I just finished reading a book called Ship of Ghosts. It's the tale of the navy's flagship heavy cruiser, the USS Houston. The ship was president Franklin D. Roosevelt's claimed and cherished vessel and remains one of the most nostalgic stories in American history. The ship was sunk after a titanic chain of events that began with the Battle of Java and concluded in the Battle of Sunda Strait, where the Houstonmet her demise.
As the story goes, "The ship spun on her side and quickly sank with her ensign still flying." In the book they talk about a gunner that was still leaving tracers aimed at the Japanese fleet as she disappeared into the sea. Of the original 1,061 sailors, only 368 survived. The real saga in the book begins there, as those thought to be lost in the sinking became prisoners of war and were not liberated until three unimaginable years later. During those three years, a great rallying cry was heard in the city of Houston. The Houston Volunteers were a group of 1,000 men who answered FDR's call for a crew and ship to replace and avenge the original. In the letter Roosevelt wrote to Houston mayor Neal Pickett on Memorial Day in 1942, he said, "I knew that ship and loved her. Her officers and men were my friends." He then made the statement that from that day forward, the name of every flagship in the Navy's cruiser fleet would be Houston. And "If she is sunk, we will build another in her place. We'll build as many as it takes."
Ship of Ghosts is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to WW2 buffs. Even if that's not your gig, if you like stories about courage and survival, man, this is a good one.
Now, comparing a war story to supercross isn't fair. I'm not trying to glorify war, I just personally feel that it is important to remember those great efforts, and feed off of them as motivation for anything positive. Plus, with all that's happened this week - with 3 million people at the presidential inauguration, then finishing said novel just yesterday - it all kind of connected and moved me, I suppose. And damn, man, if we don't have the Houston Supercross on the board. It isn't just on the board, either. Round 4 is wearing a huge Texas grin as she heads to the Lone Star State. Multiple lap leaders, race winners, and points battles paint a picture that has splattered itself on a canvas most of us feared may have been rather blank. The Houston Supercross never disappoints. The stadium has a huge floor for the track and the dirt is always primo. The fans are Texans, and that's all you need to know. Well, almost. Let's pull those gloves up to our arm pits and get a kung-fu grip around the throttle side.
Big story here. It's the kick-off for the East Side crew and we have the fresh line drawn in the sand. Yes, the West is stacked, but when you look at the experience of the East Coast cast, you have to roll your neck a little at the firepower. The most newsworthy story surrounds the embattled Austin Stroupe. Stroupe came out with both barrels blasting in 2008, winning a supercross and an outdoor national. Very few know what really happened after that. All that matters is that he is back, and Mitch only puts riders on his horses that are ready to go to work.
Another sophomore worth a second look is Nico Izzi. The hard-charging factory Suzuki pilot should be ready to chop wood. He’s more of an outdoor man, but he's been keeping quick company riding with Reedy and RC. It's all wide open from there with "Bretcalfe," Goerke, Hahn, Lemoine, and the Wharton brothers. Brother Blake was gnarly last summer in the nationals. He gets good starts but can also pull on the charge and come through the pack if he needs to. His indoor stuff is unproven. That said, a bunch of eyes will be on Bretcalfe, what with his many years of service. Personally, I'll be rooting for my boy Wil Hahn. He ain't no stranger to the podium, and he'll be pinning it for the hometown. What about Pourcel? The kid has Bayle-esque skills and I can only scratch my chin as to how he has rebounded from his big bail. Whoa, I think I just … never mind.
How about Chad Reed? Last night I was getting psyched up to write today, so I watched a bunch of YouTube clips of RC, CR, and Stew. Going back to 2003, it's gnarly to see how Chad simply never gives up. Beat him down and that Aussie will just gather and charge again and again. James isn't going as fast as he was in 2007, and Chad may not be at his 2003 best when he housed RC in the latter half of the series. Be that as it may, where they are right now is competitive as hell.
I'm giving the nod this weekend to Reedy, even though he hasn't won a race yet. He has a little "mo" rolling with him into Texas. Momentum never hurts anyone. Chad's on the heels of one of those special rides when you simply become "immortal" and climb outside yourself for a while. When you're that far in The Zone, everything slows down and you continuously find ways to get faster with every lap. You think that’s farfetched? Nobody in a right state of mind drops two seconds a lap on Stewart, but #1 did last weekend.
That is merely the beginning of the tale. Josh Grant has yet to finish outside the top five. The Ragin’ Cajun just led 10 laps and always brings the rain in Houston. Right now, all this series needs to go nuclear is Kevin Windham riding up to full song. Ryan Villopoto seems like he has eaten just about enough dirt. A winner is a winner, is a winner. RV Park will win this year.
Now grab a knee and bring it in. In my mind, professional supercross riders share a lot with soldiers. Supercross riders know how to train, practice, and race in pain. They know how to look over and beyond the scope of fear, and just when they think they have given their all, they find ways to go faster, smoother, and fight harder. In reality, we get to ride because of what our soldiers did, so we might as well ride hard. As far as inspirational and historic moments in American history go, the ones occurring within Houston's city limits are very powerful. I know we are simply riding dirt bikes this Saturday night, but don't say that to the boys behind the starting line. The fans in the Houston stands know exactly what I'm talking about.