GLENN BECK PROGRAM
GLENN: There was something weird about hearing that Evel Knievel was dead. Evel Knievel is dead. Something that should have been said probably back in 1968. Evel Knievel passed away from "Natural causes" after a long battle with terminal lung disease. He was 69, which is amazing for a guy who's done what he did his whole life.
While everybody else is talking about the news of the day, let me spend just a couple of seconds and talk about Evel Knievel because I know most people are not, you know, fans of motorcycle daredevils. I'm not, either, but if you are a guy who grew up in the late Sixties and Seventies, chances are that Evel Knievel helped you define what was cool. I mean, even his name was awesome, you know? Evel Knievel. And nobody looked better in white leather than Evel Knievel.
I was out last night having dinner with the guys as we arrived in Toledo, Ohio from Orlando, Florida. We're doing a show here in Toledo tonight. We all sat around. We were talking about, you know, just different things, all the way from global conspiracies to Evel Knievel and we started talking about what he meant, what he represented and my first thought was you know what, I really need to travel with people who know how to make better conversation and then I went beyond that. And the opinions of all of the guys that were sitting at the table on Evel Knievel, we decided that it really fit into three distinct categories. There were those at the table who didn't seem to care much about Evel Knievel, just a stupid guy in a stupid suit, symbolic of the ridiculous Seventies, as embarrassing as disco, eight track tapes and polyester bell-bottoms, but those came from the people under 30 at the table. Then there was John Bobby who's one of the writers of the program. He took a break from stuffing his face full of key lime pie a la mode, I'm not kidding you, to wax poetic for a little bit about how Evel Knievel was the very essence of America. But he said here's a man who dared to take chances, reach beyond his grasp, overcoming adversity. John saw grace and honor in Evel's stunts but I pretty much wrote that off as him being drunk on steak and mashed potatoes. So everybody at the table pretty much stopped listening to John Bobby for a while. And a way I guess I can see some nobility in his stunts, in a way. He was all about proving that just because something seems impossible or dangerous doesn't mean that it's not worth trying. No matter how many times he fell, he always got up. There is something noble in that, something quintessentially American about pushing the edges of the envelope. He believed in God, country. He believed he could do it and that made millions of us believe in him.
But it was the third option of Evel Knievel that made the most sense to me and mainly probably because it was my opinion, but in a way Evel Knievel's death, if you're my age, 43, in a way is yet another sign of the death of our childhood, the end of our youth. Evil was responsible for a lot of the fun that I had as a kid. There was the Evel Knievel stunt cycle where you wound up the motor and, you know, a miniature Evel action figure would scream across the dining room floor and drive my mother absolutely out of her mind. I don't know how many times I heard, "Ahhh." Then there was the stunt stadium, something I couldn't afford. It had a ramp and the cheering crowds. The crowds were painted in the bleachers. Do you remember looking through the toy magazines around this time of the year? They had something called The Escape from Skull Canyon, included monsters, boulders, all obstacles for Evel Knievel, but Skull Canyon didn't matter to Evel Knievel. He was fearless. He was a superhero, real life. You could watch him in action on television. Unstoppable courage was his greatest superpower.
Do you remember watching Evel Knievel? Do you remember seeing him? I watched one of Evel Knievel's jump with my dad on ABC's Wide World of Sports and I remember saying to my dad, why exactly is he jumping over a whole bunch of tractor-trailers and then into the side of the cliff? "Dad, why is he doing this?" My father said, first response, "I don't know." And then he said, "Because he thinks it can be done." Didn't matter what the answer was. We both watched anyway. We held our breath while Evel was in the air, his star-spangled cape flapping in the wind.
I think mostly we were hoping he would make it, but a small part of us would wonder if he would and if he didn't, what this crash would look like, would it be like Caesar's Palace, 1968, would he still be able to get up if he ended up going down. After one of Evel Knievel's big jumps, me and the neighbor kids would be out on our Huffys. We would build ramps, jump over puddles, piles of rocks, even somebody's little brother if we could talk them into it. All boys need is inspiration to show off, and Evel Knievel was an inspiration. He inspired millions of boys that are now men. You know, because of the way he lived his life, he shattered bones. He literally spent years in the hospital. I've always thought that was stupid, dumb as a box of rocks. But you know what? Even if he was crazy for trying to leap over the Snake River Canyon in a rocket cycle, he stood for a whole lot more than today's daredevils. Today's daredevils seem to just race downhill in grocery carts and eat tubs of cow wings. That's a jackass. Evel Knievel was a badass.
So I just didn't want this program to start today without recognition of Evel Knievel. I wanted to mark the day that we all have to file away some memories after we look at them for a while, file away the memories of putting playing cards in my bicycle spokes so I could sound just a little bit more like Evel Knievel's bike, put that plastic stunt cycle up in the attic. Maybe I can find one. Rafe would get a kick out of it, show him how to make it scream across the dining room floor, drive his mom crazy. Evel Knievel, gone this weekend and so is our childhood. But you know what? I can truly say that I enjoyed them both while they were here.
Two weeks ago Evel updated his website with this one sentence: To be a man, to do my best, to stand alone is my only quest. God speed, Evel Knievel, and we all wish you happy landings on your last and greatest leap.