By John Basher
There’s no tribe of society more quirky than professional
motocross racers. They’re as serious as a heart attack and
more guarded than the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Gaining
access to a racer’s inner circle is nothing short of a miracle,
which requires working up the chain of command—PR reps,
race team personnel, family, man friends and, the final test,
their beloved dog. It’s likely easier to high-five the Pope than
get five minutes with James Stewart.
Not all racers barricade themselves from the outside
world. Geographical, sociological, economic and familial
factors are influential in shaping one’s personality, and some
riders are fortunate to have learned that life exists beyond
the track. They are polar opposites of the machine-like drones
that focus on one thing—winning. Not surprisingly, the
outgoing types get the most coverage, because journalists
don’t mind dealing with them.
Through my innumerable journeys I’ve seen things and
experienced events that I’ve never talked about…until now.
Here are several funny and outlandish—yet true—stories.
“I have been threatened, humiliated,
assaulted and seen things that I can
never unsee while working for MXA. I
wouldn’t change a thing.”
BELIEVE THE HYPE
Mike Alessi made his highly anticipated Pro debut at Millville
in 2004. I was there to document his weekend, shadowing
Mike everywhere he went. At the beginning of the day Mike’s
father, Tony, handed me a shirt to wear. Little did I know
how infamous that “Believe the Hype” shirt would become.
I elected not to put it on, figuring that it’d make quite the
collector’s item. However, after the motos were finished I
thought it would be funny to put it on and stroll through the
pits. That’s when Kevin Windham spotted me and noticed my
shirt. The gig was up.
K-Dub shouted across the pits, “Someone get duct tape
and a chair! We’re going to rip off Basher’s stupid shirt and
tie him up!” Only Windham wasn’t kidding. The “Ragin’ Cajun”
had a wild look in his eyes. Somehow I talked my way out of
the situation, calmed down the lynch mob, and avoided
THE GOAT’S REAR
It’s no secret that Ricky Carmichael has long disliked MXA.
The tumultuous relationship did me no favors in securing an
interview with Ricky during his heyday, even though he and
I were amicable. Ricky was always serious at the track; a
racer’s racer to the core. However, I saw a different side of
“The GOAT”—literally and figuratively—one summer evening in
South Bend, Indiana, in 2004 after the Red Bud National. On
a whim I decided to stop at a local watering hole for food. It
had been a long day in the sun, and any opportunity to kick
back and blow off steam was welcome. I didn’t realize that I
was walking into the lion’s den.
Inside sat Ricky Carmichael, as well as a slew of other
factory racers. They were hooting and hollering while telling
jokes and picking on one another. I did my best to be a fly on
the wall, soaking in a rare experience of watching the top
racers in the world letting their guard down. The animals
were let out of their cages.
Carmichael was the ringleader, running around the
establishment with reckless abandon and darting outside
every so often. A young James Stewart tried to keep a low
profile, while Paul Carpenter ripped off his shirt, flexed for the
crowd and screamed, “Look at these abs, and I couldn’t even
finish both motos!” Everyone roared.
Just then Carmichael came back inside and overheard
what Carpenter said. The GOAT dropped his shorts, exposed
his derriere to the gallery and yelled, “Oh, yeah? This ugly butt
smoked everyone today!” It was quite the night.
HOT SAUCE HEATS UP
There’s a very small list of Professional racers who I would
consider my friends. Kevin Windham has given me girlfriend
advice. Broc Hepler and I always loved chatting about football.
Heath Voss is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Those
racers will always hold a special place in my heart. Of course,
I can’t forget to mention Ivan Tedesco, who’s the type of
friend who will pick on someone to the point of exhaustion.
It all started at the 2009 Honda CRF450 press launch at
Lake Whitney, Texas. Tedesco was riding for factory Honda.
The Honda brass asked Ivan to attend the intro and hobnob
with the journalists. Little did I know that Lake Whitney would
serve as the first time I earned a nickname that still sticks
with me to this day.
After the first day of riding the CRF450, we headed back
to the rustic hotel situated on the property. We were
marooned from civilization, far away from such conveniences
as a grocery store or restaurant. To pass the time we
congregated in the hotel banquet hall and bench raced. A
circle formed around Ivan Tedesco.
The journalists were enthralled by Tedesco’s epic tales of
winning titles and racing for Team USA in the Motocross
des Nations. As the night wore on, Tedesco became more
comfortable with his audience. “Hot Sauce” began lobbing
insults and accusations. He was searching for words that
would hit a nerve and ruffle feathers. That’s when he turned
his attention my way. Ivan cracked a smile and said, “Why
are you so quiet, Jody Junior?” The room erupted in laughter.
I was labeled Jody’s son—his clone, so to speak.
That nickname spread like wildfire. For most of the past
decade I’ve been called “Jody Junior” by Andrew Short,
Marvin Musquin, Ryan Dungey and too many other racers