They both didn’t work out as planned. Which one would you like to know about first? Why there is no live chat? Or the debacle that was my first motocross race?
Let’s start with why we have no live chat on Supercross.com. Back in the day, let’s say late ’90’s, we decided to have live chat! We had an experienced, expert person that knew all about running chat, and we were ready to do it! Our experienced, expert live chat person? A 14 year old from New York.
Yes, that probably doesn’t sound like a good start does it? But it seemed like it to us! He was knowledgeable. He was smart. He was experienced. And he had done live chat for lots of others as well.
The big name in chat back then? IRC chat. IRC stand for ‘Internet Relay Chat’. Our 14 year old technical guru explained it all to Rick (Johnson) and me … and it sounded like a great addition to Supercross.com. We were excited! We planned it out, had a launch date that we publicized, and got to work on putting it all together. We were going to really show the world!
Our launch date was a Friday night, and the highlighted ‘speakers’ were Rick Johnson, and then Rick was going to bring in Greg Albertyn too.
We made the chat window live about 30 minutes before the chat was supposed to start. First one person was online. Then two. Then five. Pretty soon 30. We hadn’t even started yet! But the people were lining up waiting to chat with Rick, and then Rick and Greg.
It was neat to actually see the chat window live, and to see all the people it attracted.
So, both Rick and I log in. There were our names listed there with maybe 90 others, all of them already asking Rick tons of questions. So, Rick starts answering the questions.
Now with having live chat, we had to have a moderator. And our moderator was our friend in New York that set up the software. He sees a guy named ‘RJ’ in the chat, and ….. promptly proceeded to kick Rick off the chat! He wrote “Who do you think you are, Rick Johnson?’
Rick signs back on. It shows up in the chat (again) as ‘RJ’. And our friend in NY proceeded to boot Rick off the chat system again! He wrote ‘You think you are Rick Johnson? We won’t tolerate that kind of behavior here in the Supercross.com Live Chat!’
Rick signs in again. He writes right away ‘Hey, I AM Rick Johnson! Really! It’s me!’ And I call him in NY and tell him ‘Hey, it’s really Rick! He’s signed in!’
Our friend apologizes, and, we get started on having our first live chat.
And after that first hiccup, it was going good. People were happy to communicate with each other, see their names there in the chat box, and best of all, they were excited to be able to ask Rick anything they wanted.
It was going good! Until … the ‘fans’ started taking over and dropping four letter bombs, more four letter bombs, multiple four letter bombs, and … it went downhill from there. They complained about everything under the sun: tracks suck. TV sucks. Rider sucks. Fans suck. Rick sucked. Supercross.com sucked. Planet earth sucked. (People sure are brave when they get to hide behind their keyboards! : )
We had planned to have live chat, with a special guest, every Friday night. We got off to a rocky start – but we were still excited, and looking forward to making the chat a big part of Supercross.com.
Next Friday comes along. Rick’s going to answer questions about riding techniques, and then he was going to talk together with Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath. We publicized it on the website, and fans were pumped!
That Friday, the chat window comes up live on the site about 30 minutes before the ‘show’ was going to start. People started logging in. First in the tens, then in the hundreds, then over 1500. New problem – how the heck was anyone going to be able to answer all those questions?? No one we know can talk that fast, let alone type that fast.
We didn’t look too good that night. We maybe answered 120 questions over a 60 minute time period. By the end of that time, we had probably disappointed maybe 2200 people that weren’t able to get answers to their questions.
Again, it didn’t work as planned …. but that’s the nature of the Internet and technology. So we were going to keep giving it a try!
(And I must say a ‘thank you’ to our 14 year old tech guru in NY. He did a great job. He knew way more than me or Rick about any of this chat stuff.)
We had also just launched our message boards. It was just starting, and we were trying to figure out how to make that work as well.
Then, during the week, we received a message from Disney. We were an affiliate for selling Disney merchandise. Disney was very clear – “You can’t have message boards, … you cannot have live chat, if you want to be a Disney affiliate.”
Rick and I thought about it. What were we going to do? The chat wasn’t working out as planned (it became way bigger than just being a three man operation), we wanted to continue selling Disney merchandise, because it’s a company we like and believe in, and it was a revenue stream. But …. the message boards were working smoothly, easily, and … well, we liked the ‘easy’ part because we were trying to do so many other things for the site as well.
What do we have today? Well, we don’t have live chat, and we don’t have Disney as an affiliate. We chose the Message Boards, because it seemed like the best way to not only communicate directly with everyone, but everyone got to communicate directly with everyone else as well! (Who knows though … maybe we will have live chat again someday!)
p.s. How about you all start to get along in the Message Boards now? : )
My first motocross race
September 1974. I had just gotten the new, 1975 Suzuki 125. I had never raced, but I had been going to Carlsbad raceway for years watching local races, which during that time included the best racers in America on a regular basis.
Carlsbad was a world famous track. Home of the US Grand Prix of Motocross. Carlsbad was famous for a couple of other things as well. In the morning practice time, the track was usually muddy, over-watered, sloppy, wet, rutted, and slippery. And then as the fog lifted and the sun came out …. by the time you’d race your first moto, the track would be completed dried out, sun baked, blue grooved, and like concrete – completely different from what you practiced on in the morning!
I was nervous the night before about my first race. But once the day came, I was fine. I got everything ready to go out to practice. My bike was prepped. I had some new riding gear and a new Bell helmet. Then, as I was just about ready to go out onto the track for the first time – I realized I was missing one thing. Well, actually two things – my boots. I forgot my boots! I felt like the idiot I was!
I had, and have big feet (yes, I should be 6′ 2″ because I wear size 12 shoes, but sorry – I’m 5′ 9″). I borrowed another guys boots (we actually had to share them!) but his boots were size 9. I worked and worked to cram my feet into those boots. I even took my socks off. My feet were crammed in – they hurt. But I was determined to race! (Or maybe not be embarrassed by NOT racing.)
I ride practice, and, following those big 500cc bikes was torture. Punishment. I didn’t know motocross was that tough! You get blasted with pellets and rocks and … even with a chest protector my chest was totally red and swollen from getting roosted when I came back into the pits. Back to my practice for a moment …. I slipped and slid all over the muddy track for three laps – I think I went more sideways than straight. And those three laps probably took me about 20 minutes.
Now time for my first moto of my very first race. The track had completely dried out. There was maybe 20 guys on the starting gate, all bunched on the inside. I started by myself all the way to the outside. The gate drops, I go into the first corner, and I was leading by about 20 bike lengths already!
That was the highlight of my racing career : )
I got into the first corner, was so far ahead … I didn’t know what to do. So, I slowed down. By the third corner, every single rider had passed me. I went from first to last in three corner of my first lap. Brilliant!
I think I finished 10th out of 20 guys … but I didn’t really ‘pass’ a lot of guys. It was more like ‘they had problems’ or crashed.
But I must say, I had a blast. It was so much fun – I had cramps in my face muscles from smiling so much while racing. But my feet hurt like @#$%. And every time I got off the bike I had to get the boots off right away so the guy who owned them could ride in his practice or race.
In that first race of mine, they let us 125 Beginners take off first. But one minute later, they had the Women’s class take off, and then one minute later they had the 125 Pros take off.
Now I’m in my race, thinking I’m going as fast as humanly possible. I get to the top of the famous Carlsbad uphill/downhill, and someone passes me at the top, and that rider was so fast, by the time I got halfway down the hill, that rider was already going thru the corner at the bottom of the hill. That dude smoked by me like I was standing still!
I thought ‘that dude’ looked a little funny as he passed me – just a different body type. I learned later that it was Mercedes Gonzalez! One of the fastest women riders in the world! That dudette is fast! (Hi Mer!) I felt good – I was just over half a lap into my first race and a girl that started a minute behind had just blown right past me.
Second lap – exact same place – top of the Carlsbad uphill, getting ready to go down the long, steep downhill. Another rider blows past me so quick … all I saw was this little blur. But I could hear the motor – it was screaming! This rider looked different too. He looked like a kid. And I found out later it was a kid. Jeff Ward on a sized down Honda 125 Elsinore – the bike was miniaturized for him and his age! He was flying!
I guess if you are going to get passed (and embarrassed) in your first race, it’s not too bad to be passed by two of the greatest – Mercedes Gonzalez and Jeff Ward.
I still had so much fun – I couldn’t wait to do it again! And next race, I didn’t forget my boots! (But my chain fell off and I lost the master-link. I learned another thing to bring to the races in the future – an extra master-link.)