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The Inside Track

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February 10, 2003|Steve Rom

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, heard, observed, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

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What: "Being Extreme."

Author: Bill Gutman.

Photographer: Shawn Frederick.

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.

Price: $24.95.

Warning to parents: Keep a close eye on the sports your children are playing. There was a time most kids simply wanted to be like Mike; now they're looking to fly a lot farther than from the free-throw line to the rim.

So-called extreme sports, once obscure, high-risk activities such as big-wave surfing, BASE jumping, and skydiving, are quickly weaving themselves into the fabric of American culture.

In their new book, "Being Extreme: Thrills and Dangers in the World of High-Risk Sports," author Bill Gutman and photographer Shawn Frederick, through vivid descriptions and breathtaking color photos, examine these dangerous sports.

The authors begin their 279-page hardcover book by dispelling the myth that only troubled youths -- longhaired, eyebrow-pierced members of Generation X -- gravitate to extreme sports. Then they examine the origin of the sports.

For example, they say BASE jumping was born in the mid-1970s. It involves leaping off a building, antenna, span (bridge) or earth (cliff), then free-falling before deploying a single parachute -- "usually at the last possible safe second."

The growing prize money and endorsement opportunities have made making a living in extreme sports much more common. Money, however, doesn't appear to be the only lure.

"The best feeling is to go where no one else wants to go," extreme snowboarder Rob DeFoe says in the book. "It's still somewhat of a dare -- I can do something you can't."

-- Steve Rom

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