Extreme sports are those that take human ability, endurance, courage, and, yes even sanity, to the very edge. As popularized by a television event called the “X Games” which developed with the advent of the ESPN2 television network, extreme sports are a search for an adrenaline rush! They include such things as bungee jumping, base jumping, snowmobile aerobatics, downhill mountain biking, street luging, and many more made-up, death-defying events. All are as spine-tingling and potentially life threatening as they are physically demanding.
Depending on your point of view, the folks who participate in extreme sports might be called athletes or lunatics. No one can deny part of the reason for participating in extreme sports is to feel the rush—the same rush our ancestors felt when they were part of the hunt. Though participants may not admit it, extreme sports are a modern day attempt to experience the sensations of panic, thrill, lust, anger, fear, release, and climax that are all part of the fight-or-flight response. Extreme sports are a way to, at least momentarily, reclaim the time when humans daily trod a fine line as both predator and prey.
The rush of, say, plummeting down a mountain slalom course on a bike with no brakes is a natural high experienced by the body and brain because of the release of adrenaline, epinephrine, endorphins, dopamine and about a dozen other biochemicals secreted by the human body in times of physical and mental stress. It’s the same stimulation and brain chemical release whether you find it in street luging or in calling a tom turkey close enough to grab it.
Our Creator endowed us with this marvelous and complex chemistry. It’s the natural performance enhancer originally allowing us to feed ourselves on meat sans fangs, claws and enormous size. And it allowed us to avoid becoming food for all types of predatory animals looking to feed themselves. I don’t suppose to understand God and His intents, but it seems more likely he gave us this magnificent system for survival via hunting rather than skydiving (jumping out of a perfectly good plane for no good reason.)
So how does hunting qualify as an extreme sport?
It’s not just “an” extreme sport. It’s the original and ultimate extreme sport. Hunting creates the full bouquet of fight-or-flight emotions. Call it fanaticism, call obsession, but for any hunter so afflicted a quickened pulse at the mere thought of a hunting adventure is an undeniable fact of life. The higher heart rate and faster, deeper breathing are two of the most basic and noticeable fight-or-flight physiological indicators.
The fight-or-flight response is so deeply instinctive and natural, the actual event, in this case the hunt, doesn’t even have to be underway. The stories shared around the campfire under the big pine and even the silent, personal remembrance of a hunting adventure is enough to get us going. It’s the reason hunters spend so much time reliving past hunts and planning future adventures.
Such is the plight and glory of being a hunter. We are the original and ultimate extreme athletes!