450 Words: San Francisco

February 3, 2010 7:30pm | by:
As the San Francisco Supercross unfolded before a packed AT&T Park, I could not have been the only one thinking about how strange it was to be watching such an early round of the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour with two big, empty holes in the program. No, it wasn’t the always slick opening ceremonies, nor the fireworks or freestylers. And rising stars Ryan Villopoto, Josh Hill, Davi Millsaps and the shoulda-won Ryan Dungey provided lots of thrills for the crowd. Rather, what was missing was the sport’s two main superstars right now: James Stewart and Chad Reed.

  • The gate fell in San Francisco without James Stewart and Chad Reed.
You know part of what happened: Reed went down with Stewart in Phoenix and broke his left hand, ending his title run after less than twenty-five total laps. That ended a Cal Ripken-esque streak of nearly 120 straight main event starts for the tough-as-nails Australian.

What no one knew at the time of that crash was that Stewart was already hurt. The defending AMA Supercross Champion had landed on privateer Kyle Partridge earlier that evening, one of those wrong-place, wrong-time deals where it appeared that Partridge got the short end of the stick and did not qualify through the LCQ.

But the damage would turn out to be much greater for Stewart. The San Manuel Yamaha rider injured his chest, shoulder and wrist—the last of which would prove the most costly in hindsight. Even after qualifying for the LCQ and crashing with Reed, Stewart gutted out a fifteenth, and then went quiet. And by that, I mean he decided not to tell anyone about his wrist injury.

What followed was a week of guessing on the industry’s part, as well as a short video that the team produced where James answered some questions about his injuries. Then he showed up at Anaheim 2 and, after being called out by shock-jock satellite radio host Jason Ellis over the PA before his heat race for not coming out for opening ceremonies, he gutted out another good finish—third this time, helping him to keep the red-hot Ryan Dungey in his sights.

  • Ryan Villopoto took his first win of 2010 in the city by the Bay.
Then he went quiet again. Much to the chagrin of the moto media (including our guys) Stewart and his team decided to keep the status of his injury on the down-low, electing to do another video rather than speak to any and everyone in the pits with a magazine, a website or a video camera. Why? It was a move that earned sharp criticism for the way the San Manuel Yamaha team went about this whole thing….

Did you know that Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has spent years deemed “Questionable” on the team’s mandatory injury report? Coach Bill Bellichick preferred to keep the other team guessing rather than let them know of any weaknesses that Brady may have.

Does anyone remember what happened to Mike Alessi at the Thunder Valley National last summer? Everyone knew he had a busted left knee, including his longtime rival Josh Grant. After the two collided on the first lap, it led to lots of finger-pointing, as not to mention more knee surgery for #800…

So we now know that Stewart’s wrist injury was more serious than we thought—he wasn’t out there in SF and it's hard to tell when he will be back—but I personally find it hard to fault him or his team for not wanting to explain his status to any and everyone before he attempted to race. I know some of my colleagues in the media may not agree, but I understand their wanting to keep the situation to themselves.

My point is this: When you are wearing a big red plate with a fat white #1 in the middle of it, you are aware of how easily that may be mistaken for a bulls-eye. Don’t blame James Stewart and Larry Brooks from trying to camouflage it a little, even as they tried desperately to hold on to it.