So Long, Evel

Sad news moved across the Associated Press wire on Friday:

Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel dies at 69
Associated Press Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho’s Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.
Knievel’s death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.
Knievel had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.
Immortalized in the Washington’s Smithsonian Institution as “America’s Legendary Daredevil,” Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.

Born a year after his famous “Skycycle” attempt, I was a few years removed from the full-on Evel Knievel hysteria. But I always knew who Knievel was (how could you not?) and I’m saddened by a loss of an icon who was so emblematic of the American Dream. Here was a guy who had impossible hopes and desires, however reckless, and actually pulled off a great many of them.

Even his biggest failures — the Snake River Canyon crash and the unforgettable video of his crash jumping the fountain at Caeser’s Palace — only endured him to us more.

The History Channel produced a brilliant two-hour documentary about Knievel last year, his bombast and ego still raw, intact and otherworldly. It showed him at his best and at his worst — and it was positively Evel.

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