Thursday Rev-up: Got Heart?

October 17, 2005 8:05am | by:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev-Up. I wanted to use this week’s edition to talk about some of the riders that make motocross such an incredible sport. Competition has been a favorite pastime of the human race since Jerry the Caveman rounded a wheel and beat his pal Tom down the hill in the world’s first race. Evolution and technology has had its way with competition, but even with titanium nitrate-coated forks, aluminum gas tanks, and magnesium triple clamps, the great equalizer in motocross (and most motorsports) is still the man at the helm. Not just the beast riding the machine—it’s what’s inside that beast that counts.

One of my favorite sayings of all time is “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Motocross is such a great and unique sport because it doesn’t matter if you were blessed with perfect DNA or can bench-press 400 pounds. It takes a culmination of a lot of different things to create the ultimate motocross warrior, none more so than the heart. The heart is more than a bundle of powerful tissue that pumps blood throughout your circulatory system. A person’s “heart” is more often measured by their antics and actions (although isn’t it strange when you are truly putting your “heart” into a race or a job or a relationship, you feel it the most right in the center of your chest?). God gave all of us a little “heart,” but as competition continues to show and sometimes embarrass us with, there are some that have a whole lot more than others. A man or woman who has a lot of “heart” will take the first step toward a competitive gesture. They will fight the hardest during the conflict of battle. And they will get back up to go again if they lose.

Motocross is one of the most intense, dramatic, and dangerous motorsports in the world. When a rider is coming through the pack taking risks, hitting jump combinations for the first time, and skimming the whoops … shoot, folks, I haven’t seen anything that gets me as pumped as being a part of that, or even watching another brother do it!

These are the top five riders who I think have the most heart in motocross (this includes racing and freestyle):

Brian Deegan
photo: Simon Cudby

5. Brian Deegan The general of the Metal Mulisha may have a lot of ink and scars on the outside, but he is all heart, ladies and gentlemen. He’s also a family man now, and he has big corporate sponsors—a former shadow of his G-string-wearing, zipper-masked, O.G. punk-rock self (thank God). Deegan remains one of the gnarliest, never-back-down-and-never-give-up riders I have ever seen. Stand him alone, Brian is cool, mellow, and sedate. Get the former Cornhusker in a crowd of people and the guy suddenly gets two feet taller. I’ve seen Deegan stand up to a fight with a man he was nipple-high with. I’ve seen him guinea-pig a triple at a local motocross track and pull gargantuan hits at professional FMX events. The dude threw and landed the first 360 in competition. After he heard that Travis Pastrana was going to try it, Deegan hucked it first. Who will ever forget Brian at Winter X throwing the same trick and taking the cold, solid evil that was the packed Colorado snow? The dude came back. A couple years later, he almost bled to death pulling a circus act on Viva La Bam. The man is back again. I think Brian Deegan has enough heart to be around for a long time to come.

4. Guy Cooper When I was about 9 years old, I was at a local race in Oklahoma. Guy “Airtime” Cooper was the local hotshoe at the Dr. Pepper Night Time National. Coop got a bad start, and as the race was drawing to a close, he was running out of time to catch the leader. All of a sudden, Coop snapped. He was holding it wide open around the corners and launching 20 feet past the landing of all the jumps. He almost died going down the final fifth-gear straightaway, but he stuffed the guy in the last corner and took the win. I looked up at my dad and said, “That guy is crazy!” He said, “No, son, that man has a lot of heart.” Guy Cooper will always be one of my favorite riders. He is 42 years old, but the 1990 AMA 125 National champion still pins it!

3. Travis Pastrana Remember when you were a kid hanging out at the creek and a group of you were trying to decide who would jump off the cliff first? Travis was the guy that dove off the cliff. I miss watching Travis race. As fate has had it with Travis, he has more heart than brains. Which is absolutely not fair to say, as the man is one of the most intelligent and educated people to ever race. He was in college when he was 16! Be that as it may, his role in the motocross Wizard of Oz is that of the Scarecrow. But what a wonder to the world he has been! There are three names that the general pubic will recognize: Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, and Travis Pastrana. Travis is doing what he truly loves, and what he has always been the best at, and that’s pushing the boundaries in everything he does. Whether it’s driving rally cars, riding Supermoto, or raising the bar of freestyle motocross, Travis is putting his heart into every living moment. Travis Pastrana is awesome.

Doug Henry
photo: Raymond Gundy

2. Doug Henry 2006 AMA #19 has long been declared a legend. Doug came from feeble beginnings as a struggling privateer to become one of the most admired and respected motocross riders of all time. Henry had a little talent, but he rose to the top by riding as hard and passionately as he possibly could. He even overcame “Henry Hill” at Budds Creek. I remember reading the Cycle News coverage of that event, and it quoted Jeremy McGrath: “Yeah, we go riding at the dunes all the time and we go really big. But, I have never seen anybody fly that far. I coasted the entire last lap just hoping he was still alive.” Henry would come back to become a 250 National Champion. Doug also came back from suffering two broken arms. Anyone remember seeing him stagger to the fence with his arms dangling at his sides while he urged a spectator to take off his goggles for him? I do. Doug Henry was, and still is, one baaaaaad man. Fox Racing made one of the coolest and most inspirational ads ever, incorporating Doug. It read only three words: “What’s stopping you?” Nothing can stop Doug Henry.

1. Ricky Carmichael It’s almost a cliché to use RC as number one. He won everything in 2005. Everything. I grew up with Ricky and I know a few things about him that help me understand and appreciate how he is the GOAT. I met Carmichael when he was about 10 years old. He had shaggy, red hair and was very short and chubby. His personality has always been strangely fierce. I have two younger brothers, and we would go down to Florida to ride in the winter. First thing me and my brothers found in his room was a pair of boxing gloves. We only had one pair, so we had to fight with one glove apiece. Carmichael beat the crap out of both my brothers, who were bigger than him, and almost punched me out!

Ricky Carmichael
photo: Simon Cudby

There is something burning inside that little firecracker. All it takes is a taste of competition, and Ricky explodes. Although his personality has changed and developed, he used to be a jerk. Ricky’s mom, Jeannie, used to wave a heavy hand of discipline to keep him in check. In addition, Ricky is a poor loser. He hates losing at anything. But that fire is what makes Ricky the best ever. His success has made him a more easygoing person, and he walks with a noticeable gallop of confidence. His interviews are flawless, he is nice to everybody that approaches him, and he smiles most of the time. Ricky has a beach house, a beautiful wife, and the spoils of sweet success. Why? Because every time he goes to the line, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Ricky wanted to be the best. He put his heart and soul into the one thing he truly loved as a kid. Ricky is a great ambassador for the sport, but even bigger than that, he is an ambassador for the belief that you can do anything, anything in the world you want to do, if you put your heart into it.

Andy's new hero, Ben Roethlisberger
courtesy of Pittsburgh Sports Report

So with that, I hope you have found this edition of the Rev-Up to be entertaining and enlightening. We all need to focus more on what we care about, whether it’s your career, your family or personal relationships, or your free time. Always remember to make the most of every moment, and put your heart into it. Greatness awaits all that do!

So that’s my top-five list, though there are a lot more guys out there with heart that belong on the list, including Ryan Hughes, Greg Albertyn, Sebastien Tortelli, privateer hero Jason Thomas, and (gulp) every one of those damned Pittsburgh Steelers….

Thanks for reading. See you next week.