Throughout the month of December, Racer X Online editors and contributors will be handing out one award each day for an outstanding performance or effort or product related to the global motocross industry in 2018. Each winner will receive this award, which we’re calling a Roger, just like the Academy Awards have their Oscars. It’s in honor of Roger DeCoster, a great ambassador for the sport of motocross for more than 50 years. Today’s topic is the Broadcast of the Year.
For pure fun and entertainment, it would be hard to surpass what Red Bull Straight Rhythm did in October. The event is meant to be just that—fun and entertaining—and this year it seemed to hit every note. The production, the action, the analysis, and the whole throwback theme made it the best Broadcast of the Year.
And it wasn't just on TV, but also on Red Bull TV. (The broadcast is also on YouTube and has nearly 2.5 million views.) The way the way it ran, looked, and felt on our computer feeds, with seamless streaming, great, fast action, easy-to-digest results, and the whole '90s vibe of two-stroke noises was a hit. Even the event program was a pitch-perfect issue of Cycle News, complete with Stank Dog on the cover, and filled with all-things-nineties. And the behind the moto-style interviews that Wes Williams and Jeremy Malott pre-taped and stretched through the show, with athletes talking about their favorite memories and moments of that decade, really tied it all together.
At first it was planned for Art Eckman and David Bailey to reunite in the booth, which would have been wonderful. But when that didn’t work out they brought in Grant Langston and our own Jason Weigandt, two of the most prolific bench-racers you will ever meet. They kept it quick and concise, which is what the kids all want nowadays. They also had fun with the whole show, which was probably pretty easy given all of the cool things going on. And the Instagram-friendly length of the match-ups—literally 45-second sprints—allowed lots and lots of extra viewers in on the fun.
For instance, there were a couple of excellent homages to two of the best 125cc supercross riders of all-time in Jeremy McGrath’s PEAK/Pro Circuit Honda and James Stewart’s ’02 factory Kawasaki. Even better was the return of the Ryans—Dungey and Villopoto—who really helped out with some pre-event promos (Dungey being called off the couch by RV, then doing his best Al Bundy impersonation was priceless).
The idea that we got to see a dream match-up (albeit without the actual riders) in McGrath '91-vs.-Stewart '02 (thanks to Luke Renzland and AJ Catanzaro, respectfully) and a rematch of the Ryans (albeit on two-stroke 250s, on which they neither ever raced as professionals) was amazing. The smiles on everyone’s faces could be seen even under their helmets, including the actual winner of the whole deal, TLD/Red Bull KTM’s Shane McElrath.
While every round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, and the Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship have slick television production and top-level analysis and coverage, the sheer length of those series and shows can leave a viewer feeling like they’ve seen it all before, which they likely did the previous weekend, only it was a different round, and a different race (and often the same winners). The Motocross of Nations was hard to watch because of the mud and the poor results for Team USA left us literally shouting at the TV, Archie Bunker-style. The Monster Energy Cup was a good but rather long show with a dramatic conclusion, but then no real follow-ups on what happened between Joey Savatgy and Eli Tomac at the end.
Ironically, the same production team that does all of the U.S. races, led by directors Chris Bond and Jeff Manhart, were in the truck for Red Bull Straight Rhythm, with some added help from Red Bull TV. Given a different type of material to work with, other than what we see so often during the actual racing season, it allowed them to put a whole new spin on dirt bikes on TV.
Red Bull Straight Rhythm was straight fun, a one-and-done event with all kinds of great storylines. It really was must-see TV. We'll be sending this Roger to Jeremy "Hammer" Malott; he was the man most responsible for it all, and he probably doesn't have a paperweight on his desk anyway!