Friday, November 11, 2011

Wrapping up #MakeNoiseForMarcoSunday

Well, it's Friday and a work week's come and gone since #MakeNoiseForMarcoSunday. That's not very long, but it is already quite a bit longer than the amount of time it took motorcyclists all over the world to conceive of a global event, carry it out, and move on.

Almost ten thousand people read the post in which I originally suggested that not just MotoGP riders but all of us should rev our bikes as a way of both commemorating Marco Simoncelli and drawing our community together. That was, by a wide margin, the most-read post ever on Backmarker.

I originally posted that suggestion last Tuesday. Overnight, someone re-tweeting a link to that post created our Twitter hashtag, and late last week we got some support from motorcycle media (including the Cycle World and Ultimate Motorcycling web sites,, and even some mainstream media (The Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K.)

The #MakeNoiseForMarcoSunday Facebook page drew nearly 1000 members in just a few days, and now dozens of people have uploaded videos of themselves, alone and in groups, revving their bikes. #MakeNoiseForMarcoSunday -- a search term that didn't exist at all on Google until last week, now brings up many pages of links related to the event.

In the end, it didn't matter that the MotoGP riders just stood by their bikes and watched fireworks. What was important was that ordinary motorcyclists all over the world had a way of showing their own solidarity with a fallen comrade.

So here's one more Note from the Dept. of Modest Suggestions: let's make 10:30 in the morning on the first Sunday in November the official day of mourning for fallen motorcyclists. It's well timed for it. It's the end of most racing seasons, the date's about half-way between the Day of the Dead and Rembrance Day (in the Commonwealth) or Veteran's Day (here in the U.S.) In much of the Northern Hemisphere, it's about the time bikes are put up for the winter.

Sure whenever May 20 rolls around, someone writes an essay about the crash that killed Jarno Saarinen and Renzo Pasolini in one fell swoop; we remember Joey Dunlop on the anniversary of his death; those guys will never be forgotten. But as a group, we tend to acknowledge the deaths of other riders but briefly and then move on, usually after concocting some story about how that can't happen to us.

But I'll keep saying this: While we don't ride or race motorcycles in order to take risks, risk gives the decision to ride or race meaning. If it was completely safe, or even pretty safe, it would be a completely different sport.

When I was a club racer, I was at some social function where someone introduced me to a stranger by saying, "This is my friend Mark. He's a motorcycle racer."

The guy shook my hand and said, "So you're a motorcycle racer. Golf's my game."

I smiled and said, "That's nice."

But what I thought was, "You idiot; do you really think those two things can be equated? Imagine the most intense pressure situation in all of golf. What would that be? A playoff hole at the Masters, and you can hole a 6 foot putt for the win? A putt you should make, right? But just long enough that you might not. You'd get some pretty bad butterflies alright. And you know what? If you missed it, you might -- for a moment -- wish you were dead. But you wouldn't ever actually be dead. As a motorcycle racer, you live with the realization that cost of any error in judgement can be catastrophic."

So yes, risk gives our sport meaning. That's why most people don't do it; why no matter how many people ever watch MotoGP, motorcycle racing will never be a mass-participation pastime. And why despite the fact that the risks are obvious, every now and then, we have to be reminded that even with continuous improvements in track safety and gear, and all the precautions we take to avoid tragedy, tragedy lurks around every corner. If it didn't; if the sport of motorcycle racing could ever be made completely safe, it would just be another game.

So when a Simoncelli dies out there on the track, his death gives your sport a depth that a mere game will never have.

Shakespeare (as usual) totally got the idea that risk imparts meaning to reward. He makes a great case for this idea in Henry V's epic "Crispen's Day" speech.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'

The strangest thing happened as I finished up this post. I thought I'd look up the day of St. Crispian's feast. It's October 25. Marco Simoncelli died on the 23rd -- the closest race day to Saint Crispian's.

All for now, MG

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