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Twenty-something dudes in cargo shorts predominated in the media tent. Some of them worked for Fuel or Fox (which will broadcast its coverage on June 27) or for Thrasher magazine. But many of them, though they wore media badges just like mine, appeared to be reporting, via Facebook and Twitter, on behalf of Vans and the apparel manufacturer Volcom (both companies have partnered with the Maloofs in the Money Cup endeavor). I overheard one of these guys actually ask a skater, who had come into the tent after finishing his heat, exactly what had been going through his head at the moment he had been grinding some such ledge.
As for the contest itself, there was a discrepancy all afternoon between those skaters who were scoring well and would ultimately advance to the finals on Sunday, and those skaters who actually appeared to be ripping the hardest. Although the emcees had explained the format before the start, the criteria for judging weren't all that easy to follow, even for the knowledgable spectator. In fact, the skaters themselves had trouble understanding the rules. At one point, the legendary Anthony "AVE" Van Engelen was admonished over the PA system for landing a rather sick grind to wallride across a steep pyramid-shaped ledge. Apparently that particular obstacle was out of bounds during that heat. "But you skate it if you want to," Van Engelen was told.
For some, the highpoint of the Maloof Money Cup was Sunday's final. Chris Cole, the technically capable but style-averse winner of last year's competition in California, triumphed again with a series of impressively consistent, robotically precise tricks.
But for me, the drama of Maloof had reached its zenith earlier that afternoon during the amateur trials, when Luis Tolentino, a scrappy Queens native, attempted to land an impossibly huge frontside ollie (a trick in which the skater rotates 180 degrees in midair and lands backwards). Tolentino slammed continually, falling onto a swollen and already taped-up right elbow. And yet the emcees egged him on after each fall, offering him escalating amounts of cash until they reached $1,000—as if any price could be put on his grit or his pain. After at least a dozen failed efforts, Tolentino at last rolled away clean and the crowd, including me, erupted in appreciation. Tolentino earned every cent of those $1,000, but it was hard to shake the feeling that he had been treated like a dancing bear. It was the single most inspiring moment of the Maloof Money Cup, and also the ugliest.
After the contest, as I walked to the 7 train, I passed through the dilapidated infrastructure of the 1964 World's Fair. Engineered by Robert Moses, the fair represented an uneasy confluence of private and public interests not unlike, in its own day, the skatepark now left behind by the Maloofs. A rainstorm had tumbled down just as the contest was ending, and underneath an overhead shelter near the train stop, I came upon a group of happy young skaters. Hyped at seeing their heroes in action, they had come to the only dry spot in Flushing Meadows to play a game of S-K-A-T-E. This I thought, with no small relief, is the real future of skateboarding.