The Truth Behind Evel Knievel's Final Jump

Robert Craig Knievel, better known by his rocket-propelled motorcycle of a pseudonym, Evel Knievel, is known for many accomplishments. Sure, generally he's remembered as the guy who liked to climb onto things and then make them go over other things, but he had other gifts too. He was, for example, perhaps the last word in taking a goofy last name and using a fun rhyme to turn that frown upside down. Not everyone can do that. Nobody would watch a Marvel movie starring Lumberbatch Cumberbatch.

Still, more than a decade after his death, Evel is remembered best as a spectacular purveyor of daring do whose successes largely overshadowed the times when he wound up in traction or got hit in the crotch by a speeding motorcycle.

So what made him give it all up?

Evel Knievel jumped the shark

The answer, according to History, is multifaceted, but not entirely unexpected. As you might imagine, having a job where smashing your body into the ground makes up one day out of five kind of wears on a person after a while, and after a gangbusters crash in 1975 involving two cracked vertebrae and a fractured pelvis, Knievel claimed that he was done for good.

But you know the stunt game. Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in. Evel decided to make one last jump, but to keep things reasonable and err on the side of caution. In a relatively pedestrian feat, he would gingerly clear a 64-foot saltwater tank filled with sharks.

It sounds worse than it was. Twenty yards was, theoretically, no big deal for the performer, and the sharks were of the "daredevils are friends, not food" mind set. Their handler claimed that if Knievel hit the pool, he'd scare the sharks more than they'd scare him which, to be fair, is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect the mayor from Jaws to say, so they were sedated on top of everything.

Unfortunately, during a test run, Knievel did what he was arguably most famous for: crashed real hard. He broke both arms and his collarbone and hospitalized a cameraman, leading to the cancellation of his appearance on the planned show. After that, he simplified things, only performing a few run-of-the-mill motorcycle jumps before easing into retirement in the early '80s.