American motocross racer
Brian Deegan is a champion freestyle motocross (FMX) rider, the gold medal winner of his event at the 2002 Winter X Games. A medalist in each X Games from 1999 to 2002, Deegan is a member of the Metal Mulisha, a team of riders that includes Deegan, Mike Jones and Tommy Clowers. These riders take even extreme games to the extreme, dressing in black leather with spikes, cultivating bad boy attitudes, and developing death-defying stunts to match.
Deegan was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and later settled in Temecula, California. He was drawn to freestyle motocross, the sport of motorcycle stunt riding at an early age, carefully marking "Metal Mulisha" on his bike in magic marker. The dream became a reality when he and fellow bikers Mike Jones and Tommy Clowers formed the Metal Mulisha to push the sport of FMX to new limits, specializing in aerial acrobatics atop, or even briefly separated from, their motorcycles in mid-air. With names such as the Coffin, Sterilizer, and the Superman Seat Grab, these stunts have helped to make FMX one of the most popular extreme sporting events, as fans come to see competitors wipe out—often spectacularly—as often as they manage to complete their stunts.
"We formed the Mulisha because we wanted to have our own group of guys who stood up against the (motocross industry) establishment," Deegan told Phil Bartsch of the Courier Mail of Australia. "We're against people trying to make you do things you don't want to do, like dress and look how you don't want to look."
After first competing in the ESPN-sponsored X Games (formerly the Extreme Games), in 1999, and in each X Games through 2002, Deegan took home the gold medal for the first time at the Winter 2002 X Games. He won the medal for the Big Air competition with a stunt of his own invention, which he dubbed the Mandatory Suicide. This involved a 100-foot jump over a snow-covered track, in mid-air leaping from the seat of his bike to twist his body through the air, and landing seated sideways. Commentators were thrilled by the new stunt, and judges promptly awarded Deegan the gold medal. Deegan's fellow Metal Mulishamen, Jones and Clowers, took home silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Deegan went into the competition with his new stunt a carefully guarded secret—not even the name, Mandatory Suicide, was announced until after he had pulled it off. He named the stunt after a song by his favorite band, Slayer. After the competition, Deegan crowed over the
Metal Mulisha's sweep of the X Games over younger competitors, according to the EXPN Web site, saying, "That's what separates us old-school guys from the new kids. Us old-school guys have it in us to pull it out when it gets gnarly. It's inside us."
In keeping with his bad-boy image—Deegan, on the Gravity Games Web site, listed Charles Manson as the person who most inspired him—he was charged with assaulting a police officer outside a night club in Cleveland. In the early morning hours of August 1, 2002, Deegan was thrown out of the club by the establishment's security detail, and then he got into a fight with an officer outside, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which quoted police.
Deegan has also started a film career as a stunt biker—he doubled for Vin Diesel in the action film XXX. The film called for its hero to perform a death-defying motorcycle jump while at the same time shooting bad guys. It was just another day's work for Deegan, who later told Chris Madigan of the Independent, "Vin Diesel isn't hardcore. He's an actor. Actors were drama geeks at school. We're the real deal."
|1975||Born May 9 in Omaha, Nebraska|
|2002||Appears as a stunt double in the film XXX|
|2002||Charged with felony assault after altercation outside bar in Cleveland|
Broken bones are also all part of a day's work for Deegan. One crash broke ribs, tore his knee and shoulder and "knocked me out for a while," he told Michael Bodey in the Daily Telegraph of Sydney. He cites respect from his peers and his fans as one of his main motivations early in his career. That, and the fact that his sport allows him to blow off steam like nothing else can. "If I didn't have dirt biking I'd probably go nuts," Deegan told Bodey. "It's the way to release my energy; it's the only way I know how."
In a sport that thrives on danger, the only way to continue to push the envelope is to attempt more and more dangerous stunts. Stunts like the mid-air backflip have resulted in more than a few broken bones for Deegan, but he relishes each new challenge.
Now that he's well established as one of the best in the business, he admits the money is a primary motivator. "I created a job for myself and now the money is good I've got to do it, make the money while I can and try not to end up in a wheelchair," he told Bartsch. That money has bought him a lakeside house, several vehicles, and everything else he has ever wanted, but, as he told Bartsch, "Who knows how long it's going to last?"
Never content to be part of any establishment, including the one he helped to create with competitive stunt biking, Deegan had his sights set at the end of 2002 on bringing his sport to a new level. "The next level," he told Bodey, "is watching a show, a theatrical show that's almost like a concert or club, with you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It's not a contest where the lights are on and you're watching the guys do the same (stuff) over and over. This is entertainment."
Accordingly, Deegan and a team of riders dubbed the Crusty Demons launched a theatrical FMX tour in Australia in 2002, called the Global Assault tour, with one of its first stops at the Sydney Superdome. Their goal was nothing less than to achieve the enormous box-office receipts and tremendous popularity enjoyed in the past by the World Wrestling Federation, complete with onstage pyrotechnics, scantily clad women in cages, and guys with mean attitudes astride meaner machines.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1999||Named number one rider by the World Freeride Association|
|1999||Wins bronze medal for the Freestyle motocross competition at the summer X Games|
|2000||Wins bronze medal for the Freestyle motocross competition at the summer X Games|
|2000||Wins bronze medal for the Step Up motocross competition at the summer X Games|
|2001||Wins bronze medal at the Big Air motocross competition at the summer X Games|
|2002||Wins gold medal for the Freestyle motocross competition at the winter X Games|
Deegan, for sure, represents a different breed of athlete in an alternative form of sports. "Sport(s) realized it was entertainment decades ago," Bodey wrote. "Yet some pursuits continue to astound with how they can morph themselves into new and extreme forms of entertainment."
Bartsch, Phil. "Dirt Demons." Courier Mail (May 23, 2001): Features, 17.
Bodey, Michael. "Dare Devils." Daily Telegraph (December 20, 2002): Features, 93.
Madigan, Chris. "Winter Pursuits: 'X' Marks the Spot." Independent (December 28, 2002): Metro, 3.
Mitchell, Elvis. "Film Review: This Skateboard Uses High Octane." New York Times (August 9, 2002): E1.
Treffinger, Sarah. "Manson-Fan Games Biker Is Charged with Assault." Plain Dealer (August 3, 2002): Metro, 3.
"Athlete Bio: Brian Deegan." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/athletes/bios/DEEGAN_BRIAN.html (January 20, 2003).
"Winter X Games VI—Deegan Takes Over." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/xgames/wxg/2002/s/motoair.html (January 20, 2003).
"Winter X Games VI—Q&A with Brian Deegan." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/xgames/wxg/2002/s/deeganq&a.html (January 20, 2003).
Sketch by Michael Belfiore