June 10, 2008
This is What You Want
Just admit it. You want to see someone, ANYONE, step up and take the race to James. For at least a few laps, right? You're probably pissed that Chad Reed and Kevin Windham elected to sit this one out, even though those guys can't beat Stewart indoors or out. You might even want to harbor a slight grudge against the GOAT for retiring to race cars, but your heart won't let you (and I certainly don't blame you). I am here to tell you it's okay.
It's okay to want to see some racing for the win when you attend a professional motor sports event. Just as it should be okay for the pros to do what they can to put on a show that pleases their fans. Yes, a show. A production involving a cast of thousands, most of whom pay dearly just to be in the audience. That's what all the super-successful professional sports deliver, consistently and at a high level.
The James Stewart show, like anything else, has changed over the years since the young man turned pro. Forgetting supercross for a moment, the Outdoor Stewart story went from "Holy cow he's fast!" to "He's winning too much, why won't he move up already?" in the lightweight class to "FINALLY, someone to race with Ricky" to "Why is he crashing so much racing with Ricky?" to "Wow, 2007 was more exciting without him."
Ouch, that must have hurt, reading those stories in the motocross press last summer. I am just assuming that James feels that he has some unfinished business in the 450 class, and that the only thing that matters is winning that elusive heavyweight national championship to complete his collection of titles. And after watching him ride at the Glen Helen opener and seeing the videos from Hangtown and hearing the webcast from Freestone, it seems to me that James started this season on a mission to quickly establish dominance. If the field was hopeful that Stewart needed more time to heal from knee surgery, those hopes were sorely dashed by the time the tour left California. And that is the James Stewart show right now: utter domination, lightly mixed with "yeah, but he might crash his brains out, so stay close as you can."
Would you be okay if James decided to put on a different show? No, I'm not talking about stunts like the one he clowned Chad Reed with at Unadilla (that maybe pissed you off), but something more subtle... like somehow not setting fast lap in qualifying, or getting an abysmally bad start and taking all moto to come back. I think some of you would settle for what happened at Freestone: falling in the first moto and then instead of going nuts in the second to pass Alessi as quickly as possible, James took a few laps to go around. Right?
I can tell you that I am looking forward to the next chapter of the James Stewart show, as the young man becomes an old pro at this motocross game, giving the fans the show they paid good money for. Not faking, still racing with class and dignity, still showing the same growing respect for his competition as well as his fans and still amazing us all with his speed, guts, style and bike handling.