How dare ESPN compare Jordan, Elway to ‘Palm’? |

How dare ESPN compare Jordan, Elway to ‘Palm’?

Five years from now we may precisely know what a one-of-a-kind athlete Shaun Palmer really is.

Some Winter X Games viewers probably scoffed when ESPN reporter Chris Fowler compared the 30-year-old South Lake Tahoe resident to Michael Jordan and John Elway on Sunday night.

“Do you think you can walk away from boardercross a champion, M.J. style?” the ESPN host inquired.

“But this race won’t be my last one, that’s for sure. I’ve got a lot more years in me,” said Palmer, who captured a unprecedented third straight boardercross title last weekend at the growing Winter X Games in Crested Butte, Colo. “I actually watched M.J. all week long, and I got pumped up. I don’t know what to say anymore, man.”

The ESPN studio host then concludes the lengthy interview with a bit of flattery, “Jordan hangs it up. Elway probably played his last home game (Sunday). But Palmer has a lot of years ahead of him.”

Five years from now, Palmer may or not move onto a motocross racing career. But when he does, tomorrow’s snowboarders and mountain bikers should send him a thank-you note. He’s a leading cog in revolutionizing these sports, so the next generations of pros can make a comfortable living at it. How many pro basketball players today owe their outrageous salaries to Jordan and Larry Bird?

Obviously, Palmer, sponsored by Mountain Dew and a producer of his own line of snowboards, doesn’t need the Winter X Games as much as they need him. Would there even be an X Games next January if Palmer kept his promise to retire so many times?

Definitely not. ESPN followed his every move as he tried to bring home four gold medals in four events. The cameramen only stopped shooting when Palmer shooed them away while going in for a massage.

“I just wanted to take it to the level of the other people at the top of their league and jump in with them and take it over. That’s always been my game plan,” Palmer said. “It’s worked pretty well, but next year I hope to get more medals out of this.”

Watching Palmer compete for three days, you’d think this was his bravado speaking. But he’s right. He could have won three gold medals. “The hole shot king” fell in the biker X semifinals, eliminating him from medal contention, and caught a tip in the starting gate of the skier X finals.

“I didn’t sleep for four nights. I’ve been up every night. Two events in one day is kind of hectic. Maybe next year we can split them up,” Palmer said.

If he doesn’t catch a tip on the astroturf at the start, I say he wins skier X without a fight. He breezed to victories in his quarterfinal and semifinal heats and shocked World Cup regulars like Rob Boyd and Jeremy Nobis with his competitiveness and success.

This was immediate success, too.

Palmer gave up competitive skiing in his teens. He prepared for the skier X with only a month of training at Squaw Valley.

“I taught Glen Plake to ski when he was little,” Palmer jokingly told Fowler when asked about his instant impact in the event.

In an ESPN Internet interview on Sunday, Plake divulged the secret to Palmer’s immense success.

“Palmer just likes to beat people, especially people he’s not supposed to beat,” Plake said.

Just imagine how much the regimented U.S. Ski Team would like to get their hands on “Palm.” He’s probably the best downhill skier in the U.S. right now. But they can forget about that. He’s carved out his own offbeat lifestyle and there’s no turning back now.

Don’t change a thing, Palmer. Your fearless, cocky nature has served you well. Besides, not even mom, Jen, accompanying you to a post boardercross gold medal ceremony interview could cure that.

“I’m not going to get as cocky as last year,” said Palmer, chuckling. “I’m going to roll mellow with this one. They’ll have to wait another whole year to try and get me because I’m the triple gold.”

Actually, the comparison to Elway and Jordan isn’t fair to Palmer. Jordan tried to play professional baseball and was a flop. Elway was a minor-leaguer for one year, but never rose to the fame Palmer has in so many different sports.

There isn’t another Palmer. But when is he going to launch his luging and Winston Cup careers?

Heck, give him a spot in this weekend’s World Cup freestyle skiing stop at Heavenly.

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