The road is cars | Simply Ranked

Plus: Can we still see the penises? A Sovereign Sect conspiracy, Axel Cruyseberghs, Tyshawn Jones, and more.

The road is cars | Simply Ranked

The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other things online that I cannot stop consuming and how it makes me feel, personally.

The road is cars

Rank: +ugh
Mood: 🎰

Our beloved sports were beleaguered by boredom, weren't they? How utterly dull it'd become, this static relationship between competitors and viewers. Oh, all we can do is simply watch the absolute zenith of professional athletics. Bullshit. The memories we make and the emotions that course through us, thanks to the assembly line of Great Sports Moments provided on a near-daily basis, are a paltry sum in exchange for our lifetime commitment to being entertained. Sports, we decided, after lobbyists convinced our governing bodies to allow it, needed to be gambled on — from our phones.

How else can you electrify a competition than by attaching yourself to it like a dog whose leash is stuck in the door of a moving car? And if sports betting is the car dragging the curious and addicted, that car is now everywhere. It's on the road, it's plastered on billboards carving chunks out of the skyline, and it's pounding through the radio. If you exist, you are aware of this. Betting app ads flood the airwaves and our screens and sponsor the majority of sports-related media. Those partnerships often compel those programs to include some sort of betting-odds-related segment. In some cases, online sportsbooks have become the media. There is now a DraftKings Network that pays real sports journalists to write and talk about said sports — and gambling. Mostly gambling. The car has become the road.

As Dave Zirin would put it in The Nation:

Gambling is not just essential to the economy of sports and sports media; it has, in essence, become the economy of sports and sports media. Faced with an aging and fragmenting television audience, the sports world turned to partnering with legal gambling operations to fill its coffers. From a dollars-and-cents perspective, this has been wildly successful, and the revenue just keeps growing. But in the process, sports executives ushered a fox into the henhouse.

That was at the end of March when baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani's translator, Ippei Mizuhara, was busted for betting millions of dollars with an illegal gambling operation that, in turn, implicated Ohtani himself. Days later, Jontay Porter, formerly of the Toronto Raptors and the NBA, would be accused and later found guilty by the league of "disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games." He was banned from the NBA for life.

Online sports betting has become so normalized that in 2022, when it came to light that former UFC fighter and trainer James Krause had established an entire racket using insider information that allegedly included "betting against fighters he was coaching," it was already an open secret, as his trainee Jeff Molina would write in Krause's designated betting Discord.

He’s trained w/ a lot of the fighters, lives and breathes this sport as a coach/fighter, & at times has the scoop on injuries — non-announced matchups — how fighters look like in camp, etc. In stocks this is called insider trading in MMA betting it’s called James Krause.

The UFC would ban Krause, but only after he got in trouble. And as if things couldn't get more bleak, this week, Dave & Busters — Dave & Busters! — announced that patrons will be able to bet on arcade games, as a local NBC Philadelphia affiliate reported.

Customers can soon make a friendly $5 wager on a Hot Shots basketball game, a bet on a Skee-Ball competition or on another arcade game. The betting function, expected to launch in the next few months, will work through the company's app.

As we know, nothing is sacred, but skee-ball? Might as well pack it in. Not even skateboarding is safe. Interested parties have been able to gamble on Street League Skateboarding events since last year, with the organization making a more concerted promotional effort around the stakes in recent months.

Via SLS on Instagram.

According to SLS's "Betting 101" webpage, "SLS is currently available to bet in CO, WY, CT & TN, with approvals pending in 22 other U.S. States and international markets." Four states isn't much of a legal market, which can perhaps be explained by this subsequent doozy: "Due to athlete age restrictions in U.S. betting policies, only skaters in the Men’s division above the age of 18 are approved for sports wagering at the moment. The Women’s division is not available given a significant portion of the field is under the age of 18."

Is this something people really need to be betting on if the majority of one competitive field are literal children? Also, are sports something anyone needs to be betting on, especially at will from their phones? Given the catastrophic effects online sports gambling addiction is wreaking, particularly on younger participants, the rational answer would be no. But rationality has no place here anymore. In just a few short years since its legalization in the United States and Canada, online sportsbooks have become foundational to the financial health of sports and sports media, to the detriment of our own. The car has become the road, and we are but an incidental smear upon it.

Can we still see the penises?

Rank: 00
Mood: 🍆

Grit and Glow: Tampa Bay Rays Unveil Skateboard-Inspired City Connect Uniforms
The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their new Nike MLB City Connect Series uniform today, taking inspiration from the region’s skateboarding culture while also mixing in a few fun little nods to the team’s history. These uniforms are set to make their on-field debut during a special weekend series from May

If you need any more proof that skateboarding is firmly entrenched in the broader cultural consciousness, look no further than the Tampa Bay Rays announcing their new Nike MLB City Connect Series uniforms that, according to Chris Creamer at SportsLogos.Net, are inspired by "the region’s skateboarding culture while also mixing in a few fun little nods to the team’s history."

This is apparently "reflected in features like the... skateboard grip tape textures on the jerseys and caps, mimicking the surface of a skateboard and the tactile feel that is central to the skateboarding culture."

There it is, skateboarding culture.

Also, they made a fun little logo where the Ray from Tampa Bay is riding a skateboard.

That is actually pretty sick, even if the front truck appears to be on backward, a detail that many have messed up before.

I think it's fine to extend some grace to outsiders who try to connect with skateboarding in an earnest, albeit hamfisted fashion. They just don't know any better. They should! But they don't. It's all surface-level, and that's generally okay for what stuff like this is — as long as they don't try to position themselves as authorities on the subject. Unfortunately, Warren Hypes, Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Creative & Brand, made some claims to Creamer.

“My favourite little Easter egg about this is that the ray is shown doing the trick called a stale fish — when you go up and grab the board from the back,” said Hypes. “If you don’t know skateboarding, maybe you don’t get it, but for those that do, I think it’s a really fun little Easter egg in this.”

Do you "know skateboarding," Hypes? While it is difficult to identify the stance of a creature without legs, I think it's fair to say, given the forward-facing positioning of the Ray, whose momentum appears to be moving upwards and to its right, that the Ray is goofy "footed." That would make its front fin reaching underneath to grip the board a melon grab, not a stalefish.

The only way that is a stalefish is if the Ray is moving in the opposite direction of where its eyes are facing, which seems unlikely. Embarrassing! The only thing that can rectify this blunder is if Hypes gives us detailed insight into the most pressing matter surrounding these new uniforms.

Four in one

Rank: 1? 4?
Mood: 🕺🕺🕺🕺

It’s a savvy move on the part of Alien Workshop. The storied skateboard brand is now quite a few years into its relaunch and has managed to stay afloat in the public consciousness with at least a few videos or video part releases per year. Attempting to recapture the brand's glory of old would be a fool’s errand; the past is the past and will remain as such, so they’ve worked to build up a new team and whatever legacy that comes with it.

But times are different now, culturally, economically. Fostering a new stable of riders takes time, money, and resources — something nearly every board company in the industry is short on. So they’ve cut some corners, and who can blame them? Because, at the very least, they need to have the illusion of a robust roster, so we think the company is robust. Healthy. Strong. Something worthy of support and not a sickly thing waiting to pass. That’s why they’ve tried to dupe us, passing off Kevin Leidtke, Sammy Montano, Joey O’Brien, and Zach McBride as different people. But I watched the Workshop’s (great) new video Normalize closely, analyzed each of their styles and fits and have come to the airtight, unassailable, empirical conclusion that these are all the same dude:

Nice try, though! And this doesn’t mean he doesn‘t rip. He most certainly does and deserves the multiple pro models he has to his name(s). It's a genuinely impressive feat. Imagine filming that much footage and playing so many parts!

Ultimately, having one person on the payroll instead of four probably saves the Workshop a decent amount of money per month, so good on them. It's a smart move in these trying times. What? Why are you frowning? You think I sound conspiratorial?

There he is

Rank: 1-3
Mood: 🪓

It felt like we hadn't seen anything substantial from Axel Cruyseberghs since, from what memory and the internet can recall, Toy Machine's Programming Injection in 2019. Sure, he's popped up in various Vans, Volcom, Toy, X Games "Real Street," and various Instagram edits, and had that fun shared project with his wife, Lizzie Armanto, but those are, in reality, all spurts. Cameos. Enough to make me wonder, "Is Axel okay?" It turns out that, yes, he very much is, as shown in his latest video part, Paired, released by Free Skate Mag earlier this week.

That feeling that Cruyseberghs hasn't been present enough, or his output had dipped even as we see him post, is a relatively new phenomenon. In the age of social media and our constant content churn, we expect the PRO and AM skateboarder to constantly produce. If it takes a year or two or three to film a new section, in the intervening time, we've been conditioned to posit whether or not that skateboarder has fallen off, given up, succumbed to injuries or the weight of the industry.

At the continued risk of being an old man yelling at clouds, these gaps were the norm back in the day. It was expected that years of one's life would be devoted to a single project. Now, the professional skateboarder is expected to produce as much as possible — for less money. That is, of course, the struggle across most industries right now. Stagnant wages and the constant mission creep of work into all aspects of our lives mean that people are often forced to do more for less.

It's unclear why Cruyseberghs took four and change years between this video part and his last major effort, but from the outsider's perspective, it paid off. And who knows, it might have even been enough time to film two.

There he is, again

Rank: 1...
Mood: 👑

I first saw Tyshawn Jones' 360-flip over his preferred set of NYC subway tracks on Twitter as a screen recording of the Instagram app, where Jones originally uploaded the trick. This is the third time he's taken something over the chasm in as many years. First, there was the kickflip, which made the cover of Thrasher and closed out Supreme's "Play Dead." Then, in an effort designed to cement his second SOTY title, he'd backside-kickflip the gap1 in what was used for a stand-alone Thrasher Instagram post announcing his victory. Now, the 360-flip.

It's odd that this is how things have evolved — that the social media post now hosts the groundbreaking and gobsmacking — but it makes sense for the times and Jones. Like Cruyseberghs, Jones is not afraid to be patient. He'll spend years on a project until it's ready, and when the fandom is parched and pleading for something, anything, he'll release it, and we all rejoice.

His social media strategy is much the same. Every few months he'll post to his Instagram grid — but only if it's worthy. There are no throwaway skatepark clips here. Whether it's an ollie over a Ferrari, a shared post with Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Anthony Edwards, or the viral nollie-heelflip over a rail in a pair of Louis Vuitton boots during Paris Fashion Week, the bar is high. How do you top the Timbs clip? Well, you probably have to 360-flip some subway tracks.

But what comes after that? Can Jones hard post anything less than greatness? I guess we'll find out.

Something to consider:

They Are Insecure For A Reason | Defector
You have probably forgotten about the guy who worked at National Public Radio and got so upset because of how woke it was that he wrote a furious post about it for Bari Weiss’s newsletter, which I believe is called That’s Such A Good Point, Sir. This is entirely for the best. That story wasn’t […]

Good thing: The boys talking books (and classic vids).

Also, José in Interview!

Literary Skater Boys, Rejoice. José Vadi Wrote a Book For You.
The essayist and author of “Chipped: Writing From a Skateboarder’s Lens” joins us to talk Thrasher, punk-lite, and the sport’s assimilation into the mainstream.

Another good thing: Dan Watson's Hi-8 The Path To Totality, which was filmed mostly in and around Saskatoon.

Good book thing: Amy Mattes' novel Late September is out now!

Good video game thing: Sam Eng, the developer of SKATE STORY, recently got a bag from Chanel of all places.

Until next week… if you pull something in your back while bending over to pick up a cup off the coffee table, don't worry; that's just the ravages of time. You have no control over the slow degradation of your corporeal form. Of course, you should still do your stretches and exercises and healthy eating and so on, but we are not meant to last forever. Calling it planned obsolescence implies divine creation, which I'd contest by saying there's nothing divine about pulling something in your back while bending over to pick up a cup off the coffee table, so maybe this is more like a reasonable collapse. The sole of your shoe, the alternator in your car, the shingles on your roof — it all eventually creaks, cracks, and crumbles with use. And that's fine. Because what would immortality be if not an excuse to get back to work?

1 I didn't realize it at the time, but after going through the Simple Magic archives while writing this section, it looks like I may have predicted Jones' backside flip. Or inspired it? Who's to say. Well, you can feel free to say that if you like.

Laser Quit Smoking Massage

NEWEST PRESS, available April 1, 2024


My new collection of essays is available now. I think you might like it. The Edmonton Journal thinks it's a "local book set to make a mark in 2024." The CBC called it "quirky yet insightful." lol.

Book cover by Hiller Goodspeed.

Order the thing

Right, Down + Circle



I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that you can find at your local bookshop or order online now. I think you might like this one, too.

Here’s what Michael Christie, Giller Prize-nominated author of the novels Greenwood and If I Fall, If I Die, 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.”

Photo via The Palomino.

Order the thing