My apologies to those who were patiently waiting for my next “Sparkplug” column; time away from home made it difficult to maintain the same writing rhythm. In any case, here's the latest, and this time I think it's time to say something positive.
It's so easy to bitch and moan about things that tick us off, a heckuva lot easier doing that than pitching in and helping to make things right. Fortunately, it's just as easy to praise as it is to criticize, and my time off has made me aware of the fact that I need to balance my writing by focusing on good things every once in a while.
The truth of the matter is this: 2005 has turned out to be an utterly fantastic year for motocross in America. The year has been full of surprises from the very beginning. In fact, the shockers started late in 2004, when Rick Carmichael announced his signing with Team Suzuki, and continued when Carmichael failed to beat Chad Reed at the U.S. Open. The following is my short list of the great moments in motocross so far this year:
1) Rain at A1 – oh man, there were so many stories that came as a result of Mother Nature's capriciousness in January! The hyped up Carmichael/Stewart showdown was postponed as the best supercross racers in the world had to contend with ankle-deep mud. Despite the deluge, 45,000 diehard fans stood on their feet in the rain for the entire 250 main, flabbergasted at the spectacle. It was one of the most exciting races ever run in Anaheim Stadium!
2) Supercross practice got deadly serious – maybe I just didn't notice before, but this year seems like the first year that the very top racers decided that “winning” timed practice was the best way to intimidate their competition. As a spectator, if you missed seeded practice, you missed half the battle.
3) The return of Grant Langston – say what you will about the Zulu Warrior (and I've said plenty!), he did a great job taking the 125 East title and giving the fans their money's worth.
4) The Last (two-stroke) Dragon – Brett Metcalfe deserves a special award from Yamaha for being willing to sacrifice his season by campaigning the outgunned YZ125 in the “250F” class. Even if he doesn't get compensated by his employer, Brett can take comfort in the fact that he put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces by wringing that lil' tiddler's neck on those Saturday nights.
5) Chad Reed got pissed – and put a stop to the Carmichael party in Rick's home state, taking both Daytona (!) AND Orlando. Reed stepped up big time, especially after he was soundly whipped by RC at San Diego and Atlanta.
6) James Stewart figured out 250 Supercross – by winning 3 of the last 5 rounds, James ended his rookie year in the premier class with a thunderous bang. This is a positive column, so I won't mention what happened at the series finale in Vegas...
7) Watching Rick race outdoors – On any track, on any day, under any conditions... watching RC do his thing will never get old. The man is a malevolent maestro on a motorcycle, bending that yellow thumper to his will, and beating his opposition mercilessly. On any racing Sunday, Rick Carmichael can be found channeling the spirit of Lance Armstrong, who believed that success in racing was all about pain... pushing oneself so hard for so long that your opponents have no choice but to give up. No one has beat Rick straight up yet. There's a good chance that no one ever will.
8) Mike Brown: Back in the U.S.A. - Brownie's ability to put his early '05 European soap opera behind him and put together a privateer campaign for the U.S. 250F title on a shoestring budget was a great accomplishment in itself. The fact that he not only got the Honda 250 its first AMA moto win and overall win and was even leading the championship points race for a time is nothing short of phenomenal.
9) DMXS Radio – Good God, is there anything better than this crazy show? David Izer, Kevin Kelly and the rest of their crew have created a program that is simultaneously funny, entertaining, ground-breaking, profane, spirited, informative and outrageous. Sitting on computer listening to them interview the top riders and people in motocross, while engaging their rabid fans in the chat room is one of life's greatest pleasures... or maybe I just don't get out enough?
10) The Great Outdoors – I could say Hangtown was great, since I was there (and the 250F finish was epic); or I could say High Point was awesome because of the two-moto battle between RC and Stewart. Or I could go on and on and on about ALL of the rounds run so far, but that would be just going too far. As I mentioned at the start, 2005 has been a great year for motocross, with record attendance, a new track in Colorado, a fantastic battle in the 250F class and more. I can't wait for Glen Helen.
11) Way to go, OLN – I have to admit that I have yet to catch any of the races on OLN, but that's nothing new for me; I rarely watch motocross racing on TV simply because I cannot justify the cost of cable for the very few things that I want to watch. But I am glad that motocross has found a new home at a channel that seems to believe in the sport, and I look forward to good things happening in the upcoming years. And the return of David Bailey to the announcer's booth is the icing on the cake!
12) Look out World, Team America is coming! It seemed sort of anticlimactic at the time, but you can believe that the announcement of the U.S. team for the Motocross des Nations... Rick Carmichael, Kevin Windham and Mike Brown... sent a shockwave through the rest of the world. Those guys across the pond aren't stupid: they know that Carmichael is the Man, and that Windham and Brownie can haul the mail, too. Only a catastrophe can stop the inevitable American win... and we don't believe in catastrophes anymore.
Oh, there's more to be happy about, a lot more. But I want to stop here on a really high note: we are going to beat the best in the world this fall, because WE ARE the best in the world!