Timbre #64: Nearly Man

Some win it all.

Winners, we call them.

This appears to be an element of almost every endeavor. In sport, in science, in art, in music there are those souls who have their time on top, collecting whatever prizes and accolades their winning ways produce. Waving to the audience behind the camera, they press palms, kiss babies, and then step forward to accept the hardware, the giant cardboard check, the praise, the triumph.

Don’t look back. Raven Tershy guides one up onto a real-life salty pillar. Photo: Sam Muller

Winners are loved by the entire world.

Of course, there’s the down side—those who are viewed as good, but not great. Nice, but not too nice.

Enter the Nearly Man.

He comes from a place where he’s not entirely enough. Maybe the timing of his rise in the ranks comes during that of a dominant champion. Maybe he’s the local ruler, but on the next level his abilities just don’t translate to the utmost podium position. Maybe he can win, but not at the right time—a major event, a championship, a pennant, or a title always a slip, stumble, or stomach virus away from his tenacious grasp.

The love for the Nearly Man is there—roughly—but it comes mostly from his parents, his immediate family, or his few friends, not the blissed-out eyeballs of an all-adoring demographic.

Skateboarders are all Nearly Men.

Build your own bomb. Brewce Martin drops a neutron frontside in no man’s land. Photo: Ben Colen

Our chosen pastime dictates it. Spawned from other “sports” with more history and more culture, while mothering a steady flow of bastard rip-offs—weakly infecting the four-color covers of department store sale pamphlets—skateboarding is somewhat the buzz about town, all but on the front page, and just about ready to take over.

Sure, skateboarding has its so-called winners. At their core, however, they’re Nearly Men, one and all. You’re surely running through a list in your head as you read this, compiling names like Tony Hawk, Eric Koston, Nyjah Huston. But when you really begin to mull over the roster of our apparent full-fledged champions, it’s clear that even skateboarding’s most prolific, most personable, most gnarly icons are wavering winners at best—content to exile themselves from the awards and decorations.

Instead they choose to bring forth on this continent, new levels of backyard retrogression and stairwell offensives rather than take those few lonely steps up to the #1 position.

The rest of the world is a place where one’s victories, pinnacles, and accomplishments are the fixed limits of success. Look around (even at yourself if you can bear it) and you’ll see that skateboarders are the winner’s opposite—the nerds, social phobics, freakish prodigies, and goofs. But we’re not even the best nerds, social phobics, freakish prodigies, and goofs. We are middle-of-the-pack losers guided quite happily by unwritten design and perpetual wonder. In the backward society of skateboarding, it’s winning that’s nearly good, but not winning is the more accepted platform from which to conduct your business.

Pivotal moment. Mark Gonzales teeters in the center of all that is nearly amazing. Photo: Ben Colen

Skateboarding’s Nearly Men are the norm and their success are measured by knowing glances, unperceivable head nods, and hushed tones that sound lowly and slowly, saying no matter how good or bad, no matter how famous or anonymous, no matter how young or old skateboarders are, we will always be relatively fine, pretty good, and nearly men.

One and all.