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Editorial: Tame the X Games before others die

In this photaken Jan. 24 2013 Caleb Moore does flip before he crashed during ESPN Winter X Games snowmobile freestyle

In this photo taken Jan. 24, 2013, Caleb Moore does a flip before he crashed during the ESPN Winter X Games snowmobile freestyle competition in Aspen, Colo. Moore died Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, after suffering complications from injuries suffered during the snowmobile crash. He was 25. (AP Photo/Aspen Daily News, Chris Council)

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Updated: March 5, 2013 6:19AM

If you thought, somehow, we’ve become a civilized society that has tamed — or at least safely contained — our lust for savagery masked as sport and death-defying thrills, think again.

It simply crops up again, reinvented in new and modern forms.

Last week, ESPN’s X Games, a showcase of stunts on snowmobile, skis, motorcycles and the like, recorded its first death.

Caleb Moore, 25, died after a back flip on a snowmobile went terribly wrong. His crash was followed, less than half an hour later, by another spectacular crash, this one by his brother. Colten Moore suffered a separated pelvis. Shattering injuries are not uncommon in sports featured in the X Games.

By all accounts, Caleb Moore loved his sport and accepted the risks. He willingly put his life on the line.

But what of ESPN and all the sponsors that set the stage for the wildest derring-do, creating a space where competitors are rewarded for taking ever greater risks?

Since its start in 1995, the made-for-TV games have grown exponentially to six separate events a year. The winter games drew 35 million viewers this year, the biggest draw ever, according to TransWorld Business.

ESPN plans to thoroughly review its snowmobiling events “to make sure that we take as much risk as we can out of [freestyle snowmobiling],” a top ESPN executive said on an ESPN program.

It’s a start, though sports journalists say ESPN already goes to significant lengths to control race conditions for its action sports.

What they aren’t controlling is the hype — the call for blood, if you will, from the crowds that results in ever more daring and deadly stunts.

Thrill-seeking is part of who we are. But in more mature sports — auto racing and boxing, for example — organizers and athletes have managed to temper the risk.

That effort is past due for action sports.

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