Supercross, although it wasn’t called Supercross then at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1972. An unknown sport with European roots which over the years and transpired into a National event series. Over the years so many of the sports traditions, public attitudes, and commercialism have dramatically changed the sport. So what has changed?
First, never has there been a sport which has grown in commercialism faster than Supercross – Red Bull teams, energy drinks being sucked down during every interview for advertisement. The days of factory rider versus a Privateer have vanished. Ricky Johnson, Brock Glover, Bob Hannah, Jeff Ward did more for the sport than any commercial sponsor could ever achieve. What about the bikes themselves? In years past there was nothing better than hearing dozens of 250 CC two stroke bikes coming off the starting gate. You could feel it, taste it, and smell the action. Today’s move to four stroke engines I believe has changed the riding and total feel of the sport. Yes technology always prevails, but is it better for the fan.
Years ago, we use to take our brown bag lunches to the races in sit in the racing pits with the riders. Certainly this is a lost excitement of opportunity any more. The commercialism and monetary expectations have taken over with pricey pit passes, extravagant displays, riders being schedule for certain time frames for autographs. The sport use to be personal.
One last item, number plates. In the history of the sport the new season’s plate numbers were always assigned by the previous years rankings. What a privilege for the past season champion to win the number one plate and the succession beyond those. In 2000 it was ruled the top ten rider placements from the previous year, could choose what number to display. Ricky Carmichael stated this trend as a personal marketing avenue. Such a shame to de-face the sport like this for greed. I am thankful in 2009 the AMA has decided at least the past champion will display the number one plate of their bike.
Roots of any sport are important and should be valued. Young riders of today, always remember who laid the path for your successes.