Although it’s not publicized often, sh** talking and mental games before and after the races does indeed happen. Take it from me, I’ve been lucky enough to carry around a boom mic at the races over the last three years and have heard things I literally can’t even write on Vurb without getting us all canceled.
But it does lead to the age old question: should or shouldn’t riders shit talk on the line to each other and play mental games? Is it wrong or dirty? And does it have an affect on the racing? Let’s dive in.
I find there are two camps. Camp 1: Let the racing do the talking and Camp 2: Talk all the shit and play all the games you can. Also, it should be noted that we’ve seen success in both types of athletes so I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to go about it, but one is clearly way more badass.
If you couldn’t tell by that last sentence or haven’t figured it out by now, I fully live in Camp 2. Huge fan of the mental games, the trash talk, the stare downs, all of it and here’s why.
When you think of (non moto) sports you generally just think about the game only as the game played, but I’d argue that “the game” is more than just points scored or goals made. The game is actually anything from a stare down, to words said in a press conference. The game is everything done to achieve the goal. The game is every single calculated move, big or small that helps you win.
Even Mike Tyson would stare his opponents down in the ring and said he knew he had won the fight the moment they broke eye contact.
Another thing to note is in almost ALL other professional sports, competitors are CONSTANTLY trash talking each other. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, even surfing, water polo, volleyball, and especially boogie boarding… literally almost all of them have to deal with someone chirping in their ear while preforming. And here’s the big one, on top of that they have to deal with this for the entirety of the game (usually a few hours or more). This got me thinking, Motocross and Supercross racers don’t really have to deal with that… to a degree that is.
In moto you get about three minutes before the gate drops and 10 minutes on the podium to play your games, and while some people think it’s cheap, I think it’s awesome. Can’t forget the jabs thrown via social media either.
Certain riders are masters of the mental game. Cooper Webb is one of them. Writing “red plate” on the pit board, winning Arlington 1 and giving Tomac a polite thumbs up, then waiting for Kenny and forcing him to give a fist bump. These are very strategic championship moves AND not cheap whatsoever. Coop isn’t the only one, Tomac and Barcia got into some word play after a race last year, and we’ve seen Kenny throw some blows in podium interviews. Even Jason Anderson use to post race results and change Blake Baggett’s name, all fair in my book.
Simply put, our top athletes get paid millions, but if they were to be at that level in any other sport, they would have to deal with sh** talking the whole time. The way I see it, if you can’t handle a subtle blow after the race or a sneaky sentence on the line, then pull off. And as far as the question of should this be allowed, it absolutely should.
I personally think the racing you see today is a direct result of the games played off the track. You can’t tell me that these guys don’t give it a little extra after getting some trash thrown their way. I mean you can, but I won’t believe you.
I think it elevates the sport, and I think our riders should be able to handle it. They should also consider themselves lucky that they don’t have to deal with it during the race.
If after reading this you’re still a “save it for the race” person, that’s fine. I get it. But I can tell you if I was paying you millions to win, you better be able to get past a few mental jabs on the line. If after all the hard work, training at the gym, nutrition, etc. get thrown out the window 10 seconds before the gate drops over a few words, then get better at the game. These dudes put their bodies on the line every day, you have to be able to brush off a couple of words.
End of rant, thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: I would totally be rattled by any one of these tactics and therefore stick to boogie boarding and working for Vurb, so please take this lightly.