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Ask Ping!

Dear Ping,
If I had a nickel for every time I heard an interviewed rider say, “I just need to keep my head down,” I’d be standing with Bubba in the rain under an umbrella out of the door of my own Rolls Royce. I’m a fan of many sports and I can’t think of any other sport, except maybe golf, that uses this phrase. I’m not sure what peeves me about it. It’s either the nauseating overuse or the fact that “keeping your head down” can’t possibly be a helpful riding style. Can you please explain the origin of this ridiculously overused cliché and how it even applies to motocross? 
Cheers,
Eric

Dear Eric,
You bring up a good point. Keeping your head down, literally, is the exact opposite of what you really want to do when riding. Ask anyone with any experience and they will tell you that you want to be looking ahead as much as possible, not down.
So, where did it come from? My guess is that it is just regurgitated material from one generation of riders to the next. Each era’s principle rider sets the standard for podium rhetoric, and when wet-behind-the-ears kids make it to the podium they do their best to sound just like their favorite guy. When I was a rookie, Jeremy McGrath was just coming into his prime. He had a very laid-back personality that was easy to relate to and his podium speeches—and there were many, many, many during his decade at the top—reflected that. He would always acknowledge the fans that had come out, make eye contact with the person interviewing him and when he did thank Sinisalo, 1-800-COLLECT and his mechanic, Skip, it didn’t seem forced or rehearsed. Jeremy was a great role model. He was the King of the Podium, too.
      

Matt Goerke has his head down

The next guy that everyone tried to emulate, obviously, was Ricky Carmichael. He answered every question with the words “Definitely… You know…” and then proceeded with his response; a tactic that JBS has picked up on. And does the phrase “super-pumped” ring a bell? That was an RC staple. His impeccable work ethic was his main asset and it wasn’t uncommon for him to talk about how Sunday was his easiest day of the week (JBS also borrows this), he busts his butt during the week (Dungey likes this one) and how he has a great program down in Tallahassee (Tedesco literally borrowed all of this, program included).
       But I can’t tell you specifically where the “keep my head down” phrase came from but I will keep my head down, definitely, you know? I will look around Tallahassee, because I just know my Dunlop’s will be hooking up (can’t forget ol’ K-Dub) and do my best to try and find out. And when I do, I will be super-pumped. I might even call you with the answer—1-800-COLLECT, of course.

PING

Hey Ping,
As a Supermoto star do you see the officials are trying to kill off such an exciting sport? From the lousy payouts to the way they make the schedule it seems that no one is in charge. My nine year old and I go to most of the major motorcycle races in SoCal and we both agree that the Queen Mary race in Long Beach and the Morongo race were much more exciting events than most supercrosses!
Danny Gonzalez

Dear Danny,
That is awesome that you and your son are such big fans of Supermoto. The recent history of that sport here in the US, which only consists of about six years, has already had its struggles. I think that when Red Bull infused a bunch of money into Supermoto at its conception people thought that it should grow as fast as Supercross has lately. But the fact is supercross has taken 35 years to get to where it’s at and it will take Supermoto some time to build a following also.

There are a few things hurting the sport right now. Firstly, the sport has lost some star power. When it was launched here, McGrath, Henry, Wardy, Metzger, Bostrom, Pastrana, Reed, Windham and other superstars of motorcycle racing were heavily involved. Doug’s injury and Wardy’s retirement were huge blows to the sport. Also, now that there are some riders (myself included) that specialize in Supermoto it is harder for those other guys to run up front and they don’t show up anymore. Let’s just be honest; when I am one of the most recognizable names in the sport, well, you might not get the star-struck feeling you get walking through the Supercross pits. 
The second problem is that supermoto was not being run efficiently. I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but let’s just say that the XTRM people that have taken it over are excited about it and they have some great ideas for the future. Gavin Trippe—the man who literally invented the sport the first time with his “ABC Superbikers” events at Carlsbad back in the late 1970s—and Troy Lee, Supermoto’s biggest proponent, are heavily involved in moving things in the right direction and with passionate promoters running races, like Doug Henry, the future looks good.
Unfortunately, not all of that changes hands until 2009 so we will have to limp through the rest of this season. Does the purse money suck? Absolutely. But it sucks in most forms of motorcycle racing too. I think great things are going to happen with this sport in the next five years and once fans give it a chance and come out and watch one they will be hooked. And, uh, you know, they can even get one of my autographed posters….
Man, that is weak; I’m sorry I’m not a bigger star.

PING

Ping,
To follow up on “Ignorant Bob’s” question, I’ve got another one for you. I’ve heard a number of riders mention during interviews that they were out there “laying wood,” or that they need to “lay some wood” during the next race. For reference, I spent 22 years in the military and when I hear someone talk about “laying wood” it usually involves a guy telling a story about what he did with a girl he met in a bar the night before. Am I that outdated that the word “wood” doesn’t mean what I think it means anymore, or has someone just invented a new use for the word? I can’t imagine what Ryan Dungey is trying to do on his bike when he’s talking about “laying wood” out on the track. I thought tires were still made out of rubber! Is he saying he’s trying to “stick-it” to the other riders and, if so, can he say that on national TV?  I know I’d be a little embarrassed to say something like that in an interview with Erin Bates!

Outdated Andy
Dayton, OH

Dear Andy,

These guys were laying the wood at High Point

Laying wood means exactly what you think it means; it’s testosterone-filled, drunken-frat-boy speak. I’m not sure if some of these racers know what it means though because they do say it casually in interviews and on television. Why is SPEED allowing it on TV? It’s kind of like hip-hop radio stations allowing rappers to use the term “skeet” in their songs without editing it; they have no idea what it means! Now, I’m not going to sit down with these kids or the nice folks at SPEED television and have a chat about laying wood or skeeting or other various terminologies from today’s pop culture; that isn’t my job. But the next time Erin Bates is chatting up a rider and he talks about laying some wood out there, I hope Erin smacks him right in the face.
       [Editor’s note: Some think “laying the wood” comes from baseball, where a batter hopes to get more hits by making better contact with the ball with his bat—laying the wood on it. In motocross it’s a metaphor for going faster on the track, or having better execution. DC]
       [Editor’s note 2: Or it could derive from getting paddled in school or at home when you’re in trouble: The principal or your father would “lay the wood” on your backside and show you who is boss…. Wait, that could work with Erin Bates too. DC]

PING

Got a question for Mr. Pingree? E-mail him at ping@racerxill.com.

 

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