Think there's no sport too absurd for the X Games? Get a load of shovel racing.

Dispatches, February 1998

Have Corpulence, Will Hurtle
Think there's no sport too absurd for the X Games? Get a load of shovel racing.
By Gretchen Reynold

True, the cold season's competitive-sports options for big-boned fellows with a fondness for hops is limited. No shinnying into a skin suit and bashing slalom gates for this crew. But thankfully, there's at least one winter sport for which avoirdupois is a plus. "The first time I saw a shovel race," says Eldon Kermit Brown, the snow removal manager for the town of Angel Fire, New Mexico, "I thought, I can do that." Call it kismet.

Thus on the eve of the sport's 25th-annual World Championships, to be held this month at Angel Fire ski resort, the 300-pound Brown is looking to secure a hold on the title of America's top shovel racer. Of course, the honor is somewhat of a misnomer, since shovel racing has little to do with shovels and not much more to do with racing. Mostly it involves the tinkering with and crashing of $10,000 super-modified "shovels" tricked out with driver's cages, pneumatic brakes, and roll bars. Where, you may wonder, do the shovels come in? They're attached to the bottom, strictly for decoration.

Such petty distinctions seemed not to matter at last year's Winter X Games, where the specter of carnage — racers routinely hit speeds of 70 miles per hour — made shovel racing one of the most popular events. "We're way out there," boasts Brown. But sadly, these portly bold men on their toolshed machines were shown the X-Game door this year. "They told us we weren't athletic enough," Brown huffs. "So what did they replace us with? Snowmobiles. The real reason we were dropped is that we drew more spectators than those weenie snowboarders."

The news leaves the Angel Fire event as shovel racing's grandest — well, only — stage. Which is fine with hometown hero and two-time second-place finisher Brown. He swears he'll claim the champion's title this time after skidding to third in 1997. A full year of tinkering has produced a shovel that will, he says, be among the sleekest missiles ever to rocket down the Angel Fire slopes. And then there is his secret weapon. "Burritos," he says. "Plenty of burritos."

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