What has happened to being ashamed of losing? This past weekend I worked track safety at the local MX park for an amateur race. I’ve done this a couple of times now, just to see what’s happening in the world of grass roots modern MX.
It’s a little sad, really. The local amateur ranks have always had a fair number of squids and spodes. Learning to go fast on a dirt bike isn’t easy, and some people just don’t have what it takes. And some of the guys are just getting started and will get better. But what I’ve seen lately is really disappointing.
What, specifically, is the problem? Scrubs.
Yes, the venerable Bubba Scrub seems to be the only thing these kids practice. I watched innumerable kids in the D (beginner,) C (novice,) and even B (intermediate) classes scrubbing pathetically off every single jump. 40 of the day’s 44 motos looked like practice sessions, with riders (not racers) strung single-file around the track practicing jumps. What a joke.
I watched some kid moving rapidly from a top-3 start to a bottom-10 finish doing his very best Bubba imitation off every jump while getting passed by someone every lap. It was retarded.
Dozens of wannabe racers had the temerity to throw their head sideways (because that’s the best they could manage) off every jump, trying to look cool, while falling down anywhere on the track that actually required skill. Sandy whoops? Crash. Turns? Crash.
Basically, if the track wasn’t a smooth, flat, hard-pack straight and launching ramp (which most of the track was) these kids bailed off at a hilarious rate.
I admit that back in the day we got caught up doing cross-ups and stuff. We all wanted to look good. But we at least had the decency and self awareness to recognize that looking good while losing was not cool.
My friends and I wanted to win, and if we weren’t winning — or at least passing people and moving forward – we ditched the showiness and focused on actually going faster.
Later I went home and took a look at the track photos on the websites of the tracks hosting this year’s Texas Series. All the tracks look just like our local facility — a bomb crater (or cow pasture) with a bunch of flat, smooth straights leading to bulldozer jumps.
I guess the market gets what it wants, and if the market doesn’t want tracks that demand actual riding skills, then the tracks will give them what they want to stay in business.
Call me an old fogey if you want, but this is not me bitching about change. Change is fine. Change is different from decline. Change is different from dumbing down.
What happened to being racers? What happened to being cool by winning? When did motocross racing become a whip contest?
I remember spending hours riding back and forth over a 50-yard section of sand whoops in one of our riding areas trying to get better. I remember searching out different types of corners to hit over and over trying different lines. I remember falling down over and over in practice trying to master slick, off-camber turns.
All of those things mattered to me, because I wanted to be a better racer than my friends.
Jumps? Jumps were something to get over with as little fanfare as possible and get back to racing, racing somewhere on the track that I could execute a pass, using the riding skills I worked on during the week.
I didn’t always succeed. I didn’t always win. But I never took any pride at all in finishing 4th or 5th and I sure didn’t try to look good doing it. That’s what we called being a loser, back in the day.
Sure we had our share of posers. We made fun of them. If you could do great cross-ups but finished 12th we rightly called you a pussy and made you the butt of our bench racing jokes.
Maybe its just the result of 30 years of our everyone is special, everyone is a winner, no one is a loser culture. Maybe I am just a throwback. But at the end of a race they still throw a checkered flag. They still declare a winner. Everyone else is a loser.
Don’t get me wrong. Losing can be a great teacher if you let it. We can’t all win all the time. But we can always get better.
At the very least, if you aren’t moving forward through the field you need to put the styling on hold and get back to the business of racing. If you don’t know how to do that, or don’t have a desire to do that, stick to free riding and get off the track. If I want to watch a bunch of posers I’ll just watch reality shows on MTV.