When the gate drops, the bullshit stops and we need to face up to the fact that we can never be the American hero squads of even just a decade ago and beyond.
This has nothing to do with today’s riders being soft or less manly, they are not. What it comes down to is an inadvertent crippling of a skillset. One of the most perplexing aspects of this degradation is that while appearing concerted it is absolutely coincidental. Follow my logic here. Supercross has been around since the 70’s and the US MXdN teams were dominant for many years including unprecedented stretches of 12 and 6 consecutive. Supercross is often mentioned as a target of too much focus for today’s racers or at the very least, too much of a distraction from the sports rooted discipline in the hillsides and natural terrain of the MX series. With each extended absence of the United States walking away with a Chamberlain Trophy, the reaction initially was heavily favoring this focus on Supercross, while the rest of the World was racing Motocross solely during their racing calendar year. It was a logical hypothesis and one that required years of des Nations to elapse for further consideration. Many will likely still cling to this reasoning but I’m here to tell you, the problem runs deeper.
As much as we all love this sport and it is fueled by passion, especially those who found themselves lining up at the local tracks all across the country, the top level of this sport is still a business. The elite racers work their whole lives to hopefully achieve greatness and the financial stability that names like McGrath, Villopoto and comparatively few others have in the sports history. Behind each of these greats are small army’s of purpose-driven employees who are also the best at what they do and of course require an income that reflects that.
Stick with me, I’m reaching the point.
The MX Nationals had long been in a state of sameness. Dusty, dry, simply prepped track surfaces which lacked appeal to sponsors let alone TV networks (remember the days of 1 or 2 week delays for the full series of MX races?) When MX Sports stepped in, we were finally lead by a group of enthusiasts who isolated the shortcomings of the series and devised a plan for improvement that might slowly, yet effectively create a production that would create a visible value for sponsors and possibly get same-day broadcast coverage like Supercross had begun enjoying years ago. The idea was to bring some of the spit-shine production of Supercross which bright sponsors in, so that value and dollars would flow in for the teams busting their asses in the sports format that every die hard fan really cares about. The fans who actually ride and buy the products.
Part of this plan for revamping the Nationals, a BIG part, was making sure the tracks remained “TV friendly” throughout the course of an event (broadcast). Essentially this came down to keeping dust down and by extension, making the soil of the track highly responsive to the artificial (man’s hand) means to control its character. This could mean bringing in sand, mulch, ripping some tracks deeper than ever before to aerate the soil and its ability to absorb moisture. In effect, to do whatever was necessary to make the track surface predictable and ideally, utterly controllable.
Who would have guessed that in an effort to make our outdoor series more presentable and more profitable for teams, we’d effectively be forfeiting such a necessary part of our skillset, grit and proficiency when faced with the World at large in “the most important race of the year”?
Like I said, our guys aren’t soft or less manly than our MXdN teams of years past, it’s just like the training programs the riders pay big bucks to join nowadays: purpose-built. Their training programs are fine tuned for what they know to expect throughout their racing calendar year, likewise, they have now tuned their on-bike training to what they know to expect on the tracks each week. How many times do we hear this each year during the MX Series, “every track feels basically the same”.? Mother Nature can get her hooks in and foil the promotors plans once or twice a series but that’s a far cry from what those in the MXGP’s see year in and year out. They ride some absolute garbage tracks during the year, some by circumstance and some by natural conditions affecting the track as they will. The racers are simply able to perform in a wider variety of conditions because it’s part of their tapped-in skillset in a typical series they regularly compete in.
We now find ourselves in a true Catch 22: “a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.” My point being, the way it has been is the way it is going to remain. We will only be competitive when the conditions are similar to what our guys race each week in America; yes, even when the race is IN America, when the conditions become the X factor. Even on a track that is part of our series, the invaders are far more comfortable on it because of the shit they have seen and competed on with regularity. It’s in their toolbox and skillset.
The flip side of this situation is we leave these National tracks NATURAL week to week and let the weather do what it will and WE RACE ON IT! It aint pretty but it sure as shit builds character and knocks the dust off those skills that evidently lead to MXdN Victories. I hate to indict MX Sports in this scenario because they are simply doing what they can to help the sport here in America, what we need to ask ourselves is, as fans, do we want our American series to thrive and grow, while suffering lackluster finishes on the World stage… or do we want to start collecting Chamberlain Trophies again while the MX series gets dusty, choppy, sketchy and sloppy AND risks sponsor dollars and Live Tv coverage waining?
Catch22’s are a bitch.