Supercross At Dodger Stadium: A Firsthand Look At AMA's Thrilling Debut
It was dirt. It was motor oil. It was the suffocation of beautiful grass under tarp, wood and scores of earth.
There was fire, smoke and utter chaos.
It was the damndest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
Supercross, for the first time ever, invaded Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, and I do mean invaded. From the press box, to the stands, to the bedlam on the grounds, it was something no one in Los Angeles should have missed.
What it was not was Manny Ramirez slowly shagging fly balls. For grandma and grandpa enjoying a nice summer’s day at the park, it was the categorical perversion of baseball.
AMA came to town, and for those who need a primer, it’s motorcycles, jumps and danger at a professional level.
I went to the stadium not knowing what to expect.
I knew some guy named James Stewart was considered the “fastest man on Earth” and that he either wins or crashes, and that was about it.
When I arrived, I thought Frank McCourt had sold the team. It looked like a construction site, or a junkyard. In fact, in between races, bulldozers actually went to work.
Some say the French take delight in overwhelming all five of your senses. Supercross conquers them. It leaves you wondering whether you might ever smell, hear, see, taste or feel the same way ever again.
For more than three hours, your ears will hear the roar of motors, only to occasionally be joined by the sudden “OWWWWWWs” that unmistakably mean someone, somewhere just crashed. And they crash, all the time. One rider, Trey Canard, crashed and then his bike landed on top of him. He won the next race.
You will smell rubber, fuel and smoke. You’ll probably taste a Monster.
You will feel like a motorcycle gang just invaded a Guns N’ Roses concert.
You’ll see young kids on bikes making grown men yell in adoration.
You’ll wonder how you missed the fun for so many years.
What you won’t miss is a single U.S. company with an ad department.
If horse racing is the sport of kings, then Supercross is the sport of advertisers. Like all motor sports, the ads are the life force.
Watching a racer give a victory speech is like watching Sally Field at the Academy Awards. Every sponsor will get in. And an energy drink will be consumed.
Even the foam pads that play the part of boundary, and safety mechanism, along the course are covered with ads.
If a rider crashes while he is soaring head-first toward a foam pad he might consider purchasing a Suzuki?
Speaking of guys soaring toward the safety pads…
Turns out Stewart is very fast. Turns out he did crash. Twice.
He didn’t win, but he put on a show, taking second.
Hitchcock would have loved this James Stewart too. He’s a scare around every corner.
He wins 93 percent of the time when he doesn’t crash. Overall, he wins 59 percent of the time. I’m no mathematician, but those are striking numbers.
On this night, he crashed in the prelims, on the first turn. Still, he came roaring back for fourth, making the finals.
In the finals, he crashed again — more like a slip — and again had to fight his way back. He fought from fourth to second before a guy named Ryan Villopoto won.
Stewart tweeted, “Stunk it up tonight.”
Of all the reasons to watch Stewart race, seeing him glide over stutter-bumps (Google it) has to be at the top. They are, in essence, moguls or speedbumps. Stewart, in essence, ignores them. While other racers bounce around violently, Stewart floats over the top.
It’s the difference between a Polynesian tribesman flying over a bed of hot embers and you hesitantly tip-toeing over them. This is where Stewart makes his move.
He made enough to keep the audience glued to his every move all night.
In all, more than 41,000 people saw history.
Some were fathers with their sons. Many were teenagers in tight jeans and adjusted caps. Others were named Brad Pitt, Fergie, Josh Duhamel and Orel Hershiser.
Lots were media — over 100, according to one member of the public relations team.
For one night, there was no evidence of a diamond at Dodger Stadium.
And neither will there be one in two weeks at Angel Stadium, when Supercross returns.