Evel Knievel remembered as a true icon

By Nick Pitts
December 6, 2007

Perhaps the man was made of the same metal that his motorcycles were. Or at least he rivaled the amount of steel used anyway, after as many reconstructive surgeries that this guy went through. But metal rusts, bikes break down and a man just cannot escape father time forever.

Evel Knievel died late last week, Nov. 30 to be exact. He was just 69 years old, sporting a body that could be mistaken for at least 80.

It was not a horrifying fall or a bone crushing incident that finally did him in, but rather a terminal illness that just took its course.

Yes, the man who looked at death over two handlebars, died at home in his bed.

Because of his outrageous prices for his stunts, many people will remember Evel as a businessman or even compare him to the many overpaid athletes of today.

It is true that his price range was a little steep, asking $1 million for his jump in London and $6 million for the failed rocket jump over Snake River canyon in Idaho.

But athletes such as Donovan McNabb have ridiculous salaries for playing sports that don’t even include a tenth of the injury risk percentage. For all of the money he is making right now, McNabb is sitting in the sidelines nursing a thumb and ankle injury.

Knievel on the other hand, broke somewhere between 35 and 40 bones, many of which were broken more than once. His back needed seven surgeries.

He earned every bit of that money, by just attempting things that even he was never sure of.

Knievel wasn’t a business man and he certainly was not an athlete. He was a showman and really cannot be compared to anyone else, living or dead.

By the way, most of the money made by his successful stunts probably paid for much of his medical bills after the unsuccessful ones.

Knievel’s big break was also his biggest break. New Years day 1968, in just his third year of daredeveling, Knievel attempted to jump the fountains of Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

He cleared the jump but shorted the landing, falling off of his bike and literally rag-dolling over the landing ramp.

A 29 day coma followed, but his name was then on the lips of America and his career only sky rocketed from there.

We can all learn something from Knievel. He failed at so many things before finding his calling in life. Even when he realized he was born to defy death, he got his biggest break of all by failing.

This man was a favorite in this country because of his guts. He was certainly not afraid of failing, which is something that so many people still idolize today.

I didn’t know him personally, but I’m willing to bet that this was not about the money for him.

Businessmen don’t work because they love wearing the monkey suit. Athletes don’t play because they love their game.

But Knievel jumped, because he loved to push the limits, because he lived to thrill a crowd.

While today’s youth idolizes celebrities and billionaire athletes, a generation not too long ago had a true icon. One that didn’t need the big screen or a cushy 5 year $50 million contract to win the hearts of many, but just a motorcycle and a cape.

To this day, any wannabe-daredevil is still asked, “Who do you think you are, Evel Knievel?”

Nick Pitts

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