There has been a lot of cyber-buzz about the focus of CBS in its report on the sport of motocross. There hasn’t been this much chatter since Jeremy McGrath announced his retirement at the beginning of the this year. Despite concerns that the hard-core investigative program would adress only safety concerns, it turned out to be a positive and well-balanced piece.
The segment featured interviews with Kenny Bartram, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Rick Johnson and Dirt Rider’s own Ken Faught. The story takes viewers on a journey of the fast-paced sport of motorcycling, and targets a mainstream audience who they assume is unfamiliar with off-road riding. It focuses on the competition aspect and how supercross and freestyle continue to grow in popularity.
"Big money motorcycle racing is becoming one of the hottest sports in the land and we think that you’ll all agree, it’s one heck of a show," correspondent Jim Stewart said during his monologue at the opening. Stewart also said, “Kenny Bartram may be the poster boy for don’t-try-this-at-home,” and asked about the scar on his face and the knocked-out teeth. Bartram’s rather dramatic scar was barely apparent. This is just one of the early signs that Bartram and the sport were not getting ambushed.
Yes, Stewart frequently reminds people of the danger, but he doesn’t sensationalize. He explained the names of freestyle tricks and discussed the sport’s European origins.
One of the most interesting and flattering quotes dealt with the popularity of supercross, “In 2002, more than three-quarters of a million people went to events like this one in Las Vegas, making it the second most popular motorsport in the country with only NASCAR attracting more fans,” Stewart said. Although much of the action was filmed during a sell-out IFMA freestyle event in Philadelphia, the show offered several minutes of supercross from the 2002 season and the THQ U.S. Open.
Bartram was asked whether he is an athlete or a performer, and if he considers himself to be a stuntman. He explained that his tricks are calculated and practiced. On the subject of supercross, Stewart also pointed out that “during the 2002 season, nearly half of the top 40 riders were forced to sit out, all due to serious injuries.”
Rick Johnson followed up immediately with, “A lot of riders have a 10-year, maybe, if they are lucky, window to make money and to make a living at this sport. So they are going to push themselves. Also, the tracks are technical so when you put yourself in that realm of being fatigued you are taking the chance of getting hurt."
Faught provided statistics on riders’ salaries and points out how much money is spent putting together national-level race teams. Stewart discussed the cost of motorcycles and mentioned sales have tripled during the past few years.
He noted that McGrath has ridden his career mostly uninjured, and these guys are "marquee athletes." He showed portions of commercials from Mazda, Vans and 1-800-COLLECT, all companies that have endorsed McGrath in the past.
Stewart visited a local track in northern California and explained that was where the next Jeremy McGrath would be groomed, highlighting a strong amateur following.
Near the end, Stewart and Bartram talk about how half the people think “Cowboy Kenny” is crazy, yet Stewart seemed impressed by what he had seen. Bartram pointed out “You’ve got a day job – I think you are nuts!” and they both shared a laugh.
Stewart asked about the backflip and then shows ESPN’s coverage of the 2002 X-Games and a face-off between Bartram and Mike Metzger. He pointed out that Bartram knew he would have to pull off a backflip in order to try and beat Metzger. He showed the attempt in which Bartram broke his leg and then ask him if he had learned his lesson and whether he will ever try one again. Bartram replied that he probably would.
The show produced by Chris Martin and associate producer Amiel Weisfogel ends by showing Metzger’s two-consecutive backflips and a final remark: “To stay competitive, freestyle competitors say they have to push the envelop all the way to the edge.”