Editor’s note: It’s time again for another article by guest expert John Wyckoff. This month he looks at the trend of people trying dangerous stunts, fueled by reality TV.
By John Wyckoff
Reality shows are anything but. However, they are responsible for creating a new and dangerous trend.
There are more “reality” shows on network TV than just about any other form of entertainment. Why? They cost considerably less to produce than other shows. Reality shows have no high-paid actors and plenty of people willing to make fools of themselves in front of a webcam.
One of the worst, in my opinion is “Fear Factor” in which otherwise ordinary people do disgusting and/or very dangerous things. Of course, they have safety harnesses and other inhibitors to prevent themselves from becoming gory spectacles that will be picked up by the six-o’clock news.
So, why do I say it’s creating a dangerous new trend? Ordinary people often believe they too can do similar stupid or dangerous things and get away with them. The difference is the lack of any form of safety equipment along with a lack of any training or understanding of what can go wrong.
As an example of this trend in the powersports industry, I’ve watched an “Extreme” TV show where very well trained professional motorcycle stunt riders not only ran up a steep bank but also did a complete double summersault while still astride the motorcycle. I’ve also seen motocross events where riders seemed to defy gravity and their bikes appeared to be unbreakable.
How do they do it? Training, practice, special equipment. Add to that these riders are very unusual people with very unusual talents.
We’ve all seen ads for automobiles that depict a car sliding sideways or careening around curves at rocket-like speeds. Usually there is a banner at the bottom of the screen admonishing the viewer not to attempt such feats and stating the ad was done on a closed course with a professional driver.
Unfortunately, most men in their “macho” phase of life think they have the following talents:
1. They are great lovers.
2. They are great drivers.
3. They are fearless.
4. They are immune from physical damage.
In fact they are wrong on all four counts. Let’s not go into the first three. I’ll leave that up to you, the reader. As for the fourth, they have the highest rates of physical damage of any age group except for the very elderly.
Here’s where many go wrong. They see these feats of daring and believe they can do that, too. After all, the guy on TV is no better, stronger or smarter than themselves. It seems many high profile, professional athletes have a tendency to believe their own PR. Since they are in great physical shape, have the flexibility, stamina and agility then it’s only reasonable they too can do these stunts and more. When they fail it becomes the fodder of the sports channels as well as the late night TV shows.
What about those who don’t get the press exposure? They just get the hospital bills. Sometimes their families get to pay the post-mortem expenses along with the hospital bills. I know of no insurance policies that cover acts of wanton stupidity.
It’s true that young men (and sometimes young women) are often more willing to take risks than those more mature. I was when I was younger and I’ll bet you were, too. The difference between now and then was the degree of risk and the amount of knowledge needed to evaluate the possibility of failure.
Binge drinking is not something mature people do, it’s something those who are barely old enough (sometimes not old enough) to drink alcohol, do. The TV news seems to revel when they can find high school or college kids out of control while drinking to excess and then driving off.
While talking to a law enforcement officer about the problem, he commented that these thrill seekers and dare devils don’t seem to have any common sense. My comment to him was that I don’t know why they call it common sense when it’s so uncommon.
Will this new trend continue and grow? I believe it will. It gives validity to the extreme. It offers excitement, danger and admiration of peers. These reality shows make it look easy. We don’t think it could really cause harm because if it did — “Wouldn’t they be forced to take it off the air?” Heh.
OK, now for a reality check. Anything that requires exceptional skill is often made to look exceptionally easy. A tightrope walker makes what he does look easy. The same holds true the trapeze artist. Ice skaters make what they do look almost natural. None of these are things the “average” person can accomplish with any degree of proficiency. All have steep learning curves. All require the training and guidance of experts.
In the powersports industry, ordinary people trying extraordinary and dangerous stunts can lead to lawsuits, serious injuries and death. Along with these extreme trends, dealers and manufacturers are taking more precautions than ever to warn individuals against their own lack of common sense.
Much of the OEM’s precautions are in the form of elaborate warning labels in very conspicuous places.
For dealers, we will soon reach a time when emphasizing safe riding will become as important as explaining product features and benefits.
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John Wyckoff is a true guru of the motorcycle industry. A sought-after speaker at motorcycle events and frequent contributor to the motorcycle press, he is the founder of Intersport Fashions West. He is an expert on the motorcycle business and dealerships and is known for having his finger on the pulse of the motorcycling public. He is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.