BEST OF JODY’S BOX: WINNING IS AN EARNED HONOR — ENJOY IT FOR THE REST OF THAT DAY
“I don’t understand the current crop of riders,” said a team manager the other day. It doesn’t matter which team manager because they have all said the same thing. “They act like they are rock stars. They are more interested in being stars than riding like one.”
“That could be true,” I said, ”but they are very fast. They got where they because they are winners.”
“No! They aren’t,” he said. “They are losers.”
“How can that be? These are the greatest riders in the world,” I replied in shock.
“Think about it for a second. Winners win races. My riders are losers. Most of the riders on the other teams are losers. They lose more races than they win. They lose more races in a season than Eli Tomac has lost in his lifetime. If I combined all the wins of my team they don’t have as many wins between them as Eli had last year. They are losers.”
“But they do win races,” I said in their defense.
“Yes, that’s true. But winning a race or even a couple races does not make a rider a winner — except on that day. I know from personal experience that winners win and they keep on winning. They may not win every race they enter, but they win a lot of them (and they are a threat to win every one),” he said.
“But not every rider can win. There are a lot of riders on the starting line and only one of them can take home the prize. It’s not easy to win and the act of losing doesn’t make a rider into a loser,” I said.
“That too is true,” he said softly. “But riders who lose all the time have no right to act like winners. That is an earned honor. They have no right to make demands. They have no right to be out of shape. They have no right to skip test sessions. They have no right to give less than 100 percent. Those are, whether good or bad, the rights of a winner. But you know what? Winners don’t make demands, show up out of shape, skip test sessions or give less than 100 percent. That is the lesson that the current crop of young factory riders hasn’t learned.”
“YOU CAN’T EXPECT EVERY RIDER TO BE AN INSTANT WINNER. ELI STRUGGLED. BUT PEOPLE HAD FAITH IN HIM AND HE PAID OFF. MAYBE SOME OF YOUR RIDERS WILL PAY OFF DURING THE NATIONALS OR IN 2024.”
“But, you hire riders because they have potential. You can’t expect every rider to be an instant winner. Eli struggled. But people had faith in him and he paid off. Maybe some of your riders will pay off during the Nationals or in 2024,” I said.
“Not if they don’t change their attitudes,” he said harshly. “They need to think of themselves as underdogs. They need to realize what kind of opportunity they are wasting. Laying around on the mats at the gym is not working out. Riding five laps on a Wednesday and then pulling off is not practicing. Hanging out and carousing after the races is not the athlete’s way of life. They need to watch ‘Rocky’ a few hundred times.”
“You do know that Rocky didn’t win that fight, don’t you?” I said.
“It doesn’t matter whether he won or lost. He was a winner because he put everything he had into the pursuit of victory. He trained, drank raw eggs, punched frozen meat…the closest my guys ever get to eggs and meat is in quiche.”
“So, I guess you’re going to fire them at the end of the season,” I said.
“I wish I could, but there are more factory rides than there are factory riders (at least in the pure sense of the phrase). We are in the business of racing motorcycles. We hire the best riders that are available to us and we go racing — sometimes, ever so rarely, we find a Jett Lawrence, Jeremy Martin or even a Jeremy McGrath in the group. But race we must — even if we discover in the middle of the season that the riders we picked aren’t as interested in winning as they are in being cool.”
“THIS SPORT IS FULL OF FLASH-IN-THE-PAN MINICYCLE RIDERS BROUGHT UP ON FIVE-MINUTE MOTOS, CODDLING PARENTS AND EASY WINS. THEY ARE FAST, BUT FOR EVERY RICKY CARMICHAEL, THERE ARE A HUNDRED FAILURES.“
“Isn’t there some way to tell before you invest the money?” I asked.
“I wish there was, but this sport is full of flash-in-the-pan minicycle riders brought up on five-minute motos, coddling parents and easy wins. They are fast, but they don’t have what it takes to make it in the real world. For every Ricky Carmichael, there are a hundred failures. You read their names in the amateur results all the time. They never win, but they are close. Close enough to get them a deal for the next season, which they don’t win during either. And if they manage to luck into a freak win, it goes to their head so bad that they become unbearable. Then they disappear, only to be replaced by another five-minute wonder. As yourself, where are all of the Loretta Lynn wonder kids who didn’t make the cut.”
“Yet, you admit that you are the one who hires them?”
“You bet! I’m hoping to wake up one morning and have the 2023 equivalent of Bailey, Johnson, O’Mara and Hannah on my team.”
“But then you’d have nothing to complain about,” I said.
“Don’t count on it. I’d be complaining about them overtraining, wearing out too many practice bikes and racing too hard against their teammates. Wouldn’t that be grand?”
“Dream on,” I said.
“Let’s change the subject, “he said. “What are you doing this weekend?”
“I’ll probably stay home and watch ‘Rocky,’” I said.