April 26, 2006

"Jumping" James to stay with Team Green

Well, there'll be no "jumping ship" to Honda for James Stewart, as Kawasaki has announced they've renewed his contract (check out the press release here, courtesy Racer X Online).

I maintained that moving to Honda would be a positive step for Stewart, because I believe that every pro racer eventually wants to ride for Big Red AND I believe the CRF450F is a better bike than the Kawasaki KX450F. At least in terms of handling. And we've all seen James have problems this year with keeping the Kawi on two wheels, primarily due to front-end washouts.

But all of that is for naught. "Jumping" James will remain a Kawi man, demonstrating a level of brand loyalty that is all to rare in today's sport. Here's hoping that the partnership continue to bear (championship) fruit.

So... how about that MXdN announcement, Kawasaki? You ARE supporting James' involvement this year, right?

"Superbad" Chad speaks his mind

You gotta check out this audio interview of Chad Reed at last week's Dallas Supercross, as conducted by David Izer of DMXS Radio. "Superbad" really lays it on the line and doesn't pull any punches. And this was BEFORE his stunning surprise win in the main. What he has to say about Suzuki and the fuel penalty situation is amazing.

I'm Back!

Whoa. Where have I been? Well, I've been seriously ill the past two weeks or so, in so much pain that it was impossible to do any type of creative writing. But I'm much better now, so I'll get this puppy back on track.

I tell you what: during my time down I had ample opportunity to think about the difference between professional athletes and amateur/hobbyists, and the main difference is the fact that pros are paid to play when hurt or sick. Curled up in a fetal ball in my bed, I gave thought to what must have been going through Chad Reed's mind when he answered the call to race despite having a severely injured shoulder. I also thought about those races that James Stewart pulled out of last season, due to his "mystery" ailment. Pro athletes are a different breed.

April 08, 2006

Sparkplug 46

Now that the supercross season is taking a well-deserved two-weekend break (what a great season), I thought this would be a good time to tackle a not-so-serious moto-subject: rider nicknames. As in, I think it's high time that we adoring fans came up with some new monickers for our favorite riders.

Motocross nicknames have a rich history. Riders started taking nicks as soon as there were factory rides; some picked them up even sooner. Names like the "Flyin' Hawaiian" for John Desoto and "Jammin'" Jimmy Weinert are classics. Probably the greatest motocross nickname of all time is "Hurricane" for Bob Hannah. It's my opinion that the nicks in use today pale in comparison to the great handles from years gone by. So I'd like to rectify that situation.

See, it used to be that the nickname was actually descriptive of the rider and his riding style. "Hurricane" fit Hannah's wildman riding style like a fine suit. "Jammin'" had double meanings for Weinert; not only would he often be found in the pits jammin' on an acoustic guitar (making up hilarious songs about his competition), but on the track he would be the first to jam you into the snow fences on his way past. Contrast that with "RC." What does "RC" say about Rick Carmichael other than state his obvious initials? And before you get started, let me say that "G.O.A.T." is not an appropriate nickname for Carmichael; it's simply who he is. "Bubba" is another meaningless nick. The story is that an old lady gave that to James Stewart when he was still on minis. What do old ladies know about proper motocross nicknames?

I could be wrong, but I think the first professional sport to heavily adopt the use of nicknames was professional boxing. Early boxing promoters were always looking for an edge to sell tickets to their prize fights, so they would "create" flamboyant personas for their fighters. Now modern fighters are more known for their nicknames than their actual names. "Sugar" Ray Leonard. "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler. Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns. "Iron" Mike Tyson. These names are rich and evocative. This is what we need to get back to in motocross.

Yes, I have some new nicknames to propose, but first, let me set some basic guidelines. First and foremost, a rider MUST have achieved at least one championship of some kind before he deserves a nickname. Regional SX championships and Arenacross championships will qualify a rider for a nickname. Secondly, the nickname must be a clever reflection of the rider's personality and style. Finally, the rider must actually accept the nick. What good is a nickname if the rider himself doesn't like it?

So without further adieu, I give you the new nicknames for the top riders of our sport:

Heath "Work Hoss" Voss - Heath deserves props for his World Supercross title and his never-say-die attitude. And he ain't no little guy, either.

"TrackMaster" Travis Preston - this one was tough, because Travis is a genuinely nice guy who is really getting the job done, but usually is totally overlooked by the fans and the media. Travis deserves better recognition for the fact that he is an excellent rider... the man finished 5th overall in the 250 nats last year! Sure, "TrackMaster" isn't the greatest nickname ever, but it's alot better than Preston's current nick... nothing at all. Or is it "The Slower Travis"??

Mike "Bruiser" Brown - I mean, ANYTHING'S an improvement over "Brownie"! And many riders know that Brown is not to be messed with on the track. He'll put you on the ground with the quickness. Mike's not afraid to swap paint, so that's why I think he deserves a fighter's nickname.

Ivan "The Terrible" Tedesco - now I admit this one is not entirely original, but I think it's much better than the current play-on-words favorite "Hot Sauce". No, he's not a terrible rider, but like any good slang, this nick means the opposite of what it says (like "sick" actually means "dope"... er, cool or something). Ivan is in fact "terrible" to his competition... ask Michael Byrne.

Grant "Lucky" Langston - I chose this because it rolls nicely off the tongue and it also means the opposite of what it says. I'm referring to the bad luck Grant overcame early in his career, when he threw away his first supercross win with a last lap crash, and when he lost his first possible National title when his KTM's rear wheel exploded. Despite those setbacks, "Lucky" Langston is homing in on an unprecedented feat: becoming the only rider in the history of the sport to win a World 125 title, an American National 125 title and both Regional Supercross titles. Maybe he IS "Lucky"... (Note to Kyle Lewis fans: yes, your man has won a Japanese National Championship, and he's a fine motocross racer AND he currently holds the pink slip to the "Lucky" nickname, but... it's time to let it go.)

"Sugar K." Windham - this one is tough, but most people will agree that Kevin is one of the smoothest riders to ever grace the saddle of a modern motocross bike. In boxing, the nickname "Sugar" is held in high esteem; it describes a fighter that moves with sweet, assured footwork. We could call him "Special K" or "Smoothie", but neither of these has the historic value of "Sugar K"... and it sounds like "Sugar Ray".

"Superbad" Chad Reed - again going with the opposite meaning, I just like the ring of "Superbad Chad". To me, his hold nick of "Skippy" is borderline insulting. And the fact is that Chad is indeed "Superbad"... he may not be keeping up with the Rick and James show this year, but no one else in the field has anything for him. I can't wait to see what he'll do outdoors this year.

"Jumpin'" James Stewart - What other nick for a guy who singlehandedly rewrote the rules on jumping? James may not have invented the scrub, there few can dispute the fact that he made it a mandatory move for pros that actually want to win races.

Rick "The Hammer" Carmichael - At first, I thought of Rick "The Ruler", because of the R's, but Slick Rick the rapper beat me too it. Plus, "The Hammer" kind of goes with the "tool" aspect of his team's sponsor, Makita. And that fact is that Carmichael has hammered his competition senseless ever since he first swung a leg over a bike. Besides, Tom Delay won't be needing the nickname anymore (and that was the absolute last political aside you'll ever read at this blog)!

So... what do you think? And what would be a good nick for our newest champion, Davi Milsaps?

April 03, 2006

Davi Does It!

Congratulations to Davi Milsaps and Team Honda for wrapping up the 2006 East Region 250F supercross championship. It's the first professional title for both Milsaps and the littlest Honda fourstroke... and with Andrew Short leading the way in the West Region, this might be the first year Honda sweeps the regional classes since Jeremy McGrath and Brian Swink completed the deal for Team Peak/Pro Circuit/Honda.

And it's kind of ironic that if Shorty wins the title, he'll be beating Pro Circuit rider Grant Langston to do so.

So, let's welcome Davi Milsaps to the ranks of factory riders that have won regional supercross titles... it's almost the minimum requirement for keeping a factory ride.