Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The most important rule of riding on two wheels in America: You are on your own
This news story from the paper in my hometown of Midland, Texas is apparently making the email rounds with the local motorcycle crowd. I just received it today. And while the story is about a bicyclist who was run over and killed by an inattentive driver who was texting at the time of the incident, it still resounds strongly with experienced motorcyclists. On a regular -- sometimes even daily -- basis, we are practically assaulted by the gaggle of jackasses that comprise the cager demographic.
Now mind you, I realize that ranting about the fact that most American drivers are apparently retarded is preaching to the choir with those who read this blog. That's not my aim with this entry. My aim is to point out the mild slap on the wrist the driver received for essentially murdering another human being. Prepare to be angered:
"A driver who was distracted on his cell phone and fatally struck a bicyclist from behind last year has pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to five years probation by the 385th District Court."That's right, no jail time and only five years probation. But wait, there's more:
"Judge Robin Malone Darr ... also ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine."Gasp! A whole 2,500 dollars? Such cruel, cruel punishment.
What a joke.
The message? "Go ahead, American drivers. Eat those bagels. Drink those lattes. Send those texts. And do it all while driving. Sure, we'll make you pay a little fine or some-such if you kill a biker or cyclist, but only 'cause we hafta. The important thing to remember is that all those two-wheeled riders out there on the roads deserve whatever they get. After all, they shouldn't be riding those stupid contraptions in the first place. They should be driving Hummers while watching DVDs like the rest of us. Don't worry about taking personal responsibility for your actions -- we abandoned those ideals as a country long ago, anyhow. We'll just blame the victim or call it an accident, and still be home in time to watch American Idol or some other pop-culture crap that makes us even stupider."
The idiocracy is fully upon us.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saying goodbye to Mat Mladin in my own dysfunctional way
The man who has dominated AMA Superbike for a decade, Mat Mladin, announced his retirement from racing last week, effective at the conclusion of the 2009 season. The end of an era is upon us.
If you've been reading the Superbike Blog since its inception some five years ago, you might think I'm ecstatically happy about the announcement. I've been manifestly brutal to Mat on occasion, sometimes deservedly, and sometimes -- I honestly admit -- out of my own frustration with the guy. In any case, I've given him both barrels at every opportunity. I've called for him to move on to WSB or MotoGP. I've criticized his past treatment of the press and his fans. I've blown up at the attitude he sometimes took toward his fellow racers. I even accused him of using at least some degree of traction control long before it was made legal, a claim I still believe to be true. In short, I've been perhaps his worst critic in all of moto-journalism, and certainly from within the blogosphere.
Strangely, with the reality of Mladin's permanent absence now confronting me, I'm not nearly as happy to see him go as I thought I would be. In fact, there's a part of me that's actually a bit sad -- and it's not because I'm losing one of my favorite whipping boys. Mladin, despite his sometimes insufferable public nature, provided a force of direction to the series and gave it a large measure of its total purpose. It's a benchmark that will be gone forever in a few more months.
What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, when a new factory rider entered the AMA grid, he had a herculean task before him -- beat Mat Mladin. Not many could. Those that did on a consistent basis showed their worthiness to move onto the world stage. He was, in many ways, the ultimate litmus test. For the poor privateers of the Mladin era, it must've been like bringing a BB gun to a skeet shoot. Most were usually relegated to backmarker status by the end of the first lap.
But perhaps the worst thing about Mladin's eminent exit, though, is the circumstances under which he is leaving. He's fed up with years of bad series management, and who can blame him? The AMA was a terrible sanctioning body, and so far DMG is proving itself to be even worse. Mladin's not quitting because he can't do it anymore, he's quitting because he doesn't want to deal with incompetence anymore. He's tired of having his hard work and dedication to being the best trumped by a bunch of idiots who can't read their own rulebook. As he said in a recent press release, it's not fun any longer. That's not how I wanted it to end for Mladin. I wanted a little redemption for both him and the series before he turned away.
What's done is done, though, and Mladin will soon be gone from the grid. But regardless of my frequent air raids on Mladin and his camp, I want the record to show that I never lacked respect for him as either a racer or a businessman. Mat Mladin is a man of excellence, and will certainly continue to be so in whatever ventures he decides to pursue post-retirement. He has the heart and mind of a champion, and such is to be complimented. If I'd had half the drive and ability of Mladin, I might be doing more right now than hacking it out on some obscure blog in the middle of cyber-nowhere.
So long, Mat, and best wishes. The vacuum created by your absence will undoubtedly take years to fill. Sure, you were wrong a lot, but you were also great a lot. No one can take that away.