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Shaun White then and now, via the NY Times articles “The Flying Tomato Would Rather You Not Call Him That Anymore." Fascinating read from start to finish, but I was especially interested to learn about his relationship to the snowboarding community (one of my favorite games is seeing how other snowboarders answer the Shaun White question. There’s a lot of "Well, we’re not really close friends…" In The Crash Reel there was some great footage of Kevin Pearce, at the height of their rivalry) trying to tactfully answer that question):

But perhaps the main reason White is not a leader inside the snowboarding community is that he’s barely even in that community at all. “Physically and mentally, he’s one of the most incredible athletes,” says Jayson Hale, a snowboarder who was on the 2006 Olympic team. “But the truth is he has few friends on the snow. He’s able to put that aside. He has the gnarliest black cloud I’ve seen at the top of the halfpipe of all these dudes who hate him and who are talking behind his back. Yet he still comes out first.”

And then his attempts to address that problem, in his life if not in his career:

Among his goals: to have stronger friendships. As he iced his ankle, he sounded poignant. “When you travel a lot, you don’t really get called for birthday parties, you don’t really get called when a friend moves apartments. It’s those subtle things where you’re like, ‘Oh, man, you didn’t think to call me for that?’ And it’s like: ‘Man, you’re never here. I never thought to call you.’ It’s like, ‘But I was here!’ ”

White is aware that his life has a tendency to make him self-centered. He also knows this is a problem — not one large enough to scuttle the documentary he’s financing about himself but enough to think he should work on empathy. “All of today was about me, and that’s a bummer,” he said once we moved down the street to a cafe on Rodeo Drive. He worried that he wasn’t connected enough to the people in his life, getting down on himself and saying, “Man, I haven’t thought about what my friend’s relationship is like. ” White recently reconnected with an elementary-school friend at Coachella, the music and arts festival held each spring in the Sonoran desert. White followed up, and the two hung out in the man’s backyard. “It was very nice to take a minute and find out how someone else is doing,” White said. “I was so intrigued by his problems and his goals.” White asked his friend if he had a five-year plan. After all, White’s been plotting his next move on and off the hill since he was a kid. The friend hedged. “So I was like, ‘How much are you saving?’ ”

In White’s telling of the story, his friend said: “Saving?! What do you mean? Between getting the lady new shoes — “

At that point in his account, White stopped talking and looked down at his mug. He’s in the phase of his social rehab where he realizes he probably shouldn’t have asked an old friend how much money he’s putting away but not yet at the point where he doesn’t tell the story at all.

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