BEST OF JODY’S BOX: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SUPERCROSS ON TV AND NARCOLEPSY
I have conservatively been to more AMA Nationals, Supercrosses and Grands Prix (and, yes, that is the plural of Grand Prix) than any one person deserves to enjoy—or, in my case, endure. I know that isn’t something you would complain about, but you have to remember, I don’t go to Pro races to enjoy them, hang out with my buddies, tell John Ayers jokes and eat food out of Team Kawasaki’s ice chest. This is my job. I’m working. Back in the days of 35mm Fuji film, I had to shoot 35 rolls of film during a race—this was in the pre-digital era. Back then, I couldn’t see the photos I shot on the spot. When I shot the “Let Broc Bye” photo, I didn’t know whether I really caught it, if it was in focus, or if my F-stop was spot-on. I had to drive my rental car to the airport, catch the Sunday night red eye to Los Angeles and develop the film in my home dark room before I was sure. It didn’t help that I only had six frames left on my 35th roll of film when Keith McCarty held the sign out. Loved the photo; didn’t really enjoy the day.
I went to Sweden to test Bo Edberg’s Husqvarna AF500 automatic works bikes in 1982, and when I got home to Los Angeles, after a 12-hour, 5500-mile flight over the North Pole, Lovely Louella asked, “What was Stockholm like?” I answered, “If you’ve seen one Holiday Inn, you’ve seen them all. Ask me about the race track or the airport, that’s all I ever saw.”
I’M A JADED TRAVELER. I USED TO BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT RACING IN AUSTRIA OR CLIMBING THE EIFFEL TOWER. I’M NOT ANYMORE. I WANT TO STAY HOME, RACE MY MOTORCYCLE WITH MY FRIENDS AND SLEEP IN MY OWN BED.
I’m a jaded traveler. I used to be more excited about racing in Austria or climbing the Eiffel Tower or getting my gear custom-made in the Yoko factory in Forssa, Finland. I’m not anymore. I want to stay home, race my motorcycle with my friends and sleep in my own bed. I lost interest in going to AMA Nationals after I designed, oversaw and helped with over 20 Nationals at Glen Helen, Saddleback and Escape Country. Now, I’m much happier being an old, slow, local motocross racer. I don’t want to go to the Nationals, and I don’t have to because Daryl Ecklund, Josh Mosiman, Dennis Stapleton, Travis Fant, Jim Kimball and Brian Converse do a wonderful job at the races for MXA every week. That doesn’t mean I don’t watch every Supercross, National and Grand Prix on television. In fact, I have giant viewing parties for my racing buddies where we come home from that day’s local race and whoop it up.
I love sports and know that most people around the planet got their first taste of surfing, skiing, speed skating, sprint cars, air races and motocross from the blue tube—not from first-hand experience. That was what made the yearly showing of the Carlsbad USGP on ABC-TV’s “Wide World of Sports” so special. It was watched by 20 million viewers every December— none of whom knew that the race was tape delayed from the previous June. More Americans watched motocross in that one showing of “Wide World of Sports” than the combined audiences of the 17 televised races of the 2020 Supercross series. Why? Because it was special. Special enough that they wanted to go out and do it themselves.
IF YOU THINK I’M INSINUATING THAT THE 17 AMA SUPERCROSSES SHOWN ON A HOPSCOTCH POTPOURRI OF TV NETWORKS AREN’T SPECIAL, I AM.
If you think I’m insinuating that the 17 AMA Supercrosses shown on a hopscotch potpourri of TV networks aren’t special, I am. Remember the giant viewing party every week in my living room? It would be more accurate to call it a “giant slumber party,” because after three hours of uninspiring camera angles, all of my friends are asleep on the couch. They are narcolepsy victims of amateur cuts, predictable plot lines, mispronounced names, keys to the race that always include “Get a good start,” the exact same Toyota commercial shown five times and the mystical ability to cut away whenever a pass happens.
I’m a fan of the sport, but that doesn’t mean that I’m blind to the cookie-cutter television production that we have come to accept—just because it exists. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to the days when we waited a week for “MotoWorld” to show clips from the past week’s race (originally on USA Network and eventually on ESPN). But I don’t think the fact that racing is on TV is justification for no on-board live cameras; no guys with handheld cameras roaming the track; no pit reporters tracking down riders when they scurry off to the pits to avoid talking; riders on the podium reading sponsor’s names off a pit board (that their mechanic holds up off screen); the same old Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar cans thrust into the camera even though the cans actually hold water; the talking-head format, the spotty sound mixing between engine noise and annoucing, the requisite female on-track reporter—asking what the winner thought of the race going on behind him (which, of course, he couldn’t have seen); and a total blackout on any privateer who might be doing something significant in favor of footage of this week’s favorite rider circling the track by himself.
I fully understand poor performance. I could go so much faster if I tried. Guess what? Modern race coverage could be so much better if it broke out of the “Leave It To Beaver” era of television coverage and they tried a little harder. I take that back. I’d like “Leave It to Beaver” reruns better if Beaver hadn’t gotten a CZ for Christmas.