Betty Blog #4
by Brett Lee
I feel like I can set my watch by this rant that I go on at least once a year. I am watching supercross; the best riders in the world that are paid millions of dollars to race on the edge with as little protective equipment as they can get away with. It drives me insane.
Injuries are inevitable for many motocross athletes. Without the proper gear, a rider is just asking to be sidelined from any type of riding. We all know that not being able to ride due to injury is a major let down for the rider, the fans, the sponsors and the series. When we look at upper body injuries, specifically shoulder, ribs and back injuries, they can be prevented with hard shell chest protectors with a properly suspended shoulder cushion.
Here is where I start. Eli Tomac has been riding great this year; aggressive and on the buttery edge that riders ride when at the top of their game. However, and this is what makes Motocross/Supercross so exciting and unpredictable, it is that point that carries a rider to the checkers or send them crashing to the mat. It can happen to anyone at any time, and more often than not it does. Back to Eli: he was knifing through the pack when his front end dipped in a tough whoop section and he was drilled into the ground. He had a large series points lead and a lot on the line. He wasn’t the only rider to hit the soil in the whoops but he had perhaps the most on the line that night. He was tossed over the bars, landed on his back on a whoop, drilled by his bike in the back then handed off the series points lead and perhaps the championship. While protective gear would not have changed the crash, it may have allowed him to jump back up and leave San Diego still holding the points lead.
The old school thought is not lost on me. I have heard it. If you dress for a crash, you’re going to crash – heard it. Comfort and confidence is the key to success for a rider – heard it. I understand this rationale from a racer whose mentality is as fragile as Grandma’s china. But if I am a team manager and I invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars into riders and their program then I want to protect that investment. I want to do everything possible to ensure the bike being raced is the best it can be, and the rider has the tools to be their best and most protected.
A healthy athlete is a concern many sports managers consider. Noted tough guy and two-time Stanley Cup winner Bobby Clarke was the soul of the Philadelphia Flyers team that captured two league championships in the mid-1970s. Clarke went on to become the team’s General Manager, a vocal hands-on manager. In the delicate Eric Lindros era, Clarke became annoyed at what he saw as preventable injuries and took it upon himself to inspect players’ equipment. Management replaced any equipment, regardless of the players’ objections; they felt did not offer the proper level of protection. Perhaps it needs to be this way in motocross at the top level; managers looking at their riders and ensuring that investment is protected. A rider who is paid well and is well supported is obligated to consider his manager’s and sponsors’ wishes.
Maybe I am getting old, maybe it is the fact that most things in racing I have seen before. There is no question the stakes are getting higher on and off the track. The risk and rewards are bigger for everyone involved. Protective equipment is better than ever and more comfortable than it has been at any point in our sport. For those reasons and a hundred more, riders should strap on everything they can to be in every race of the year.