciated it. “He’d been with me on every single battle. He didn’t miss a day… [so] when I see him, I have to give him a hug… to let him feel what I felt real quick.”

It was also particularly fascinating to listen to Spencer Hamilton talk through the process of failing to get a trick, recentering himself, and going back to get it in the same day. He’s quite candid throughout, so you believe it when he says, “That shit felt good” to roll away from. While Tiago Lemos isn’t interviewed for his section, you do get to see lots of Lemos b-roll, which can uplift any content it’s stuffed into.

And if, for the completely understandable reason of over-contentification, you don’t feel as compelled to watch a derivative product like “Behind the Missons” as I was, there are other points of interest in it beyond the enders you’ve already seen, like Miles Silvas describing the weather at a skate spot as “lowkey hella windy.”

Content honeymoon

Rank: 4
Mood: 🎱

In the warm afterglow of having DEFINE. Behind the Missions Episode 2. Ender Season reignite my love of content, I decided to keep going and did something I rarely, if ever, do: click on a YouTube suggested Nka Vids Skateboarding video. But really, how could I not? INSIDE THE PRIMITIVE SKATE PARK WITH PAUL RODRIGUEZ Feat ANDY ANDERSON & FRIENDS is a title with a combination of people and places that are nigh impossible to ignore. Andy Anderson at the Primitive skatepark with Paul Rodriguez? My cursor had never scrolled so fast across my laptop screen before.

The structure of the video itself is engaging enough, with Rodriguez giving a tour of his personal skatepark interwoven with clips of himself and others skating it. First, P-Rod shows us how he can control most of the park’s aesthetic functions via a touch screen mounted into a quarterpipe. The lights, the colours of the lights, the music, a retractable basketball hoop — all at the whim of his finger. He is a gracious, self-effacing guide as he takes us through the park’s obstacles, sharing that he rarely makes it much more than six feet up the wallride (Curren Caples is the only person he’s seen touch the ceiling, apparently doing it with ease).

After Andy Anderson somehow does a kickflip back 50-50 kickflip out on the flatbar and P-Rod is done showing us all of the impressive, modifiable features of the skateable portion of his park, he takes us to the lounge area, which includes a pool table. Here, Nka shares a meandering anecdote about his underrated pool-playing game, which Rodriguez seems uninterested in, instead guiding us back to the lounge’s entertainment section, where a large flatscreen television sits in a custom frame made of recycled skateboard decks. Rodriguez tells us that the lounge walls, with their spaced wood panels on black background, are inspired by “a kind of classic Japanese style house or something like that… it’s got that Zen feeling.”

P-Rod then leads us to a cooler full of A SHOC energy beverages — and that’s where I turned it off because I needed to go to bed. The video’s like a half-hour long, c’mon.

Monica Torres had a good week

Rank: 1
Mood: 🍊🍊🍊🍊

Last week Torres was featured in an excellent Volcom tour video that went up on Thrasher, had her roster spot on Asics confirmed as she toured with their team around Japan, and OJ Wheels released a rad “Welcome to OJ” video part that seems like it might be a footage dump of all of her clips in Nikes as she moves on with Asics, but is great nonetheless.

Torres has been steadily killing it for years now, and even with some big career moments under her belt, like winning Battle at The Berrics in 2019, she’s seemed to stay a bit under the radar. So it’s nice to finally see her get that promotional push. Looking forward to more good weeks to come.

Creative lens

Rank: 2
Mood: 📼 📱

I noticed a lot of comments from friends online and IRL that Rowan Davis’ awesome Lad is Pro video part for Girl Skateboards does not feel like a Girl or Crailtap production. The edit’s Limosine Skateboards vibes are admittedly high. This led some to opine that Girl no longer has a cohesive brand identity. That Crailtap was aping newer, more relevant brands.

To the latter, I’d say: good! There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, with keeping up with the times. And it’s a solo video part, so there should be some allowable leeway to play around. If it feels forced, that can be an issue, but if it’s authentic to the skateboarder, why not? With Davis and Lad is Pro, it fits pretty well. And if this is how Davis wants his skateboarding to be presented, there’s the added perk of this helping him establish his personal brand identity through it.

However, there is something to be said about what that balance should be and how often a skateboarder who rides for a company should be presented through that company’s creative lens. Since the advent of Instagram and online releases, PRO skateboarders have been able to present themselves, their personalities, and skateboarding on their terms, separate from brand-centric projects. That’s a significant shift for a culture like skateboarding, whose heroes had historically been moulded through magazines and videos, mediums generally out of their control. Have those technologies hampered the idea of a skateboard company having a cohesive brand identity built through its riders and, subsequently, its riders’ identities created through the brand?

Would Ray Barbee still be Ray Barbee if his classic Ban This segment was just a series of Instagram stories? If Jason Dill’s Photosynthesis part was a solo affair edited in the no-frills quick-cut style of Misled Youth, would it still have the same impact? Would it have pulled apart the then carefully curated image of Alien Workshop to have a key rider displayed in the light of another brand? Fun hypotheticals to pose, sure. But really, all one needs to wonder is how Davis 270-flipped out of a ledge like that. WTH, man.

More things about bad things

Rank: Ugh
Mood: Ughhhh

On Tuesday, I published a story here in Simple Magic about Street League Skateboarding’s recent deal with the right-wing online video platform Rumble. I talked with a current SLS employee about the reaction of the skaters, coaches, and their colleagues on the ground at the season opener in Chicago last month. I also spoke with Justin Horowitz, a researcher at Media Matters for America, about the potential effect of driving SLS’s young audience into the swamp of hate, bigotry, and misinformation that Rumble actively hosts and promotes.

On Wednesday, the always-excellent Karim Zidan wrote about the deal for The Guardian, focusing on the people behind Street League’s parent company Thrill One.

The season-opening event marked the latest initiative by Thrill One Sports & Entertainment group, whose portfolio that includes popular motorsport events such as Nitro Circus and Nitro Rallycross, as well as a variety of television shows. The company is co-owned by former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta (through his private equity firm) and UFC president Dana White. It also includes investments from television producer Craig Piligian, who helped create The Ultimate Fighter, and former skateboarder Rob Dyrdek.

Thrill One marked the latest strategic acquisition for Fertitta, who is best known for having helped transform the UFC from an ostracized freak show dubbed “human cockfighting” into a multibillion-dollar property. The casino tycoon, who spent a reported $300m with his co-investors to buy Thrill One in July 2022, plans to use the “UFC playbook” to grow the company.

“That’s creating a better product, making it more consumer-friendly, and bringing the product back into arenas,” Fertitta told Sports Illustrated in April 2023. “That also includes better distribution and doing a better job promoting the upcoming events using a lot of the same tactics we used to promote with fights in the UFC.”

“Consumer-friendly” is an interesting way to phrase it.

Something to consider: The best play the sports world has ever seen.

Good thing: Another great piece about A.I.’s potential impact by Ted Chiang in The New Yorker.

So, I would like to propose another metaphor for the risks of artificial intelligence. I suggest that we think about A.I. as a management-consulting firm, along the lines of McKinsey & Company. Firms like McKinsey are hired for a wide variety of reasons, and A.I. systems are used for many reasons, too. But the similarities between McKinsey—a consulting firm that works with ninety per cent of the Fortune 100—and A.I. are also clear. Social-media companies use machine learning to keep users glued to their feeds. In a similar way, Purdue Pharma used McKinsey to figure out how to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin during the opioid epidemic. Just as A.I. promises to offer managers a cheap replacement for human workers, so McKinsey and similar firms helped normalize the practice of mass layoffs as a way of increasing stock prices and executive compensation, contributing to the destruction of the middle class in America.

Another good thing: “Can Skateboarding Help People Deal With Trauma?” Ben Komins interviews Joel Pippus in Jenkem.

Holy crap, one more good thing: “What Blessing This Is #1: Matt Price” is a beautiful start to a new series by Kyle Beachy and Village Psychic.

Until next week… take some time for yourself. Give your thoughts room to wander from nonsense to resolution and back. Go for a walk a let your fingers graze long grasses. Then return home, sit down, turn on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom which is now available, and say goodbye to your spring, summer.

I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that you can pre-order now from my publisher ECW Press. I think you might like it. Here’s what Michael Christie, Giller Prize-nominated author of the novels Greenwood and If I Fall, If I Die (and Canadian skateboarding legend), had to say about the thing.

“With incisive and heartfelt writing, Cole Nowicki unlocks the source code of the massively influential cultural phenomenon that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and finds wonderful Easter-eggs of meaning within. Even non-skaters will be wowed by this examination of youth, community, risk, and authenticity and gain a new appreciation of skateboarding’s massive influence upon our larger culture. This is my new favorite book about skateboarding, which isn’t really about skateboarding — it’s about everything.”