Mike Spinner’s story comes from Patrick Dorsey of the MiamiHerald .com , for which may thanks – one is left with the distinct impression that we could be privileged in witnessing the best man on a BMX. I’ve included a couple of YouTube videos, one the1kbass which shows Mike demonstrating his 1080 degree manoeuvre at Montpellier in France last year, and the other from BronkoTrenntuer where Mike demonstrates his 360 degree triple tail whip. They both demonstrate why he could be considered to be the best.
Or put it this way: Spinner, who is 20, isn’t just one of the rising stars on the increasingly popular AST Dew Tour (he finished second in his division last year). He isn’t just one of the bikers to beat at this year’s X Games. He isn’t just a personable product pitchman, featured at times on NBC, MTV, USA (he’s scheduled for CBS’ Early Show on Saturday).
No, what sets Spinner apart is originality. Instead of mimicking others’ moves, the 2006 graduate of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is dazzling the competition with his collection of tricks — such as the 1080 and the 720 tailwhip, just to name a couple — that he concocted, practiced and perfected, all on his own.
”Some of the stuff he’s doing is stuff that nobody else is doing,” said Dave Mirra, a BMX and X Games legend whom Spinner calls a business partner, a competitor and a friend.
“He’s got a secret we all don’t know, and it’s pretty cool.”
So what’s the secret to that secret? Years of family-funded excursions to the best parks, sporting the fanciest equipment and receiving the sharpest training? Victory after victory on lower circuits, sending a message to the stars above that they had better watch out?
Really, Spinner’s story started with a couple of curbs in Coral Springs.
Spinner didn’t really want to be The Best. He just wanted to do his best, at all things sports — basketball, baseball, hockey, whatever. Then, at around age 10, the New York transplant caught a glimpse of Mirra and some other BMX riders.
‘I was like, `Oh, my God,’ ” Spinner said. ‘ `I want to do that.’ ”
So he ditched courts and fields for asphalt and curbs. Problem was, his father, Barry, a salesman, and his mother, Janie, a company bookkeeper, never had a lot of money to shower on their only child. Then, when Mike was 13, Barry’s kidneys failed.
He needed a transplant and got one.
But, in order to fund his passion, Mike needed a job. So he got one — by forging a birth certificate, pretending to be a year older so he could work 30 hours a week as a busboy at a diner and a pizza parlor.
That was life back then: School. Practice. Work. Practice. Friends. Practice. Family — and maybe a little more practice, if he had time.
”He was very young,” Barry Spinner said, “and very ambitious.”
Still, nobody expected Mike to reach top-of-the-sport heights.
Then again, nobody saw his greatest obstacles coming, either.
Summer beckoned, just two weeks away, and a 16-year-old Spinner couldn’t wait for three months of school-free riding.
Then he broke his ankle — and that was only prelude to his life’s biggest struggle.
Three weeks later, Janie got sick. A longtime smoker, she had emphysema. She died soon after.
But something happened on the road to despair: Spinner hatched a plan.
”I’m like, full-on focus: Go to college,” he said. ‘That’s what my mom told me every day: `Go to college.’ So I’m focused.”
Not just on school, though. His bike had something to say about that.
‘I said, `The way I’m going to do this,’ ” Spinner said, ‘ `is I’m going to ride my bike every day to keep my mind off of things.’ ”
To pull it off, he stopped working. But he kept riding and studying. And that was life back then: School. Practice. Study. Practice. Friends — especially his closest, classmate Matt Hamburger — and maybe a little more practice, if he had time.
The studying paid off at graduation, and it was supposed to continue at community college. The riding, though, would change that.
Before heading to college, before his inevitable run-in with Real Life, Spinner just wanted ”that best summer,” as he called it — a few months working as a skate-park lifeguard of sorts at Pennsylvania’s Camp Woodward, where all the best extreme-sports athletes train.
But another thing happened on the way — literally — to that summer of freedom. Spinner entered an amateur riding contest, part of AST’s Free Flow Tour, in Orlando. And he won, earning him a bid to the Free Flow Finals at the Dew Tour’s stop in Portland, Ore.
Instead of entering Woodward anonymously, he went in already having earned a reputation. His idols became friends. Instead of watching younger campers, he taught them, all while perfecting that 720 tailwhip — the trick people told him couldn’t be done.
Then he went to Portland.
”I cleaned up,” Spinner said. “I didn’t even need the 720 tailwhip.”
But he did it anyway, part of a showing that earned him a bid into the Dew Tour’s fifth and final stop, in Orlando. There, he beat all the pros — everyone — in the prelims, and only a rare fall in the finals kept his weekend from being perfect.
He finished 12th. But that was enough. He attracted attention. Like Mirra’s, who called Spinner a few days later and offered a chance to ride for Mirra Bike Co.
‘[He said], `Hey, do you want to go to Estonia [for a contest]? Get a passport,’ ” Spinner recalled.
Spinner’s response: “All right, college, see you in a few years.”
Spinner wears a Ballpark Franks T-shirt, the way Jeff Gordon drives a DuPont car, and has other mainstream sponsors — Monster Energy Drink and Nike among them — signed to multiyear deals.
He does morning shows and reality shows, and he loves his media gatherings and autograph sessions.
He’s even starring in a Nike commercial alongside Maria Sharapova and LaDainian Tomlinson, set to air this fall.
In other words, Spinner is in demand, and he seldom says no.
”Mike is a pretty special kid,” tour president Wade Martin said. “He’s a great ambassador for the sport that he has quickly become a star in.”
Said his agent, Brad Lusky of Wasserman Media Group, which represents many of extreme sports’ top athletes: “He just really comes across very genuine. He’s always smiling. He’s always happy. He’s just the perfect product endorser.”
But his down-to-earth demeanor — ”He’s kept a level head through all of it,” his best friend, Hamburger, said — isn’t the only thing that makes Spinner a star.
Remember, he’s good.
He won the BMX Park division at last year’s Portland Dew Tour event — which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, was the first time Barry Spinner saw his son ride competitively in person. Mike also finished second in the overall standings last year and took third at this year’s first stop, in Baltimore.
Sure, there has been some jealousy — some riders are unhappy with Spinner’s sudden rise, unhappy he didn’t “pay his dues.”
But he’ll take it, considering the perks: The respect at parks big and small; the world travel; a real friendship with Mirra, his boyhood idol; and, most of all, a strong relationship with his father, for whom Mike even bought a new car.
”I’m loving life right now,” Spinner said.
But . . .
There is a lot of pressure being Mike Spinner.
Pressure to build on last year’s showing. Pressure to justify all those TV appearances. Pressure, as an innovator, to create more — to not become an old-trick pony.
Oh, sure, Spinner welcomes it. He’s riding for a living, still showing his youthful enthusiasm on the ramps.
As long as that stays, he’ll stay. And although experts see BMX as stacked with young talent, Spinner might stay at the top for a while.
”There’s a lot of tough guys out there,” Mirra said. “I know he’s going to hang in there. [But] I’m not sure where he’s going to end up.”
Spinner isn’t sure, either.
But he knows he must stay competitive in order to keep riding.
”I don’t want to milk it out,” Spinner said. “I don’t want to just be here in 20 years but not [be] doing anything different.
“If I’m not in the top 10, for me, there’s no point to be there. Mistakes happen, and you might not make the final every time.
“But if it’s not possible for me to get top three, if it’s not possible for me to win, I shouldn’t be there. I will be in college.”
But not off the bike completely. Even if textbooks someday replace tailwhips, Spinner still might find himself at a local park on the occasional afternoon, showing off a few tricks and attracting the eyes of a few awestruck youngsters.
After all, what else would you expect from a guy named Spinner?