June 30, 2006

Sparkplug 52

Yes, it has been too long since the last installment of this supposedly weekly journal, but instead of dwelling on the reasons for the lapse, let's just get right into it, shall we? This week's Sparkplug is about conscious moto-consumption.

Say what?

If you are any type of motocross fan at all, then I do not have to tell you that our sport is a small, insular community. We are an extended family, for all intents and purposes, brothers and sisters in dirt, sharing a common blood-line that somehow gets generated the very first time we stand at the side of a local MX track and get roosted by the passing pack. It used to be the odor of two-stroke fumes that united us; now it's up to other visceral elements to trigger our enlightenment, but in any case we are transformed by the experience... those that choose to become fans, that is... and we silently sign an unwritten membership agreement that cannot be revoked. And it's all okay.

That's why you feel completely okay with heading to the starting line on your bike, ALL of your tools and gear piled up in the open bed of your pickup truck, both doors unlocked, your cellphone on the passenger seat, your wallet in your gearbag and your keys in your toolbox. We know none of our moto brothers and sisters will steal our belongings. When the uncommon pit theft occasionally occurs at a local race, we automatically assume that it was committed by an outsider... and we are usually correct in that assumption.

It's that same spirit of community that causes us to festoon our cars and trucks with discreet moto-oriented stickers, our way of flying the flag of brotherhood to be recognized by our peers as we travel around in the “outside” world. T-shirts work in the same way; how many of us have struck up conversations with complete strangers simply because they were wearing a One Industries shirt or something like it? We recognize ourselves in each other.

So what of this conscious moto-consumption I mentioned earlier? It's about how we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars in support of our tight-knit community. Because in this current world, we moto-fans have more choices than ever before in the history of our sport; we need to make wise decisions if we want the sport to continue to thrive.

Here's a quiz: is it better to buy your next pair of pants from your local dealer than the discount mail-order juggernaut? Careful, that's a trick question. The correct answer is “it depends.” It depends on which of the two is more supportive of the sport. Your local dealer may be streetbike oriented and not care one thing about motocross, carrying the barest minimum of parts and supplies to support the few dirtbikes he sells. Or he might be the kind of guy that runs a small race team out of his shop, and offers discounts to anyone who races at the local tracks. Even still, it might turn out that the mail-order company is the biggest supporter of motocross, fielding a fulltime 250F team for supercross and the nationals (like Motoworld). My point is simply that as we spend our discretionary dollars on the sport that we love, we need to use discretion in determining the best places to spend that money. Because each dollar counts.

Let's take it a step further. We make other purchases in our daily lives that seemingly have little to nothing to do with motocross. Yet with just a little bit of effort, we might find that there is a way to benefit the sport with these choices as well. Say you like Red Bull and buy it regularly, not only because you like the product, but because you want to patronize them for supporting the sport. The next time you go to purchase some, buy it from one of your favorite smaller, local stores and take the time to talk to the store manager. Tell him that you're glad he carries the product because it supports the sport you love, and that you intend to make his shop the primary source of your Red Bull purchases. Then suggest that he contact Red Bull for some motocross-related promotional material to display in the store. You might be surprised to see a fullsize poster of Travis Pastrana or Rick Carmichael in the store on your next visit, helping to subliminally promote the sport to non-motocross fans. Heck, the store manager might even give you some of the promotional material to take home!

Conscious moto-consumption is about being aware of how your actions affect the sport. Ours is a leisure-time, recreational-dollar-eating endeavor, and business pays close attention to how and where these dollars are spent. The numerous outside-the-industry sponsors that have entered the sport are paying attention. We need to make sure they are compensated for their good deeds. Apple Computer's Ipods are extremely popular with many people, but Apple doesn't support motocross like Napster does. Motocross fans should consider this when making music player purchase decisions... this is just one example. Let's think about motocross before we buy; there may be a way to increase the benefits of our purchases.

June 07, 2006

Good News and Bad News for James Stewart

Looks like James will NOT be racing at Southwick, due to a lingering knee injury suffered during that horrendous get-off at High Point. You have to check out his latest newsletter, found at his website here (click on "newsletter"); it is the most informative injury report a professional motocrosser has ever shared with his fans. He even quotes his doctor and shows medical drawings! Good job!

But sorry to hear you won't be racing in Massachussetts... that title looks like it has slipped away.

June 04, 2006

Sparkplug 51

This week’s Sparkplug is all about the love… the love that I have for the sport of motocross. Specifically, what does it mean to love a sport and how does one express it? Yes, this essay is going to get a little personal and only those who share my emotions about the sport will understand.

Here’s the thing: if one were to judge my feelings about the sport by my current level of non-involvement, it might be easy to conclude that I’m not much of a motocross fat at all. After all, I’m not racing right now, I very rarely ride these days… in fact, I don’t even own a motocross bike. To make matters worse, the last race I attended was back in January and I no longer go to local races. I don’t sound like much of a motocross fan, do

In my entire life, I have only owned 4 racebikes… contrast that with some guys who buy 4 bikes a year. Who loves the sport more? I live in the city; I have to drive at least an hour before I get to a place where I can ride. Some people I know can kickstart their bikes in their garage and ride right out the door. Who loves the sport more? My job is about as far removed from racing as any line of work can possibly be; I know more than a few good people who feed their family directly from their involvement in the motocross industry. Again, who loves the sport more?

And what gives me the right to say I’m a motocross fan?

I first stopped racing to attend college. Yet everyday during classes, I would find myself daydreaming about racing. I even stole a line from a philosophy class and decorated my notebook cover with the statement, “I race motocross, therefore I am!” It was my intent to make my way into the world, earn a great deal of money and return to racing with a big buck racing setup: motorhome, multiple bikes, the works. Funny how life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it. Years went by before I decided that if I was going to make my return to racing, it will just have to be in the same low-budget way that I started. And there I was, a racer again… a VET racer, to be sure, but a motocross racer.

After a couple of years I stopped racing again. I have more to accomplish in the world of business, and I just don’t have the time it takes to properly mount a racing campaign… at least, that’s what I have been telling myself. So I sold my bike and decided to be content with going to a few races and reading and writing about motocross for fun.

I’m not content.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy writing about motocross on this site and engaging in moto-banter with my fellow fools at Motodrive.com. And I still follow the sport religiously (I spend more time listening to races on the internet on Sundays than going to church!), but… that FEELING is still haunting me, that yearning feeling that makes me want to ride. I still catch myself “launching” down stairways, doing imaginary “bermshots” off of parking garage walls… and the main reason I stopped going to see my friends ride at local races is because it hurts too much to watch them ride and not be able to join them. You can see where this is all heading, right? There’s a bike in my near future, no doubt.

But until then, I maintain that I still LOVE this sport, bike or no bike. And here’s how I manifest this love: I CARE about the way the sport is portrayed in the mainstream media, I am CONCERNED about the future of the sport. I want this sport to be RESPECTED as a legitimate sport, and no longer treated like a spectacle, like a sideshow. And that’s why I am so outspoken about the way the sport is promoted, about the way the sport is (mis-)managed, about the way the media covers this sport. Yes, my only outlet is this tiny webpage and a post or two at Motodrive, but it’s a start and it’s my way of giving back.

I was watching NBC’s coverage of the French Open tennis tournament earlier today. I’d like to see motocross treated with the same respect that professional tennis gets. No one questions whether tennis players are “true” athletes. There is a lot of hype and drama surrounding some players, but the journalists covering the sport never blow it up or treat it like “professional” wrestling or “monster” truck “racing”. But as long as our promoters continue to put short-term goals like stadium seat-filling at the top of their agenda, motocross will never outlive this circus mentality. I hate that. (By the way, did you know SFX Sports, a division of LiveNation, manages a number of pro tennis players like Andre Agassi and tennis tournaments?)

I also hate the fact that I have allowed “life” to move me away from this sport that I love. So I am in the process of making some changes… changes in my expectations as to what life is supposed to be like, changes in my living conditions, changes in my environment… and finally changes in my chosen field of employment. It’s time to take back control and to get back to what really matters to me. One of these days, I am going to figure out how to make a living doing what I love: writing and communicating about motocross, using words, photographs and videos. And my love of the sport will be apparent in the quality of my work.

June 01, 2006

How is James Stewart Doing?

Check it out for yourself: he updated his newsletter. It's a cool read, and I'm glad and relieved to hear that he's doing better. I hope he's able to race at Southwick, but it's more important for him to think about the long run and sit out the race if he needs to.