When people ask me why it is that I still don't have a cell phone, I tell them it's because I'm from Minnesota.
Call it rural, Midwestern bumpkin-ness or just an aversion to a device that would provide communication in the five-block driving time between home and office, but whatever the reason, I just don't see the need.
I feel a lot like Phil Hartman's great SNL character, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, when I explain that I really don't need a cell phone. At least that's what I get from the expression from the people I explain it to.
"Poor rural Minnesota dufus, he doesn't even see that he desperately needs a communicating device for that three- or four-minute drive," I can see them thinking.
Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman had a hard time understanding the modern world, and I guess I do too, at times. Especially after my latest foray into the World Superbike paddock. After four days there, at times, I felt like I'd been transported to the bizarro world-where good, old-fashioned common sense was at times very hard to come by.
Particularly in terms of the new World Superbike rules for 2004.
When reading these new-for-2004 rules, I was struck by one thought: exactly which problems are being solved with these new rules? There are currently five-and-a-half factory teams in World Superbike, television is good, and crowds are respectable. The series is very healthy. So, I'm wondering how moving to a 1000cc base with restrictors and treaded tires for all bikes makes things better?
We've been down this road before, but none of the gents currently screwing up the sport were around when this Groundhog-Day-like scenario played the first time.
For those of you who were too busy dancing to Devo, or were not even born yet in the early 1980s, I'll surmise. Once upon a time, Superbikes started out as 1000cc machines in the mid-1970s and grew to be great snarling beasts with 155 horsepower (in 1982, mind you). Power and performance went through the roof for both the Superbikes and for the streebikes they came from.
The AMA was the first to act. They backed the capacity down to 750cc in order to make the racing more affordable, slow down the performance cycle, and develop the 750 class because, um, the manufacturers were having a hard time selling 1000cc performance streetbikes in a soft economy. What's more, it became pretty expensive to insure a 1000cc performance motorcycle. It's been a while since I've insured a liter-class sportbike, but I assume it's much easier and cheaper now.
I think it's an unusual stroke of brilliance for the powers-that-be to now think that to fix what ails (or doesn't ail) Superbike is to morph the rules and instigate a performance war between the OEMs with their largest-capacity motorcycles, which will direct national Superbike sanctioning bodies to do the same. That's exactly what we don't need.
These guys were not around for the last trip down that road, but for those of us who were, it'll be like old times, because after just a few miles with liter-bike missiles, we'll no doubt be seeing some of our old "friends". That would be Mr. Insurance Industry blowhard, Mr. Legislator, and Mr. law enforcement spokesperson. And, boy, will they be happy to see us.
If it were my decision, I would have done what DORNA will do in Spain next year: 600cc production bikes with open rules regarding suspension and engine mods, racing on slick tires. Making the capacity rules smaller and concentrating on less-expensive bikes would have kept costs down and slowed the performance curve that we've got to be concerned with in regards to streebikes.
But, hey, what do I know? I'm from Minnesota.