When I was a kid in the Seventies, I was a huge fan of daredevil Evel Knievel. I watched him on Wide World of Sports when he attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in his rocket, begged my mom to take me to see Viva Knievel! in the theaters (and I bet she regretted giving in on that one!), and even owned some of the Ideal toys, including the action figure and stunt cycle. Hell, my first bicycle even sported a red, white & blue color scheme reminiscent of Evel's motorcycle.
Well, Evel has passed away at age 69, after a long period of poor health, including diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.
There's something fascinating about professional daredevils. On the one hand, it seems extraordinarily stupid of someone to risk their lives to perform essentially meaningless stunts just for money and fame. But, on the other, there's something compelling and strangely admirable about it, too.
Other stunt guys have beaten Evel's records, including his son, Robbie. But none of them have ever managed to capture the imaginations of as many people – especially kids – as Evel Knievel. There was something bigger-than-life about him, something oddly heroic, that made kids like me look up to him, even when he failed, as he did at Snake River.
I'm not sure what it was about him that made him so special, exactly, but the world is going to be a slightly smaller place without him.
Give 'em hell, Evel.