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There have been many—let me emphasize this—many requests to shadow Steve Matthes at the races as he bee-bops from one factory rig to the next. Getting scoops, stealing coffee, trading disparaging comments with riders and their team personnel alike, Matthes is polarizing to fans as well as those in this industry. So when I was assigned to “do the gig” in Detroit I was in a bit of a pickle. I’m not the social butterfly Matthes is (honestly Moser is the social-butterfly of the PulpMX empire), and there is of course the sect of people who really detest my boss. However, I am motivated and have an unstoppable work ethic.
My job as Steve’s fill in: Providing the EKS Brand athletes with goggles, penning both informative and entertaining tweets, and getting the post-race interviews. These were all things I was fully capable of doing. The following is an abstract recollection of the day’s events from a guy who’s seen Steve Matthes do the deed many times, and truth be told, this isn’t the first time I stood in as “The Imposter.”
I arrive at the venue close to 10 a.m. and head directly to the Will-Call trailer for my pass, and then it’s on to the pits with the goggle chores. The Detroit pits are the absolute worst. Riders, trucks, and canopies are squeezed together like sardines in multiple groupings, some of which are a Matt Stafford Hail Mary in distance. Combine this traffic predicament with the typical March temperatures in the great (I use the term loosely) metropolis (also used loosely) of Detroit and you have a race on the schedule that riders want to get through fast. The pit setup in Detroit really couldn’t be any more different from its predecessor, the legendary (not at all used loosely) Pontiac Silverdome. I’ll save you the tirade on the comparison between these venues, but understand that the Silverdome was the Alamo to the Great Lakes State, while Ford Field is a dressed-up pig with lipstick. I’m from Michigan. I know.
I walk through the first triage of factory semis where I stop in to see local hero Nick Wey’s setup, and I’m not at all surprised to find his goggle game is on lock. I make my way to the second pit assemblage behind the adjacent parking structure. This is frustrating to say the least, as the Silverdome’s pit setup had every single rig parked in the dedicated Silverdome parking lot, parallel for as far as the eye could see—it was ideal in every sense of the word. I visit Christine in the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha semi; she is clearly familiar with Matthes and his antics, but not me, The Imposter. Christine considerately offers me a choice of coffee or tea, which I politely decline because I never drink either. There’s no health-nut statement to be made; I simply can’t stand the taste of either. With Luke Renzland and Nick Desiderio all set on goggles, I realize it’s already nearly track walk time, and hoof it back to the stadium past that alternative parking structure. [Editor’s note: Hmmm. It appears you basically didn’t do anything for Wey, Renzland, or Desiderio. You’re filling in perfectly. –Weege.]
I split my track walk time amongst a few of my favorite guys and am once again in awe over how the obstacles look in person. I traverse the first few sections with Matt Lemoine, who’s about as easy going as they come and always has a joke ready. It’s a real bummer how his day ended. We decided that from now on when I’m at a race he’s competing in, we will stick to mean-mugging each other and not converse until after the night’s action. The last time we track-talked together was Dallas when he tore his ACL. I’m clearly his black cat. I split the rest of track walk with Andrew Short and Kyle Chisholm, who, as everyone knows, are always considerate and willing to chat a bit.
The track is pretty wet and tacky at this point, but many riders say it’s drier than many of the tracks this year during track walk, and they know it will dry out a lot. Following the night’s events, many riders said it was the driest, slickest track of the series. Following track walk, riders’ meeting, and Steve Hudson’s chapel service (he always makes those interesting and entertaining), I do another marathon walk back to the pits to find Ben Lamay. Adam Enticknap says Ben is parked by him, so we walk all the way back to the parking structure only to have Teddy Parks inform us that Ben has relocated to the bowels of the stadium. I immediately knee Enticknap in the nuts before turning around and going back to exactly where I had just been. I really would have killed someone for a Segway at this point; maybe Cole Seely’s agent has an inside line on those?
With my goggle duties complete for the day, I head to the press box for practice and begin tweeting anything compelling to the Twitter-verse. We had considered having me tweet directly from Steve’s PulpMX account, but that would have just gotten confusing since Steve was also using it from his couch between bike rides. [Editor’s note: Wait, Steve’s bike rides are a real thing? –Weege.]
A controversy is born as the third practices roll around. I claim that I relocated to the nosebleeds (a rather dark area of the stadium where I’ve heard the viewing is superb) and continue live-tweeting practice. Some would assert that I am actually at the Hockeytown Cafe enjoying what I like to call heaven on a bun—you can’t prove anything though. Burp. [Editor’s note: I can see you handled goggles, interviews, and stories to a degree, but you haven’t proven anything until you can bum free lunch from a team that doesn’t even like you. –Weege.]
About that time, my wife and kids show up, and just to give you an idea of the enigma that is Jason Thomas and his controversial reputation, my kids, who have met JT before, are split on approaching him without me. I can’t get my 6-year-old to tap him on the shoulder even with a cool $100 up for the taking. He is too intimidated. Jett, my 9-year-old, on the other hand, is all about it and doesn’t even need a bribe. He walks down to JT’s row, comes up behind him, and says, “Hey JT.” JT’s deep in his fantasy-moto selection process but still very obliging. He only backhands Jett once… I kid. Oh, that JT, the legend lives on.
The races come and go, the tweets flow, and the texts from my Boss come in as well. I am being graded on my tweets in live time. Boss is working too, sending a video of the nasty Weimer/Canard crash since we couldn’t see it in the press box. My phone is passed around like a stripper at a bachelor party, as people wanted to get a look at what caused the red flag. When I get it back it even has some tassels and frosting on it. Gross.
Steve begins sending me texts in our group text with suggestions of whom I might have the best shot at finding in the pits for the post-race interviews. With each suggestion, Pookie (Steve’s wife) responds, “Stevie!” Clearly Pookie has more faith (or maybe just less beer) in me. This is a tricky situation, though. Steve knows all the riders and they all know him, for better or for worse, in their perspective. When an Imposter comes to work, there’s definitely a cross-section of people who will be super-stoked to approach riders and get them one-on-one for an interview, and there are those who will be super-uncomfortable and nervous, and may even freeze up. I should be the guy who’s nervous; as I said earlier, I am not a social guy. This is where my work ethic fires up. I don’t only go for guys I know or am comfortable with. I don’t even give up if a particular rider seems opposed to doing an interview. I look forward to the challenge of getting riders who are known to be good and ones who may be hard to get.
When I did the interviews two years ago in Indy, I made sure to get Ryan Dungey. He was Matthes’ unicorn at that point. He hadn’t been in our post-race interviews before and he hadn’t really turned the corner with his charisma yet. I learned a bit that night in Indy, too. I wasted a lot of time wandering about the factory rig areas, like most fans do, waiting to catch a glimpse of someone I could approach for an interview. This year, I head to the box vans, trailers, and privateer areas first. Those guys aren’t hiding and they’re honestly appreciative of the interview requests. By the time I wrap up with Alex Ray, 722, and Mitchell Oldenburg (some of my favorite interviews), I head back to the big name racers and find Nick Wey, who has tons of family and friends at his truck, so I tell him I’ll come back. I knock on the GEICO rig and ask for RJ Hampshire. I know RJ and definitely want to get his thoughts on Martin Davalos ram-rodding him in the main. I head to Broc Tickle’s truck next (the guy is like my brother, so of course I try), but he is in a team meeting for a while and I never get him. Walking past the GEICO truck again, I happen to see Justin Bogle step outside and get a minute with him. I don’t mention PulpMX when I do these unless asked. Dave Osterman asks who I am and I’m nervous because I know both Dave O and Shane Drew have wanted to put my nuts in a vice for things I’ve written in the past. Time does heal all wounds, though. Both guys are totally cool and we have some genuinely good laughs about those old issues. [Editor’s note: I listened to your Pulpcasts and I have to admit you did a good job there. This probably means Steve’s job is easy. – Weege.]
Chad hasn’t been feeling great all day and doesn’t want to do an interview, so we agree to do a quick one on the way to the rental. I do know Chad a bit so that probably helped with that. It may surprise you to find out that Marvin Musquin actually tries to blow me off. The TwoTwo Motorsports team guys and I are posing for a pic when Marvin and his wife walk up. Marvin offers to take the pic, and the next thing I know his wife, Matilde Musquin, grabs the phone and channels her inner Simon Cudby. After the pic I ask Marvin if I can have a minute or so; he says, “No, I am way too cold.” I instantly interpret this as Marvin effing with me. I mean, have you ever heard Marvin not want to talk? I actually say to him, “I know you’re joking,” but after a couple questions I realize he really doesn’t want to talk. Sorry, Marvin. As you’d expect, he soldiers through and is fine. It isn’t a very good interview thanks to my miscalculation.
I am excited to get Brayton on his first night back to racing, and I have to get Nick Wey since this is probably the last hometown supercross of his career. Love that guy—he is so real.
The craziest part of the interview night happens when I interview Andrew Short. He steps out of the truck to find a few fans on him for some signatures, pics, and a signed-goggle request. I tell him I’ll come back, and not four minutes later, he calls and says he’s walking toward me for the interview. He called me to tell me this! This guy is unreal. There are a lot of great guys in this sport and Andrew is right near the top of the list.
By the time I finish the post-race interviews it’s hovering around thirty degrees, my hands are numb, and the shadows in the streets of Detroit are starting to look a little sketchy. I have an hour’s drive back home to process and post the post-race interviews just like Boss does each week. I should have worn a pedometer, because I have about worn the soles off my shoes. When I make it home and go to bed, it’s about 12:30 a.m. and I’m toast. I don’t know how Matthes does this every week—and he travels as well. This was a home race for me. I love my home base. The life of a traveling moto/supercross media guy isn’t my cup of tea, but I’ll gladly do it and have a ball a couple times a year.