Luke Graham.

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Luke Graham.

Luke Graham: Average guys with awesome abilities

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

— There's a lot to like about action sports. The once second-tiered sports world of the X Games, Dew Tour - and anything else that involves a little bit of lunacy - has come a long way in the past 15 to 20 years.

Action sports have pushed their way to the edge of the mainstream.

Certainly they don't compete with football, baseball or basketball on a national level, but they've certainly found a niche.

It's not hard to see why. Who doesn't want to see Travis Pastrana do a double back flip?

And talks about a triple back flip or back flip-360 have been thrown around this year. It's that lunacy that people love. It's seeing something and thinking, "I'd never do that."

But looking around, there is a better reason why action sports are growing: the athletes.

There is a huge difference between professional athletes who play football, baseball or basketball and the ones who do flips on skis, bikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles or anything else.

The extreme athletes seem more like everyday guys.

NBA, NFL and MLB stars don't want their lives in the public. They won't tell their story, for the most part. At times, you can't blame them. If they say something a little off the cuff or do something a little weird, they're torn apart in the media.

Extreme sports stars are different. We embrace them as crazy, off-the-cuff guys.

Take three-time Winter X Games bronze medalist Colby James West, who was training at Bald Eagle Lake all week.

By most accounts, West is your average guy. He sports a Mohawk, always smiles and can tell a joke.

He signed autographs for freestyle skiers and had back-and-forths with numerous athletes, talking to everyone. People busted his chops, would razz him a little, and West would just laugh and offer a counter jab.

Could you imagine any athlete in mainstream sports doing that? Just last week, LeBron James and Nike had video confiscated when Xavier's Jordan Crawford dunked on him.

My guess is, if there is a video of someone dunking on West, he probably is doing the commentary for it.

He also was open to sharing his life story - one that tells a lot about what skiing means to him.

He quit college and moved everything he had to Breckenridge to pursue a skiing career. The dude slept in his car for almost two years. Starting your car in the morning in the middle of winter is one thing. Waking up in it more than 400 times is something totally different.

It's crazy, wild and, most importantly, telling.

Just a guess, but a guy who braves sub-zero temperatures while sleeping in his car for almost two years must love his sport, must be driven and probably doesn't have the word "can't" in his vocabulary.

He's also one of the reasons why action sports have become - and will continue to become - endearing to the American public.

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