An open letter to the Seven.
Now seems like a pretty poignant moment for me to do my best to convey to you, how I feel in regard to your recent incognito period and your future relationship to the sport in general.
I don’t want you to think I believe you owe us anything. Passion got you involved in this sport and through that passion, you crafted a level of skill and daring that at times was unassailable. You awed fans, sponsors and your competitors alike, so in the sense of debts owed, yours are paid in full. You created this unsustainable reputation of not only winning but destroying in spectacular fashion. Sometimes it was destroying the competition and others, it was yourself but even your failures were the result of your hardcoded DNA to wow the fans like you always had from your days on a KX60.
Everywhere you raced, you forced the competition to progress or be left looking foolish and like all sports, progress they did. As the sport’s mechanical make-up progressed as well from the two-stroke where elite skill was rewarded, to four-strokes where horsepower filled plenty of talent-voids, the gaps between you and your opponents narrowed. That “Bubba DNA” wasn’t going to accept this narrowing without a fight and the resulting list of catastrophic meetings with Mother Earth and machine was, in typical James fashion, in a league all it’s own. Newton’s third law of motion perfectly illustrates the level at which your crashes eclipse most others in the top tier of the sport; “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body”… it’s that “opposite direction” part that I cite as the first factor leading to your last year of displacement from the sport, the public eye and the pits.
The second factor in my mind is becoming a father, and specifically the timing of your sons birth while you were away from racing. We all know the stories of time off from racing being a real eye opener for you guys who put so much time into your preparation. It can be the kiss of death for a career but in your specific case, you had already had time away from the sport with years of Supercross-only deals and while some would argue that your dominance fell off when those SX-only deals originated, no one could argue that your desire and effort were in any way diminished. My point here being, I don’t see the combination of time off and becoming a father being a negative but rather a shift in perspective and responsibility. Being a father of four boys myself, I can understand and respect this more than you know.
Anyone who has been a fan of the Steve Matthes Show podcasts for years is familiar with your refrain to not hang around the sport when it’s over for you but to simply walk away and leave it all in the rear view mirror. Having heard you state that numerous times, I gotta say, I never thought it would truly work out that way and now that it appears to have come to fruition… fans are struggling with it and not at all ready to accept it.
There have been many predictions on when the “Stew-re-emergence” could take place but many of them have come to pass with nary a sighting or any further revelations as to when this hiatus from the sport’s periphery could expire. We all like to keep this little hope in our minds-eye that you are grinding away, riding, training and preparing for a “GOTCHA” style rebirth at A1 2018… but in all honesty, I finally believe what you had always said. If you’re not winning, you don’t wanna hang around the top 5 or the sport in general and you’ll just disappear.
I just want you to know that we all respect what you sacrificed for the sport and the stories of your truly meteoric moments (Daytona 2011 Wall jump for one) will always live in infamy. If you truly are at peace with the decision to step away, thank you for the years of memories and sacrifice and I can say with 100% certainty that the phrase “Stew would do it” will never die. It’s merely one facet of your lasting legacy and mark on the sport.