December 29, 2006

The year that is about to pass.

Strange thing, this year was. At least for me. So this sort of year-end review will probably seem kind of strange to you, dear reader. I’m not gonna get all “DC” like and do a proper look back at the “Year in MX”, but just kind of touch on the things that stick out in the dark corners of my memory.

2006 was the year that James Stewart became a solid 450 racer. It was also the debut year for Kawasaki’s big thumper, and the two of them kicked off the year with the win at the Anaheim opener. That was the race in which RC went down in the whoops and the next thing you knew, all tracks built after that were a bit tamer. Of course, that had nothing to do with Carmichael.

2006 was also the year that the AMA/FIM fuel penalty turned the hat trick, claiming it’s third set of victims in as many years when they caught Team Makita Suzuki’s star rider with his hand in the leaded cookie jar. Of course, the difference this year was that neither the FIM nor the AMA wanted the penalty to affect the title chase, so they gave Carmichael his points back and took his money instead, leaving Kawasaki team manager Mike Fisher to believe that the rules were not meant to be take seriously. Unfortunately, Fisher was not the only one left with that belief.

Speaking of bone-headed moves by the sanctioning body, new class “names” were announced at the start of the year. They were and continue to be not only ridiculous, but almost unanimously disliked by everyone involved in the sport. Of course, they will not be changed for 2007.

2006 marked the first time that the Supercross championship went down to the absolute wire at the finale in Las Vegas, and to top it off, it was broadcast live. Apparently everybody but me thought it was the most exciting race since Anaheim ’86… I thought it was a parade, since the top three settled into their positions early and stayed there until the end. It also marked the end of a phenomenal second season of supercross for James, as he became the first person to deny Carmichael of a Championship (the under-respected World SX crown). He also became the first racer to win ALL of his heat races in a season... although most people could not care less about that particular stat.

2006 was the first year in a little while that I didn’t attend the opening race of the Outdoor Nationals, choosing instead to stay warm and comfortable while it rained from Pasadena to Sacramento. Of course, that meant I missed a hell of a race, with James Stewart again achieving the another pair of milestones: snapping Carmichael’s ridiculously long winning streak as well as taking the KX450F to a victory in it’s maiden outdoor voyage.

Unfortunately, the 2006 Outdoor season didn’t turn out to be the race-to-race battle we had long hoped for, as Stew crashed his brains out one too many times, and Superbad Chad just wasn’t feeling it. So RC steamrolled to another title and did the unthinkable: he retired.
Maybe THAT’S why I’m feeling kind of melancholy about 2006; this was the last year of the Reign of Rick(y). Late in 2006, RC fired the shot heard ‘round the world: he’s going to NASCAR. And I hope he kicks big time ass there.

Sometime in the middle of 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon, and I regained perspective. Motocross suddenly seemed frivolous, and I stopped writing about it. I remembered that Americans were still dying in the Middle East, for reasons that I personally cannot excuse. My love of this sport never wavered, but I had to admit that it was not as important as many other things in this world. Since then, they’ve called a ceasefire in Lebanon, American troops are STILL dying and an election was held and some politicians lost their jobs. Motocross remains less important than geopolitical affairs, but… but I still love this sport. So here we are.

Ryan Villopoto made Mike Alessi very sad by seriously kicking his ass at the Glen Helen outdoor finale. But Mike shouldn’t take it personally; RV kicked EVERYONE’S ass that day, lending credence to the concept that there will always be a fast, freckle-faced redhead in this sport.

Also at Glen Helen, RC fired the SECOND shot heard world wide when he crashed and, unbelievably, hurt himself badly enough that he not only left the track, but was unable to race in the Motocross des Nations. Thousands of international Carmichael fans had their hearts broken that day. Ironically, RC’s dnf insured that Stewart took the win at Glen Helen, giving him the “bookends”: wins at both the opening and closing rounds of the series.

With RC out, James was able to don the number 1 plate at the MXdN, and led America’s team to victory, even though he finished 2-2 to the incomparable Stefan Everts.

And that was it for the racing, folks. Oh sure, there were the big money events held in Carson, CA and Las Vegas, NV, won by Kdub and Stewart, respectively. But all of the drama, tension and excitement of the big title chases were over and done by then. Nothing left to do but fight and argue on the motoboards.

And then, the unthinkable: Marty Moates killed himself.

Okay… THAT’S the reason for my melancholia. I’m still slightly out-of-sorts about the whole deal. I used to get quite a thrill at seeing Marty at A1 and going up to him to say “Hi”… and he would actually talk to me, would actually remember me! Even with 45,000 people in that stadium, it’s going to seem empty without him. Dammit.

2006. Some good things happened, for sure, but I’m ready to let it go.

Happy New Year to all!

December 12, 2006

Not a "farewell", but a "See ya later!"

I went to Marty Moates' memorial service today, and it was absolutely beautiful. The motocross community is made up of just great people, and hundreds showed up to show their love and respect. I'm not going to go into details about who was there and who said what, but I will say this: Marty has challenged us all to demonstrate the same level of love for our brothers and sisters as he did. Set aside the details of his death and focus on his life... the man everyone remembers as a friend.

Finally, here are some photos taken at Marty's very last race, courtesy The Factory Spectator himself, Steve Bruhn.

Rest well, Marty.

December 11, 2006

A good friend remembers Marty...

My friend Bobby Myers (aka "BobbyM") has written a heartwarming remembrance of Marty. You can read it here. Thanks Bobby.

December 09, 2006

A good place

Rick Dougherty has started a wonderful memorial website for Marty Moates. The site "...exists to share memories, feelings and celebrate the life of Marty Moates."

Thanks to Rick and all involved.

December 08, 2006

More about Marty

Great motocross writer Eric Johnson penned this memorial of Marty and posted it at Racer X Online.

Man, I still can't believe it...

This is a sad, sad day

(photo courtesy Motocross Action)

Marty Moates, a hero to all motocross fans, took his own life yesterday. I am numb.

I first met Marty a few years back after reading one of his posts on the old Fresh Dirt board. He basically invited everyone on the board to come to the Carlsbad Christmas Grand Prix and have a beer with him as he celebrated his birthday on his brand new YZ250F. I showed up, looking forward to meeting the first American to win the USGP at Carlsbad, and he was true to his word, offering me a Coors Light from a big ol' cooler filled with brew. He was unbelievably nice and I was amazed that he would take the time to chat with me. I was just getting back into racing and I mentioned that I really like the No Fear gear, but was disappointed that they didn't make it in "fat boy" sizes. To my surprise, he told me he had some gear that would fit me, and offered to bring it to A1 for me.

Cut to Anaheim stadium a few weeks later. I was standing outside the restaurant when Marty Moates walked up and shook my hand. He introduced me to his wife and then handed me a bag full of McGrath-replica No Fear gear. I was nearly delirious... it was one thing to get a good deal on great gear, but to have it personally delivered by Marty Moates, right in the middle of MX/SX Central? I was in heaven.

I saw Marty many times after that... he even gave me a tour of the No Fear facility once... and everytime, EVERY SINGLE TIME I saw him he was smiling and friendly and happy. Which is why I can barely believe what has happened. I can't, I don't want to imagine what made him do this.

Marty, take care. You are greatly missed. Thanks for everything.

December 06, 2006

Finally weighing in on the Toronto Controversy...

... ah, well, I'm going to let Jason Weigandt do the honors. Read his blog entry here... he wraps it up pretty well (and he was there in person watching the whole thing go down, unlike me).

As for my take? First: Congrats to Team San Manuel Band of Mission Indians/L&M Racing/Yamaha rider Chad Reed. "Superbad" Chad put a lot of bad memories behind him with this one. Good for him!

And as a Stewart fan, I'm happy to see him hanging in there to get podium points after what was at best a questionable move, but sheesh... it wasn't pretty. Glad to see that Preston wasn't seriously injured, and I hope Ivan is able to answer the bell at A1. But I'm not mad at Stew... like I said before, I wasn't there to see it in person, and the guy I linked to above describes the practice stuff pretty accurately.

How cool is this?

(pic courtesy

I saw this and had to grab it... it was posted by Lee from On The Pipe Racing, and I believe it's his collection of restored 125'ers. Man, I'd love to have a stable of ponies like that!

December 04, 2006

Show me the money

So here it is, early December and the Supercross season has already started for next year. One race in and the sport is already awash in controversy, but I am just not ready to get into that yet... I still want to take a look at something significant about the season past: the prize money.

Motocross Illustrated has a great feature they run every issue, the “Earnings Leaders”, a list of the top purse winners to date. This list shows who won how much over the course of the season, and it only counts prize money and points-fund money; sponsor payout, salaries and bonuses are not included. And what's striking about this list is, you guessed it, the fact that it truly represents a paltry sum of money.

Now don't get me wrong; if someone handed me $10 grand, I'd gratefully accept it and consider myself lucky. But when you consider the effort Grant Langston expended to win his regional 250F supercross championship, then his year-end prize money total of only $17,420 seems more than pitiful.

Seriously, a championship nets less than $20K? What year is this again?

Let's move to the top of the leader board, where we're not surprised to find James Stewart. Stew clocked $438,300... and more than a third of this was earned at just one race, the U.S. Open. Stewart's string of supercross victories and his World SX title made up the difference.

Same with the number two earner, Ricky Carmichael. Even though RC took home the 450F Outdoor crown, there's no doubt that his Supercross championship brought him the bulk of the dollars.

Here are a few things that bug me about this money index:

  1. Only four guys in this entire country, in what is arguably the greatest motocross nation on earth and in the the richest and longest motocross/supercross series on the planet, were able to win more than $100,000 in prize money. The guy in fifth place on the leader board, Josh Grant, only made $93K.

  2. It gets worse: only two racers were in the $90s, just one in the $80s, four made between $60 and $70... and NO ONE made $50K.

  3. Four racers were in the $40s; five in the $30s (and one of them was 250F National Champion Ryan Villapoto!); EIGHT in the $20s; and seven racers made less than $20K, including the King of Supercross himself, Jeremy McGrath, who only took home $18,850 (which really isn't too bad considering the limited number of races he competed in... all supercrosses, of course).

  4. The total amount prize money handed out to the top 35 Earnings Leaders comes to about $2.35 million. I'm not even going to begin to compare that figure to any other sport; I'll let you do that yourself.

So what's the verdict? That our sport is too stingy and cheap? That purses must be raised, or our sport will never be taken seriously? That our riders are under compensated for efforts they exert and the risks they take? Well, yeah. But there's a problem with those thoughts, and it mostly comes from the way our sport was formed and the REASON the whole thing got started in the first place.

Motocross was never meant to be a big money sport like the popular professional sports that dominate the nations airwaves and newspapers. Professional motocross in this country was developed as a means to sell motorcycles to enthusiasts, bottom line. And Supercross was developed to sell stadium seat tickets to casual fans. The men behind these endeavors never intended for racers to become millionaires; they wanted to get that money for themselves! The Japanese manufacturers didn't build big racing teams in this country so that fast kids could live lavish factory-supported lifestyles; they just wanted to get mini-dads to buy more bikes!

The truth of the matter is, while I'm bitching about the amount of prize money paid in 2006, I should really be thankful that these heroes were able to make as much as they did... because it was never in the play book for purses and earnings to be this high. For that, we have to thank the unsung visionaries who toiled in the background and made it happen. It's a long way from perfect, that's for sure, but it's a lot better than nothing, and it could be a whole lot worse. Here's hoping, though, that the far-sighted will continue to do what it takes to make sure our riders get paid what they're worth.