By John Basher
Motocross racers, like elephants, never forget. We cling
to past transgressions like gnats to spoiled meat. Forgive and
forget is not a philosophy that two-wheeled maniacs follow.
It doesn’t mean we should be classified as Neanderthals.
Motocross racers adhere to the same basic rules and
philosophies as sports of royalty: don’t hit me and I won’t hit
you. However, once personal space is invaded, then all bets
are off. Motocross racers employ the take-out move, which is
elegant in form and vicious in function.
How would some of the most peaceful and passive people
have acted behind the handlebars? Would Mahatma Gandhi
have turned the other cheek if, say, some numbskull cleaned
out the saintly man in the last corner while fighting for 14th
place? Restraint doesn’t come easy when tempers flare. It’s
not a stretch to think that Gandhi would’ve lost his cool and
gone all Jason Lawrence on the fool. It’s possible that the
world would have been knocked off axis the moment Gandhi
dumped the clutch.
Motocross racers are good people. Sure, we’re a melting
pot, varied in many ways, yet there’s one commonality that
binds us together—motocross. Lawyers, construction
workers, accountants, sanitation experts and business
owners are all equal when the gate drops. A deep retirement
portfolio or fancy house on the beach doesn’t guarantee
someone the holeshot—only that he’ll have a nice view of the
ocean when laid up from overcooking the first turn.
It’s unfortunate that people have become so quick to file
a lawsuit. The catalyst, to me, is when McDonald’s lost a
lawsuit because some lady spilled hot coffee on herself. She
sued for millions because the coffee was too hot. The floodgates opened. People realized that they could make money by
being stupid. Motocross is not exempt from heinous acts of
cowardice by those who cannot accept personal responsibility.
Every year there are stories abound regarding tracks shutting
down because of lawsuits. It is upsetting for two reasons.
(1) It’s hard to digest news that a fellow racer has fallen on
hard times. ( 2) Conversely, anyone who throws a leg over a
motorcycle does so with the understanding that the sport is
dangerous. Injuries and motocross are synonymous. That’s
life. Don’t sue someone because you undershot a double.
Would a motocross racer sue a competitor who missed
the inside line and caused a crash? I’d like to
think that the greedy Gary would get laughed
out of court. Racers operate on a unique
system of checks and balances. Money rarely
enters the equation. It’s worth much more to
demoralize your adversary by passing him in
the last turn than getting a lawyer involved.
Satisfaction and revenge are kissing cousins.
That’s the beauty of moto warfare. Winning is
nothing without the sense of accomplishment,
and battles come in many forms. Whether
it’s getting the holeshot or railing a turn
perfectly, finding the courage to jump the big
double or beating your foe, achievement can
be discovered every second along the way.
I like to think that I’m a good person. I’m a
loving husband and caring father of two—
yes, two!—boys. Family and friends mean
everything, and I try to put them before
myself. I hold the door open for strangers
and refrain from speeding through school
zones. Yet my Dr. Jekyll demeanor can’t keep
Mr. Hyde from making an appearance every
now and then.
I remember the first time I cleaned a guy out on purpose.
The bloke should have known that he had it coming. It’s
against the motocross code of ethics to swoop over on
someone’s front wheel or ram another rider. This guy
committed both infractions. Big mistake. A few corners later I
T-boned him with such raw aggression that I surprised myself.
He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Revenge was mine,
but excitement gave way to pity. Though I was initiated into
the same brotherhood as racers like Mike Kiedrowski, Ryan
Hughes, Kent Howerton, Grant Langston and Mike Alessi, the
hatred was extinguished. Dr. Jekyll won out. I turned around
on the track and helped the poor sap out from under his bike.
My heart has hardened in the years since. The regret of
taking down a bully has eroded away. So long, age of
“RACING IS A BEAUTIFUL MIXTURE
OF SYNCHRONIZATION AND
MAYHEM, A WALTZ AND TANGO
Racing is a beautiful mixture of synchronization and
mayhem, a waltz and tango intertwined. It is also a bloodbath.