3 on 3: Views from Afar

3 on 3 Views from Afar

October 1, 2015 12:00pm

By Jason Weigandt and Aaron Hansel

Once again, someone ripped through our office servers (most likely the government, trying to spy on us only to find out the only people we ever talk about have names like Ryan, Jeremy, and Kenny) and stole the contents of a deep, not-for-public conversation between two staff members.

This time it’s an instant message session with Jason Weigandt and Aaron Hansel, regarding the Motocross of Nations. Hey, at least this one semi-sorta involves international issues. Read on. You’ll probably find the conversation quite similar to what you talked about this week. 

Hansel: Hey, so is Dungey relieved or bummed USA didn't win? Obviously he wants them to win, but I wonder if a little part of him had to feel relieved.

Weigandt: I was thinking the other way around. Like, if they won, no one would even bring his name up, but now they lost so he can get blamed for not going. Don’t you think some fans were left saying: “Good job, boys, but if we only had Dungey"?

Hansel: Ehh, maybe, but is anybody saying that after the last few MXoNs? Barcia and Webb both did better than Dungey's been doing. No disrespect to Dungey at all, but lately the MXoN has been like kryptonite for him. 

Weigandt: My buddy Tony Blazier had the best tweet of the weekend. Before the third moto: "I'm nervous but this is 500% better than wondering WTF is wrong with Dungey."

Hansel: LOL. Yep. Back in the day, in that last moto, the Americans would have just sliced through, man. I think those days are just gone. American's still good, but it's crowded up front now. 

Weigandt: Oh, yeah, those days are definitely gone. Those dudes are the same level, so anyone can win, whoever gets the breaks, really. It’s definitely different. When doing this twenty-two-day des Nations countdown we had the last few weeks, and rehashing some old USGP stuff, man, it's amazing. 

Hansel: Same level? Hmmmm, I'm not convinced on that, but unfortunately we'll never really know.

Weigandt: In the 1980s and 1990s any American could show up anywhere and win. Stanton would go and race a GP in Japan real quick for Honda and just go 1-1 no prob. I don’t even know why, but Micky Dymond once did a GP in Brazil for Honda and went 1-1. You’d see podium sweeps by Americans at the Unadilla USGP. And while that was going on, along with the des Nations win streak, you had Parker and Schmit and all those guys ALSO winning GPs on the reg. Supercross is one thing, but I don't think you can say the Americans are at a higher level outdoors at all now. There's just no proof. 

Team USA came in as underdogs.
Team USA came in as underdogs. photo: Ray Archer

Hansel: You can't say we are or aren't—you're right. You can keep looking for answers from this event, but it never makes sense. I mean, you take a look at Romain Febvre killing it in France, and you think he's the fastest dude in the world. But that's HIS HOME TRACK. You think Cooper Webb is going to be challenging Dungey like that at any American track? Probably not. Not yet, not this year. But then look at how Dungey has done at the last few MXoNs. Cooper did better! IT MAKES NO SENSE!

Weigandt: Here's what makes even less sense: Webb/Febvre were the same at Glen Helen and in France. Hardly any difference between the two weekends. I figured if Febvre was a little bit better than Webb at Glen Helen, then it wasn’t even going to be close in France, but then Cooper actually reeled him in at one point in a moto and tried to pass him! How can that be??? 

Hansel: The reality makes no sense. There are plenty of bits of info that support both arguments. You can pick and choose anything to support what you believe, but if you try to come up with an actual conclusion AFTER looking at the facts, it's impossible. I thought Webb actually looked a little better in France than he did at Glen Helen. At least in that first moto. Hey, on a slightly different topic, tell the truth. Were you bummed out for Musquin when he went down?

Weigandt: Nah. You saw he was back up and not hurt. After that, I wasn’t bummed. I guess somewhere I was still pulling for the U.S. a bit. And you know what? Not even as a patriotic thing…because it means nothing. This race doesn’t change anything about the U.S. and doesn’t impact anything on our regular lives living here. 

"This time there seemed to be mad respect both ways. Whatever team won, everyone just seemed pumped and happy and respectful."

Hansel: Yeah, it’s not like I’m saying I wanted to him to beat Barcia. But I didn't want him to crash at the MXoN, representing his own country, in his own country, right in front of the crowd. He'll probably never ever get the chance to race the MXoN in France again, and that crowd was awesome. You have to want to root for a guy like that. 

Weigandt: Yeah, I see that, and we’re talking about Marvin here. Nicest guy ever. How can you not like him?

Hansel: Think of the atmosphere there, man. It was a storybook event. It sucks it came at the expense of the U.S., but how awesome for those guys and those fans.

Febvre going 1-1 in front of his countrymen? Priceless. How good did that feel for him? Once-in-a-lifetime stuff here, even for these guys. 

Weigandt: Totally get that and I really wish I was there, just because that’s probably as crazy a crowd as there has ever been at a motocross race, and it would have been amazing to see it in person. I have no problems with those guys winning and it’s pretty historic. Only reason I wanted the U.S. to win is that this “us versus them” deal has gotten so heated, so out of control, we get so much shit when the team loses, and I even get it by association, and I have absolutely zero to do with this. Like, c’mon, I’ve never said American riders were better. I just announce the races. Honestly, at this point the job requires that I check everything at the door, anyway. And does anyone over here care that Ken Roczen is German or Chad Reed is Australian? Those guys are plenty popular. But, when Team USA loses, it usually unleashes a crap storm all over the Internet and social media, and a win would at least cut back on a lot of that. 

Musquin was the top MX2 rider on home soil.
Musquin was the top MX2 rider on home soil. photo: Ray Archer

Hansel: Of course I wanted America to win—no question—but it was hard not to be pumped for France. 

Weigandt: We should do an email exchange about this and turn it into an article.

Hansel: Okay. Just cut and paste this convo.

Weigandt: Hmmm, yeah. Not sure about that. 

Anyway, those were just my feelings in the first moto. After awhile you could tell this wasn't going to be the typical ending. Last three years fans have been SO bitter. This time there seemed to be mad respect both ways. Whatever team won, everyone just seemed pumped and happy and respectful. 

Hansel: I didn't pick up on that, but then again I wasn't there. But the vibe that I DID pick up on was that we weren't the favorites, even to the American fans. 

Weigandt: Nah, I wasn't there either. I just mean on social media and Racer X comments on this site. Stuff got really nasty in past years, lots of anger out there. This was more "France was good but our guys tried. Oh, well." Maybe it was because the French were the favorites?

Hansel: I see what you're saying. I didn't really look at any social media all weekend, busy with kiddos and rebuilding this bathroom. Jackhammered through the slab yesterday and had to route some new pipes and stuff. But that's another story for a different time. Anyway, that’s what you’re normally going to get, because Americans, most of us believe we're the best and should be winning every single MXoN. Hahaha. 

Weigandt: It goes both ways. I think Americans think that AND Europeans are in the fight for respect, so if their guys win they want to twist the knife a bit. America won for so long I can see why they would be that way. So the last three years, man, you had some angry Americans and you had some Europeans who were very eager to pour salt on the wound, and I don’t blame them. My Twitter feed was so much cleaner this year in the hours after the race.

Hansel: But after losing the last three, and the combination of the event being in France, with the world champ being a Frenchman, last year's 1-1 ace being a Frenchman, and the man who almost won the 250 national championship being a Frenchman, YOU HAD TO KNOW THE FRENCH WERE GOING TO WIN.

Weigandt: Yeah, exactly! Why rub it in? Everything was awesome, there wasn’t a reason to gloat, just party and be happy. 

Hansel: It was almost a foregone conclusion. No disrespect to our guys, but the French team was extremely potent. They would have been a serious threat anywhere, but in France?! Forgettaboutit! 

Weigandt: This was so different from Everts passing Stewart in 2006, which just gets beaten to death. I mean, we’re almost ten years later and still EVERTS PASSED STEWART—WHAT DOES THIS MEAN!?!?!?!?! 

Hansel: Stewart maintains he was just bringing the win home for America, and that DeCoster told him before the gate dropped, "Don't blow it." 

Weigandt: Yep, and that might even be true. But people still went nuts. 

Hansel: I believe him too. How much shit would he have gotten had he crashed away the win because his ego got in the way? This just goes back to picking and choosing evidence that supports your own, pre-determined opinion. If you were an American fan, he was just riding safe for the team. If you were a European fan, you saw Everts straight-up beat James Stewart. 

The French fans were unreal!
The French fans were unreal! photo: Ray Archer

Weigandt: During that 2006 des Nations, I was at Unadilla GNCC that day. That’s as middle of nowhere as it gets—no phones, no internet, nothing back then—but then somehow someone got an update, and track announcer Rodney Tomblin says, "News from the Motocross of Nations: Team USA won but in the last moto Stefan Everts passed James Stewart standing up around the outside!" And that’s all anyone wanted to talk about the rest of the day. It was literally AS IMPORTANT as winning the event. 

You know I was happy about one thing. When it sunk in America was going to lose, I thought, Well if they had won, the party would have been epic and I would have been so jealous that I didn’t go. So at least that didn’t happen. 

Hansel: The party in France, had the Americans won, while good, would not have been the most epic party. The most epic American party will take place at Glen Helen. 

Weigandt: Anyway, another thing, we never got a definitive answer on Marvin versus Martin outdoors. Both had their moments, not like you could say one dude was WAY faster than the other. Depended on the track and luck and stuff. Then there’s this race, in France. Marvin was just better. And it's not like Marvin lives there anymore and rides GP tracks all year. 

Hansel: Hometown crowd, man.

Weigandt: Yep. Just something about being in France, having that crowd etc. took him to another level. 

"If you could get that kind of crowd interest in every race, this sport would be unreal."

Hansel: Exactly. Dude, I remember when I used to race a lot, and sometimes it would be just my brother and I out there, and sometimes a pack of drunken friends would come with me. When I had my friends with me watching, I ALWAYS did better. I knew where they sat and I could hear them, and I always, always pinned it way harder.

Don't get me wrong—I always tried to do my best, but having even like five people (especially if a couple are girls) there watching you race just made me twist it harder.

I can't even imagine what thousands of insane fans would be like, with the pride of a nation on your shoulders. Losing? Not an option. 

Weigandt: Yes, I suck but I had that same vibe. A bunch of us from the office would race at High Point and track announcer (Rodney Tomblin again!!) would basically only call our battle even if we were in like fifteenth, and then everyone was bench racing about that all day. Second moto you were extra pumped to go out there. Not nervous, just fired up.

Hansel: Hahaha, yep—that's it. That’s the feeling, but like times one million. After racing with my brother we'd pull off the track and jabber back and forth for thirty minutes before even getting our gloves off!!! 

It was another battle between Febvre and Webb.
It was another battle between Febvre and Webb. photo: Ray Archer

Weigandt: But still, you're right that some of this doesn’t make sense. After Febvre beat Webb at Glen Helen I was like, "Oh, crap, this won't even be CLOSE in France," but Webb was arguably CLOSER. Now, it was his second 450 race like this, so maybe Webb is just on the upward curve each time he got on the bike. 

Hansel: And that move by Webb!! I'm glad he didn't take Febvre out because they would have killed Webb. Literally murdered him. Oh, who am I kidding—they would have capitulated.

Weigandt: Hahahaha. Oh, man. Seriously, what would have happened if he took Febvre out???

Hansel: You know one of those Frenchies had an actual chain in his pocket to throw on a chainsaw just in case.

Weigandt: Hahah, I think everyone was secretly hoping some "Webb" would sneak out, some trash-talk-podium thing somewhere, some rough riding—this is what we were getting some popcorn to watch. But even he has admitted in the interviews that crowd made it tough. I mean, you're a motocross rider—there's not much experience with crowds like that. This isn't the NBA where half of your games are played at a road arena and the fans are on you all the time.

Hansel: No, everywhere you go you have someone cheering for you. Sure, not everyone likes every rider, so there are haters everywhere too, but never do these guys go anywhere where EVERYONE is against them. Literally zero crowd support. 

Weigandt: Yeah, Anaheim is full, but it's never forty-five thousand wanting one dude to win and one dude to lose super bad. If you could get that kind of crowd interest in every race, this sport would be unreal. Think about the last moto. If it were any other race, it would have been kind of boring. Febvre got the early lead and you pretty much knew he would win. 

Hansel: This sport is unreal, man.

Weigandt: I gotcha. But any other race it would have been “Febvre got the early lead and held it to the end. Barcia and Webb got bad starts.” Sounds kind of boring, but it didn't feel that way, did it?

Hansel: The team aspect adds so much. I think people would think it was just a gimmick in any other format, but with national pride on the line, and the whole America-versus-Europe thing, it works.

Weigandt: The team thing is cool. You actually have to think some during it, do some math, audience participation. 

Hansel: You know, the whole America-versus-Europe thing is a major component to the success of this event. They like to jump on every opportunity to say they're better, but it's never one European country battling against America. It's France, it's Germany, it's Belgium, it's whoever. But it's ALWAYS America. 

Weigandt: Haha, yes. BUT, to be fair, America is the size of Europe.

Hansel: I don't know about that. What difference does that make?

Weigandt: So it's not a fair fight. Like, "we" had to beat Belgium back all those years. Belgium! Most people don't even know Belgium is a country if you don't follow this sport. 

Hansel: Or if you’re not into diamonds. What does physical size have to do with the skill of a racer?

Weigandt: More population to pick from. It's like individual states going against the entire U.S.

"You know, the whole America-versus-Europe thing is a major component to the success of this event. They like to jump on every opportunity to say they're better, but it's never one European country battling against America."

Hansel: Okay, you got me with fact there, although, living in Cali, I say bring it on.

Weigandt: Yeah, it's the dark secret of U.S. success. We found three good riders out of our 300 million and you found three out of your 10 million. If you want to truly be fair, make it ten-rider teams all Europe/all U.S./all everyone else. 

Hansel: I think your population argument has merit, but I don't think it's the whole story. The infrastructure still has to be there for kids to become as good as they are.

If dirt bikes weren't big here, if Americans didn’t like this sport and weren’t fans and weren’t into it, we wouldn't be churning out Ryan Villopotos, James Stewarts, Ryan Dungeys, Kyle Cunninghams, etc. Yes, Cunningham is a personal favorite.

Weigandt: I got you. Justin Braytons, too.

Hansel: Yep. Aight, I gotta ‘go plug a hole in this bathroom project I’m working on. 

Weigandt: Did we solve any actual problems here? Besides the bathroom?

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