By Jody Weisel
The other day, between episodes of “Andy Griffith” and “Judge Judy,” I accidentally came upon an old rerun of Speed Channel’s 2005 Glen Helen AMA 125 National telecast. Even though I was there in person, I sat down and watched what remained of the TV show. Towards the end of the hour, color announcer David Bailey took the time to praise me and my track design. It was nice of him to say and I was rightly proud because I had built the track with rider’s like Bailey, Hannah, Ward, Johnson and DeCoster in mind—a true-to-life motocross track—not some overblown Supercross track. Once Bailey stopped talking, fellow announcer Robbie Floyd said, “Jody is a great ambassador for the sport!”
I was flabbergasted. Not because Floyd commended me, but because it was totally false. By no stretch of the imagination am I “a great ambassador.” Why not?
Travel: I don’t want to travel to anyplace that can’t be reached by SoCal’s 15 freeway. That’s not to say that I haven’t raced in Europe, traveled the world, toured foreign motorcycle factories and littered on the Appian Way, but not recently. About 25 years ago I was racing in Ruskesanta, Finland. After the race I went to the airport, which is about ten minutes from the track, to make my next connection to a race in Germany. As I stood at the counter looking at the cute Finnish blonde ticket agent, I asked, “When is the next flight to Los Angeles?”
“Tonight. What about your flight to Frankfurt?” she asked.
“Cancel it and book me on the L.A. flight,” I said and simultaneously vowed that I would never go to Europe again. And I never have. Nothing against the continent—I had been there and done that (several times). It’s no different to me than Niagara Falls. I’ve been there too, but I don’t plan on ever getting misty again. Luckily, MXA doesn’t have a shortage of guys willing to take my place in Paris, Geneva, Milan, Cologne, Tokyo and Stockholm.
Good for the sport: Have you ever heard some AMA press flack declare that Mazda is “good for the sport,” or Chevy is “good for the sport,” or that Toyota is “good for the sport,” or that THQ is “good for the sport,” or that Monster Energy is “good for the sport.” The only thing this revolving list of the sport’s benefactors have in common is that they have given the sanctioning body money like it’s water (and, amazingly, as soon as a different corporation writes a bigger check, Mazda’s, Chevy’s, Toyota’s, THQ’s and AMP’d’s goodness goes out the window). It is obvious that “good for the sport” is code for “good for the AMA’s bank account.” I’m not good for the sport. How do I know? My money is still in my bank account.
Silence is golden: I’m a complainer. I whine. I kibbutz. I nag. I point fingers. I assign blame. I am a thorn in the side of every flawed product, iffy design, bad bike, questionable decision or incomprehensible AMA rule ever made. As an inherent part of my mental make-up, I despise the status quo (and the status quo at the AMA is stuck in 1985). A “great ambassador for the sport” doesn’t rock the boat (nor should he be number one on the AMA’s enemies list).
Networking: Great ambassadors hobnob in the corridors of power. That puts me out of the running. I’m a race shop guy. I like to get my hands dirty. I prefer to race locally instead of watching factory guys race. Back in the day, Jeremy McGrath and I joked that I would go to as many of his races as he went to mine. That year he actually came to three local races and insisted that I do the same for him. Although I have lifelong friends among the power-elite, I won’t embarrass them by mentioning their association with me. Instead, my real buds are the local racers that I hang with every week. You don’t know their names—but I do.
Great ambassadors: I know great ambassadors and I am not one of them. But, for the sake of argument I will name men who have given endlessly to advance the sport and deserve the accolade; Torsten Hallman (Torsten came to America before we even had motocross bikes), Roger DeCoster (Roger traveled to the farthest reaches of the world spreading the gospel of MX), Ricky Johnson (every French rider in the USA owes RJ a debt of gratitude) and Jeremy McGrath (winning isn’t enough—you have to be as gracious, likable and outgoing like Jeremy).
As for my place on the Ambassatorial list, I must admit that my mother once called me “a great ambassador.” At least I think that what she said. It could have been “a great embarrassment?”