Though Katharine Lee Bates was about a century too early to have been a motocross fan when she penned national hymn and substitute anthem “America the Beautiful,” she otherwise could have been writing about the backdrop of the annual season supercross finale when she penned the words “purple mountain majesties.”
A view of the stars and stripes flying over RedBud on or about the Fourth of July is rightly revered, but the sights and sounds of fireworks exploding against the twilight of dusk slowly falling across the Spring Mountains—with roaring 250s racing into Sam Boyd Stadium at center stage—is a distinctly American spectacle.
Picture the scene at the start, as the first gate falls at the season’s finish. The last strains of the actual official “The Star-Spangled Banner” fade and echo into those mountains. The last of the opening ceremonies fireworks fire. The fighter planes fly over through spacious skies, and racers in turn jet into the stadium confines accompanied by the not-so-dulcet roar of quarter-liter thumpers bouncing off the rev-limiter.
That, my friends, is America, and motocross, in a microcosm. And that is supercross in Las Vegas.
Much has been made this week of the differing ambiance of a day race held in a stadium across the river from New York City. (All year, even more has been made of the differing and challenging conditions posed by leaving the comforts of home, the good old U.S. of A., to compete overseas in a foreign outdoor motocross series.)
But, for all the potential benefits of the almost new venue in New Jersey, heat races have long gone off in daylight, albeit dwindling, at season’s end in the Southwest—with Feld not backing down from its weekly commitment to flashes of gunpowder and showering sparks even when the house lights can only be dimmed as the sun sets behind six-thousand-foot mountain peaks.
Alas, well before New York or Las Vegas—each has its own Statue of Liberty, you know—the fireworks for this year’s supercross season were already pretty much over.
Still, there is the possibility of an explosive East-West shootout, as the kid from the eastern North Carolina matches his American bravado against the suave and smooth style of the veteran from southwestern France.
Cue up those 1980s announcers, who, into the nineties, portrayed Jean-Michel Bayle as, more or less, “that commie interloper.”
Actually, let’s not go there. In a season where MXGP has vied with good ole’ American supercross for national attention, let’s keep the racing off the bench and on the track. Hell, in the stadium, even. One more time, anyway, as we look forward to seeing Cooper Webb line up against Marvin Musquin.
Musquin’s run toward his first American championship may have taken several years, but it has been—at least in the end—nearly as smooth as those inside lines Bayle once used to sneak underneath and past a rampaging Damon Bradshaw.
Which brings us back to today’s heir to the Beast from the East title, who often rides with an explosive youthful abandon that is reminiscent enough of the original to show that Webb has more in common with Bradshaw than the same home state.
This late in the supercross season, it can be hard to find anything new to be said, to talk about, to write. But the prospect of a season-ending showdown between Bradshaw and Bayle, wait, Webb and Musquin, is one thing that bears looking forward to. (That’s right, bears.)
And, finally, it also evokes a quick spark of nostalgia for the days when a little patriotic hyperbole was kind of innocent and even funny—all without even touching on the more current and altogether polarizing discourse of Ryan Villopoto versus the world.
Champions on their respective sides of the ponds and beyond, Bayle and Villopoto have a lot in common too. But that’s a whole other column.