chat'I have the best job in the world'

If you're Sal Masekela, you are really enjoying life right about now.

Masekela, ESPN's Winter X 2000 reporter, has had quite a year. It was just that long ago that he was sitting in a bar in Breckenridge, Colo., and bumped into a producer with ESPN. The two began talking and now Masekela finds himself reporting on the event that he loves most, namely Snowboarding.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," says Masekela, who has also covered the Summer X Games. "I'm just as much a fan when I'm there as a commentator. If I had the means I would go to every contest anyway. I have the best job in the world."

During his chat with users, Masekela touched on the popularity of extreme sports, the lack of black athletes, and admitted what he is most looking forward to at this years Winter X Games. The following is an edited transcript of the January 28 chat.

Jimbo: Sal you rock. Are we ever going to see you on X 2day anymore?

Sal Masekela:
Yes. Me and Rick Thorne are working on some fun stuff for this spring and summer. We are doing a big Tony Hawk tour this summer. If Rick Thorne makes room for me, then yes you will see me on X 2day.

Keith D.: What do you think of events like the Gravity Games? Does that help or hurt the X Games?

Sal Masekela:
I think the Gravity Games help the X Games. It gives the athletes a bigger forum to compete in which is long overdue. The Gravity Games is a copy of the X Games in a lot of ways but it helps ESPN to learn how to do things better. It gives ESPN a chance to step up and show how good they really are.

Timo: Do you think extreme sports will continue to grow like it is now?

Sal Masekela:
This isn't the first time people have gotten hot about extreme sports. In the late '80s you could watch skateboarding on Wide World of Sports but people don't remember that. Skateboarding all but disappeared for a long time. Skate parks are popping up all over the world now. Extreme sports will never die because the people who compete will always be there. Right now we see big companies like Nokia and Mountain Dew, as long as they want to put money into it, we'll see it on TV. When they think it isn't cool anymore, it might not be on TV as much but it will always be there. I don't know if it will always be like it is now but I hope so.

Deb: Hey Sal -- who's your favorite snowboarder?

Sal Masekela:
That's a really really tough one. There are so many amazing ones that you will never see on TV, but I would say that my favorite of all time because he has influenced everything is Terje Haakonsen. I would have to also throw in Peter Line. And Victoria Jealouse, too.

DuctTapeMother: What's up with the UltraCross? Who came up with that idea, cause it sounds awesome.

Sal Masekela:
I'm not sure but I think it was born in Tahoe but don't quote me on that. In years past, skiers and snowboarders didn't see eye to eye. It was like oil and water. Now, it's less the case. Because of snowboarding, skiing has gotten cool again. They also give snowboarding credit for where freestyle skiing has gone. I think it's just come from those walls coming down. It's like Rodney King said, can't we all just get along? It's definitely going to be interesting.

bart23: How do the Vans Triple Crown events compare to the X Games? Are they more or less competitive?

Sal Masekela:
The money that they give away is the same as the X Games. The Vans events are less built for TV. They probably run smoother but they are just as competitive. It's prestigious to win the X Games but a contest is a contest at the end of the day. The guys are just as pumped. When the X Games is going on, everyone knows about it. It's kind of like the Super Bowl of extreme sports.

keith jones: Is it true that Tony Hawk is going to be at Mount Snow for Winter X?

Sal Masekela:
I don't know. It might be a rumor. It is true that Tony Hawk is an ESPN commentator now. He will be doing some commentary with us. I'm not going to be as cool anymore now that Tony is retired.

jayce: Do you like the Summer or Winter X Games better?

Sal Masekela:
That is a tough one. I can't say because I love both of them. I love skateboarding and snowboarding equally, like watching Peter Line or Tony Hawk. I'm just as much a fan when I'm there as a commentator. If I had the means I would go to every contest anyway. Each one does something for me.

evh: Sal - Saw you get pooped on by that bird when you were with Blink. Was that for real or a TV stunt?

Sal Masekela:
It was for real, it was probably the most humbling experience of my career. The guys from Blink 182 are real cool and I was having a rough day because I found out that morning that my girlfriend had cheated on me. When they picked me up, that's the first think I found out so it wasn't a good day. It looks like the bird poop was thrown from off screen but it actually was really windy that day and it came in sideways and got me right on the mouth and nose and those guys started singing a song - "that guy got pooped on by a bird, that guy got pooped on by a bird."

Stephen: What are you looking forward to the most in the X Games?

Sal Masekela:
I'm looking forward to Shaun Palmer. I wasn't a Palmer fan for a long time and I thought he was really cocky but having gotten to know him, he is just so good. I'm looking forward to him kicking the skiers butt. The women's events also, those girls are tearing it up. Tara Daikedes, Stine Brun-Kjeldaas, and Shannon Dunn are on fire. They ride better than any average guy out there. And Men's halfpipe. It used to be that people went 8 feet. but now guys are going so high. It's going to be hot. I'm really looking forward to all that.

The Chief: Is it true you know how to surf!!! I heard you rip???

Sal Masekela:
Yes. Actually surfing is the backbone of my action sports background. I started surfing in 1988. My love goes surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding in a row. I love them all though. And there is not a lot of black surfers out there so you definitely get some interesting looks.

The Chief: What do you think about the lack of black snowboards in the professional ranks?

Sal Masekela:
The level of participation in any sport is based on how much you are around it. Most African-Americans don't grow up in those areas so they don't get exposed to it. For people who step outside of the norm, they will discover it and get involved. Russell Winfield is out there but I wouldn't mind seeing more.

Deb: How did you score the job at ESPN?

Sal Masekela:
I'm definitely not a commentator by trade. That's for sure. I had been working on Fox Sports on a show called Board Wild and I was also one of the hosts for the MTV Sports and Music Festival. ESPN was leaning towards having the commentators coming from the sports they were commenting on. I was at the Vans Triple Crown last year at Breckenridge and I met the producer in a bar and we just started talking. He told me his ideas and how I could fit in and I was all for it. I was just in the right place at the right time. Here it is a year later and I can't believe it. I have the best job in the world.

skirock: Sal, what's your pick for the Super Bowl?

Sal Masekela:
Titans by 9. It's all about McNair!!

Willy J.: It's about time you guys had the X Games on the East Coast! Sal - What are some of the more heated battles in snowboarding right now or are all those guys just good friends?

Sal Masekela:
Everyone always asks me that but relative to the other sports you watch, you will never see Peter Line and Kevin Jones fighting at the bottom of a hill. But there are definitely battles. People compete more against themselves though. But these guys really have a strong comradery because its such a new sport. They are the voice of snowboarding right now. I'm sure there are some guys out there that don't like each other. In BoarderCross Shaun Palmer is a marked man. You could see that get ugly.

J: Hey Sal. Who do you have your money on to win men's Big Air this year at the X Games?

Sal Masekela:
If it was up to me, I would love to see Peter Line win because I think style and talent wise he is the best guy. But he doesn't really go out there with the intent to win. He just wants to do his best tricks, the best he can. I'd like to see Peter win but Kevin Sansalone is a dangerous man. I'd probably put my money on Kevin Jones if I was a betting man.

This job for me just happens to coincide with my lifestyle and there are a lot of people who told me I couldn't do it as a job, but it happened for me and I'm glad you guys appreciate my work. I'm definitely stoked and looking forward to Winter X. Just live life everyday like the gift it is and you will be able to do whatever you please.

Thanks and take care.

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