Dave Mirra / Rick Chapman / 2006 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Gift of the artist and ESPN / © 2006 Rick Chapman
Dave Mirra, a star athlete of the X-Games and a host on MTV, died on February 4 at age forty-one.
The X-Games—named after Generation X—grew out of the street culture of skateboarding and BMX bicycling for kids who were turned off by traditional American sports. A growing community of alternative sports, in both summer and winter activities, has now coalesced into an official alternative to mainstream sports, replete with Olympic-style games and world championships.
Mirra, along with athletes like Shaun White, was a signature performer in the X Games, and he parlayed his athletic performance into television and film appearances, as well as endorsements for athletic gear. Mirra became a BMX rider while living in North Carolina in the 1990s, going on to dominate X Games BMX categories in the Freestyle events—especially the Freestyle Vert[icle]—winning fourteen gold medals, and twenty-four overall. Mirra also transitioned into automobile racing as a rally and rally cross driver racing a Subaru Impreza.
One of Mirra’s friends said he wished he had known Mirra was troubled so he could have been there for him, a comment heard tragically all too often by those who are left helpless and uncomprehending in the aftermath of a friend or family member’s suicide.
David Ward, Senior Historian