Expletive Deleted: Safe Space Riders Get An Old School Lesson
Good luck over there
Jesus Christ that's Jason Bourne. Or, just think if Stoner came back for a race or three ...

I stopped by a yard sale the other day. I need tools in two geographically different places now so I am grabbing extra sockets, wrenches and hammers when I see them.

On a table at this yard sale sat some dusty old books, including a hard-cover copy of Doctor Zhivago. I picked through the books and found a high school yearbook from 1943. I paged through it and marveled at the fashions of the day, and how many after school clubs the school offered. The senior class boys looked like they were—tops—15 years old. They all wore suits, most of them drowning in the cloth. Some of those same boys were also shown in after-school clubs like "Industrial Machine" or "Auto Shop". They were operating lathes and tearing drum brakes apart as part of the club curriculum. I found this pretty damn impressive.

The end pages of the yearbook, the owner was a graduating male, were filled with messages from the boy's classmates. Written in cursive they said things like "see you over there" and "good luck wherever you end up. Stay in touch. Write me at my mom's address if you can't find me." A great many messages to this boy referenced "over there".

Hey, I had just read four pages of Doctor Zhivago—it's hard work. Dr Z is like if Kevin Cameron wrote about romance during the Russian revolution—you read two paragraphs, go one more, then read all three again to hang on, then go one more paragraph.

The woman who was holding the sale saw me reading the Russian novel. Which one did he really love? I asked her. "Laura," she said. Right, okay. Thank you, you just saved me 450 pages and three hours of before bed reading sessions.

After mentally ingesting Dr Z it took me a minute to do the math in my head. A 1943 yearbook. This meant that when this boy's friends wrote good luck over there they meant in the great war, World War Two. I paged through the yearbook a bit more and came upon a page devoted to five senior boys who had already enlisted and had already died in the war before the yearbook had been published. Five.

"Make sure you get a kraut for my brother," read one message inside the yearbook.

I thought about this Sunday as I watched the MotoGP race from Misano and watched Dani Pedrosa almost finish on the podium in the first race he's done in a long time. This after I watched with my own eyes Josh Hayes winning MotoAmerica 600 Supersport races in 2023. How can this even be possible? I knew Josh Hayes when he was a triple-digit rookie, and I think if young Josh were faced with being beaten by some old guy he'd have put his bike into the sky trying to not get beat by him. But everybody in the class seemed fine with Josh kicking their ass.

Josh doing so gave a lot of credibility to the criticism I've long held--that the current generation of MotoA riders are just not fast enough. They are fast enough for MotoA but they are not fast enough to hang in Europe. Keep in mind the two American riders who didn't come home with their tail between their legs—Garret Gerloff and Joe Roberts—left MotoAmerica early, bet on themselves, jumped in the deep end, yelled, 'Over the hill boys, nobody lives forever!'.

I think it is natural for every generation, as they grow into old owl status, to suggest that a younger generation might not be as rough and tumble as they were when they were 19. I read an account once of some Canadian boys who had gone over and fought in WW1 long before America joined in making it a true international conflict. They were already injured, handicapped and back from the war before America even officially sent troops over. And, somehow, these young veterans of early WW1 were in the same place as a group of aged Civil War soldiers. What was it like over there, kid? Bad, bad, the WW1 vets said, death in the trenches; started each day with less than 30 shells.

Wait, the Civil War guys said, who must have joined at 13 or so, YOU HAD TRENCHES? We had stand in the field with no cover at all and shoot at guys so close to us that we could see their flared nostrils. Hey, get a load of these guys—they had trenches!

So, I wonder if we are not seeing the result of safe spaces and conflict resolution rooms in racing today? A guy I know worked in the top level of Dorna management until two years ago. He said that some of their market research showed that in younger fans they were very uncomfortable with riders being confrontational with other riders. It made these fans think about when they'd been yelled at by their parents or bullied in school. They want their riders to be happy and hugging on the podium, not refusing to shake hands or ramming one another on the cool off lap. And they never wanted to see 2015 again. They didn't even want to think about 2015. It made them sick.

To think about it.

What do we know for sure? We know that at least in MotoGP the racing is really good. We also know that unfortunately the rules are so tightly controlled that the teams are reduced to cheating (or, creative rules interpretation) by running low tire pressures and horrible, sad aerodynamic gorp that makes MotoGP bikes look more like cars than ever in their history.

We know that Dani Pedrosa came out of retirement and waxed all but three of the current MotoGP class. All but three.

Good luck over there.

Tim Wowington
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