Betty Blog #1
by Brett Lee
I was not always the best student. So I told my mother that the next test I was going to get perfect. Not just pass, or a good mark, but perfect. I didn’t stop there. I told my teacher, my classmates anyone who would listen that when that next test came along, I was going to ace it. When that piece of paper was passsed over the shoulder of the girl in front of me and placed in front I gazed around and to anyone that made eye contact, I nodded confidently. I picked up the yellow pencil, held it up to my mouth for a small pretest taste of eraser and immediately felt the heavy weight of it. The eraser end I used to nibble tasted like an AA battery tip and my lungs began to burn. I pushed pencil to paper. The lead snapped off. It shot across the aisle and hit my buddy Dan in the ear. I scrambled to grab another. That next 45 minutes was spent grasping tightly to the last pencil at my desk, agonizing over each question and hoping against all hope I had gotten perfect. Long story short…I didn’t get perfect and I can thank only myself for making the molehill into a mountain.
What does any of this have to do with motocross? In my little world it is how I find a way to connect the dots enough to feel qualified to comment on James Stewart.
You see Stewart (unlike me in school) is blessed with talent on a motocross bike. In fact he is blessed with talent on anything with a motor. Since the day he started riding he could go fast and win. He had people around him to push him to succeed. Fans and industry noticed him early and he was told from a very young age he would be the greatest. Not the best, or a champion but the greatest motocross rider ever. Winning eighty-four Amateur national titles, all before the age of 16, he debuted as pro in 2002. He then dominated the 2002 125cc national championship and was named the 2002 AMA Rookie of the Year. He was also named one of “20 Teens Who Will Change the World” in the April 2003 issue of Teen People magazine. The belief in him as the one to break all records was as hard to reject outright then as it is today. He was, and is, the fastest man on any given lap to ever swing a leg over a motorcycle.
In 2005 Stewart moved up for both the Supercross series and the Outdoor National Motocross series. It was, without any help, one of the most anticipated debuts in Supercross history. As a kid he kicked up the hype with the famous Racer X cover of him and the caption “My whole Life is about Jan 8`. The rookie not only said in one sentence he was coming in hard, but he wasn’t settling. Rookies do not win opening rounds as a rule, and none had put it out there on the cover of the sports largest publication. It was bold and shoveled more pressure onto the shoulders of Stewart. Kevin Windham won the opening night. Stewart didn’t make the podium. A practice crash at Round 2 in Phoenix resulted in a broken wrist and meant that he would have to wait before he notched his first career supercross win.
This has been the career of James Stewart. Dazzling speed and ability with dizzying amount of pressure heaped on by him. The goals he shares with fans or announces in press releases have never been in the now. Never in succession to greatness but an eye on only historic accomplishments, stats of greatness and achievements no one else has gone before. It is a tall order for even a rider as great as Stewart. Motocross breaks the most talented, it snatches people from the sport randomly and greatness in motocross has always been partnered with luck at different points in a rider’s career. These goals he announces and shares bring pressure and intense attention. He has only been beaten six times in races that he did not crash.” Stewart famous crash or win stat makes one wonder if the pressure he brings to himself will be the real obstacle that prevents him from achieving his historical ambitions.
Having finishing 4th in the 2011 series and being beaten straight up on several occasions it seemed that in all likelyhood his goals would be to become consistent, work for podiums, wins and championships. But leading into this season, true to his confident character, Stewar let fans know his goals still remain to carve out his place in the history books. Stewart told USA Today: “My No. 1 focus is get to 73 wins.” ( He does have 42 Supercross Class main events). Stewart’s sites seem set on becoming supercross’s all-time winningest rider, a title currently held by seven-time Supercross Class champion Jeremy McGrath, who boasts 72 wins.
While he is no longer the hands down fastest man on the track, he is amongst the best. He is also dropped in a field with the best most prepared racers perhaps in the history of our sport. The intimidation factor of Stewart’s prescence has waned from the competition and wins will not be easy. The two racers who Stewart has chased in history have been Mc Grath and Ricky Carmicheal. Both were intensely competitive but both were soundly focused in the present. Winning championships was the byproduct of winning races one at a time for the greatest racers of all time. Stewart went on to say “After that (73 wins), we can hit (NASCAR) full force. We are definitely making steps to hopefully battling with Junior (Dale Earnhardt) and (Jimmie) Johnson. I am looking forward to it as another challenge in life. The cool part is maybe I have a chance to be great in two different sports.”
The greatest athletes all have swagger and confidence. They also have enormous pressure put on them from fans, media and sponsors. There is also the pressure they put on themselves to be prepared each week, to win races and to win championships. Stewart will doubt be written into the sports history as one of the all-time greats, but the pressure to beat all the records and be the greatest, his focus on history just maybe what prevents him from winning today.