Evel may have been the original sports entertainer. He pretty much built up his own brand, and earned every penny by putting himself on the line time and time again. In a way, he might be the Lou Thesz of the X-Games. In the tributes that were running last night, they had an interview where he said that around the Caesar's Palace jump, it stopped being stuntwork, and became true daredevil stuff.
Back in the early 70's, he was part of the "ABC Wide World of Sports" Holy Trinity that was Evel, The Globetrotters, and Howard Cosell covering Muhammad Ali fights. Cliff diving from Acapulco, Barrel jumping from Lake Placid, Downhill skiing from Kitzbühel, Austria and the Ironman triathlon from Hawaii made up the next tier of attractions. That was when there was pretty much just the three networks.
I think Evel was a hero because we all wished we had the cojónes to make those jumps (or take on whatever giant hurdle applied to your own life), but he was the only one doing it. Oh yeah, makes me smile to think that he beat Darwin, and passed of natural causes