ESPN The Magazine: A darker shade of White

Updated: July 20, 2006, 6:42 PM ET
By Tim Keown | ESPN The Magazine
On a wet-hot Friday in late June, Louisville is the epicenter of giveaway culture. The Dew Action Sports Tour -- a spectacle of motorcycles and skateboards and trick bikes -- is being held inside and outside Freedom Hall. But the main draw, clearly, is free stuff. They're lining up for packets of acne medication, soda served in specimen cups, posters, decals, snacks, mini Slim Jims. Thousands stalk the grounds, stuffing plastic bags with the fervid zeal of hungry orphans set loose at Halloween.

Action sports are hot, and this is part of the appeal. The ascension of these previously cultish activities into the world of big-money commodification stems in part from the idea that everybody owns a piece of it. The athletes are accessible and accommodating, and even if you don't care about the results, you can head home with a bellyful of beef stick and caffeinated soda, carrying a bag straining under the weight of Oxy packets and Volcom stickers. And while you're resting from the big day, you can always play a video game featuring your favorite action sports stars.

Tim Keown | email

Senior writer, ESPN.com

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