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Long, but interesting.  

http://www.shanewatts.com/racers-wife-about-racers-life

From the Racer’s Wife about a Racer’s Life - A Wakeup Call for the Offroad Industry

By Carrie Watts, wife of Shane Watts

Every time a Racer hits the track, someone that loves them hits their knees in prayer to the track Gods, hoping against hope that their husband, son, brother, or friend comes off the track safe. 

We have all been there, waiting in the pits, watching the clock, counting the seconds. When an extra 30 seconds pass from their expected arrival, the anticipation builds; when 1 extra minute goes by, we start to get a little more anxious; when 2 minutes pass, we start to wonder what might have went wrong, hoping that maybe they JUST ran out of gas, had a mechanical, caught some bad lappers, got stuck in a mud hole. No matter how much time passes – even one second, the level of anxiety that those of us in the pits feel every time OUR Racer straps on a helmet, is just waiting to mount. Unless you’ve been there, waiting for a delayed rider to come in, you can’t imagine the deep, sinking panic we feel with every second that passes with OUR Racer coming through.

And when the unimaginable happens, when OUR Racer doesn’t make it off the track safe, the fans, the nay-sayers, the industry big-shots, the ones that sign the racer’s checks - all have nice comforting words for the loved ones that are still waiting for their Racer to come home. And then a little time passes, and it’s on to the next guy, and that’s it. 

In light of the most recent tragic loss of off-road racing champion Kurt Caselli, and because it seems, that for fear of losing their ride or sponsor support, no racers will say what needs to be said about the fate of the off-road racing industry and the severe lack of respect for the Racers that make the wheels of off-road racing turn, I’m going to make some really ugly observations and point some fingers. 

People, and by “people” I mean every company that makes a buck off these racers, every person that sits on the couch or stands trackside and gets a bit of “ooh” and “ahhh” from these racer’s hard work, talent and time, please take a minute to think about this: these guys are working for you! You are their employer, you are the ones that sign their paychecks and pay for their gas and food, who put clothes on their kid’s backs, and food on their tables. You are responsible for their livelihood.

At the end of every season, when these racers go back to industry companies, when they scramble for sponsorship and literally beg for dollars, they are doing it for you!

This is their job and you “People” employ them! These racers risk their lives EVERY day so companies can sell bikes and tires to you – the average rider and fan, so that Joe Blow can have some trackside entertainment with a beer in his hand, so that opinionated bench racers can tweet and post their high minded insight every day from the safety of their couch, and bash these guys in their blogs and on bike forums.

These guys climb on a dirtbike to do their jobs, but they are clocked in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To remain competitive, many have foregone traditional educations, they train every single day, they have to be smart and business minded to leverage their value with big companies to get a paycheck, they have to shake hands and smile and sign autographs even when they are mentally prepping for a race, they have to be able to market and self promote, they must have absolute support from family and friends, and they have to be able to get thick skin so that every Tom, Dick and Harry that has something shitty to say about them, doesn’t make them throw in the towel. 

Not once have I ever heard of a racer getting health insurance, life insurance or disability benfits from their sponsors, their employers. For that matter, half of these guys are struggling to pay for gas to make it to the races, and if you can believe this, MANY of these guys don’t even have health insurance because their paychecks don’t support it.

Think about what you might do if you did your job, and then your “employer” didn’t give you your paycheck? This happens to Racers regularly. 

Think about how you might feel if everyone you encountered in your job over the course of a year got to comment on your annual performance review, and all of that information was made public for the general population to then have their say. How might you feel? This happens to Racers regularly.

And then think about this: what if every day at your job someone else was trying to out-perform you and take your job? And, regardless of your job performance and even if you did EVERYTHING that was asked of you by your employer, someone else got awarded your job because they would take less money, and you were left jobless. This happens to Racers regularly. 

So, I’m pointing fingers at all of the “People” that are letting these guys risk their lives for nearly nothing, and I’m saying, Do Better! Take care of the Racers that take care of you! Let industry manufactures know that you - the average weekend warrior or rider and the future “racers”, won’t let their biking brothers risk their lives so that they can make an extra buck, or throw all their money at arena sports.

And I’m saying to the Racers out there, DO NOT do your job for nothing! DO NOT give the “People” what they want from you without getting something for yourself and your families in return. Do NOT undercut and sell out your fellow brothers and Racers and take a job from them. You will only be creating a market where the same will happen to you in a year or two. In the past 8 years, that has been the reason for the sponsorship declines. When the market took a dive, industry manufacturers took that opportunity to pay their racers less, and as the industry has tightened up, and as Racers have become desperate to do their jobs and make a living, they have been willing to take next to nothing to do it. As a result the Racers have created a highly competitive, yet desperately undervalued career path for themselves. Many of you have forgone traditional education with the hopes that Professional Racing would sustain you eventually. Reality check for those of you Racers coming up the ranks: this will not happen unless you do something to change the direction of your future!

Racers, you need to talk to one another about what a minimum salary and BENEFITS – Yes, Benefits, should be and create a racer’s union that will not allow companies to take advantage of you, to continue to make money off of you and without giving you what you deserve for risking your lives. Baseball players, basketball players, football players, flight attendants, police officers, fire fighters, all have a unions saying that they will not take less than what they deserve for putting their lives on the line, or for allowing other companies to make money off their talents. Neither should you! 

Racers, DO NOT let pride and glory overshadow the fact that racing is your JOB, and sad as it is to say, a VERY short-lived job, at that. Getting a Factory Ride or a $20K/year salary after footing the bill is NOT worth your life, not worth selling out another rider, not worth delaying an education or what might be a real sustaining, life long career. Racers, it’s time to get smart and demand more for yourselves.

When record numbers of riders are showing up to the races, one can assume that the spending in the industry is as healthy as it has every been. Not withstanding that after the fall of so many industry companies after the economic recession, this leaves all the spending in the industry to fewer manufacturers. So, ask yourself, where is the money going? You can be certain that the ugly stepchild of the motorcycling industry - Offroad - is still earning its keep. Simple calculations that gate fees haven't gone down, record numbers of riders attending offroad events, and with that, they must still be spending money to keep their bikes running. Conversely, arenacross events are still limited in capacity by the nature of the event, and the ticket prices and number of events haven't gone up dramatically, so what is the justification that more dollars are being thrown at these racers? Frankly, the draw of the Offroad racing market for a manufacturer is the grassroots, family feel, with direct access to the pros and the bikes in the pits, which is a far site better from a marketing standpoint than a birds eye view from the stands. So, "People", where is the money from Offroad Racinggoing? Racers, are you demanding that the money you are earning for your sponsors come back to the sport and industry that employs you? If not, you should. 

Finally, “People”, shame on you for taking advantage of these Racers. Shame on you for sitting in ignorant judgment of these Racer’s jobs, salaries, performance and benefits in the name of them “doing what they love”, because I can assure you that any time you take a passion and make it a job, it becomes a just that - a job. Shame on you for sitting safely in your office or on your couch, trying to take away these Racer’s accomplishments, and judging them when they have something un-P.C. to say about their treatment by their “employers”. Remember, these Racers have no one but themselves and their loved ones defending them against the world’s greed, need for violent entertainment, and judgment - and ask yourself, would you do a Racer’s job?

The most recent tragedy and senseless loss of racing legend Kurt Caselli leaves me with that last desperate hope that this is the final wakeup call fans, enthusiasts, riders, industry manufactures, and RACERS need to change the fate and inevitable decline of Offroad Racing. No matter how many posts are made asking event promoters and sponsors to do better by their racers, nothing will change unless “people” do better, and Racers join together and demand more!

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I think Mrs. Watts was just being a whiny wife in that article. She wrote it right after the KC tragedy which means she was writing it with too much emotion.  No one forces any of these riders to ride professionally and try to make a living by doing so. They don't like the pay, simply quit and go get a real job because there will be a line of riders trying to fill the spot when you leave!

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I think Mrs. Watts was just being a whiny wife in that article. She wrote it right after the KC tragedy which means she was writing it with too much emotion.  No one forces any of these riders to ride professionally and try to make a living by doing so. They don't like the pay, simply quit and go get a real job because there will be a line of riders trying to fill the spot when you leave!

I read this shortly after KC passed, and felt the same way you do. I appreciate the sacrifice most of those guys make to ride a the pro level, however I will not feel bad for any of them.

BTW, how was your vacation? Finally get that novel finished?? 🙂

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I read this shortly after KC passed, and felt the same way you do. I appreciate the sacrifice most of those guys make to ride a the pro level, however I will not feel bad for any of them.

BTW, how was your vacation? Finally get that novel finished?? 🙂

Vacation sucked. I've now changed direction in my book writing and the new fiction story line is about crazy alien saucer-cyclist going around turning forum mods into animals during hunting seasons. 😉

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It has bothered me to see huge Supercross events where a rider gets injured and there is a raffle or charity event to cover the hospital bills. The promoter should provide insurance for catastrophic injuries.

To push a policy change, it would take the top riders to stage a strike to make sure everyone is covered. Years ago, I believe McGrath staged a strike agsinst a poorly lit race track.

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I think Mrs. Watts was just being a whiny wife in that article. She wrote it right after the KC tragedy which means she was writing it with too much emotion.  No one forces any of these riders to ride professionally and try to make a living by doing so. They don't like the pay, simply quit and go get a real job because there will be a line of riders trying to fill the spot when you leave!

I have been involved in this sport 50 yrs, raced AMA TT in the 70's been involved with MX, Enduro, Desert, more so at the privater levels in my younger years, but know a lot of top pros and pro privaters. I will name a few here in AZ. Destry Abbott, Chris Blose, and Max Gerston, and Steve Hatch. Some top riders in their events, some contract racers with top bike manufacturers and sponsors, as well as respectable top riders in their fields of specialties. I can assure YOU THEY ARE NOT WEALTHY OR EVEN CLOSE. Has it helped them along the way to a respectable level of life in their careers, a little. I can assure you all the time, energy, work, travel costs, etc,etc,etc, far exceeds the pocket change they acquired along the way.

They race pro for the love of the motorcycle. They take the risk of their life career for the love of the motorcycle, and they take the risk of their body and possible lives for the motorcycle. I as well know the promoters as well, and been a AMA member most all of my life going back to the age of eleven, and knew some top individuals in that organization over the years.

I can assure each and every one here, there is a stash of cash made by the Manufacturers, Promoters, and AMA living off of the love, dedication, career ending injuries, and in some cases loss of life. With out these riders, some included here are National champions as well as very respectable field riders in their events, their is NO STASH OF CASH for the others. And yes their are others that could or might fill their shoes.

With out the love of the motorcycle, You , I and others would may have never seen, or have heard the names like Roberts, Agostini, Hailwood, Spenser, Lawson, Schwntz, Lawell, Rayborn, Nixon, Mann, Hanna, Decoster, Auberg, Mikola, Tanner, Penton, Abbott, Caselli, etc,etc,etc.

I have seen all these great riders and competed against a few in my lifes' journey of the motorcycle. What a blessing! Would the fill ins fill their shoes, not likely!

So might I just get a few of you weekend warriors to just think, maybe the AMA and the promoter could share a couple of pennies more from their STASH for PURSE,INSURANCE,ETC, Maybe the FACTORIES could share a FEW Pennies more from their stash of cash.

I will never forget the day I had the honor of losing to Mann, Nixon, Castro, etc in a main. We ALL did it for the love of the MOTORCYCLE!

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We ALL did it for the love of the MOTORCYCLE!

This is true, but the vast majority of us will never see a penny from riding a dirt bike. Personally I've spent tens of thousands of dollars on bikes, gear, tickets to events, donations for injured riders, etc.. Never expected to see any return on my investment in respect to dollars. The time I spend riding with my brother, son and nephew is my payday. If I ever had the time, money and ability to ride like the pro's I'd have done that, but I had to get a real job and go to work instead. To get to the level these guys are at they needed parental help, the ability to travel, and most important...money!

I would assume pro racing chews guys up and spits them out with nothing in respect to money, but the memories, brotherhood, and often the opportunity to work in the industry, seems like they leave with more than nothing to me.

I have a dangerous job, make decent money, but nearly any day could spell the end, or a serious injury for me. I am self employed, have to buy my own health insurance, my own pension, no guarantee I'll have work tomorrow. I have to push myself to be faster, better, and more professional than the next guy to secure the work, seems to me the privateers and I have a lot in common. At the end of the day I don't have the opportunity to race a dirt bike, or spend the day training and riding. Independent contractors are in every line of work, we all need to provide for ourselves. Life is risk VS reward regardless of profession.

I can see this from both sides, but don't feel the AMA, Feld, or any of the promoters need to be providing health care and bigger payouts for 10th place guys. How many guys would push the limit and try to run down a RV type rider if they new their health insurance and 80K for tenth place a year was a guarantee?(I'm looking at you Jake Weimer) The structure as it is provides good racing IMO.

Privateers have a network in place to get to the pro level, none of them can do it without some family cash to spend. I watched a Lorettas Doc not too long ago when Cooper Webb was a kid, his rig was a 200,000 dollar RV, bikes, parts, Mom and Dad travelling with him. He was on 85's at this point I believe?

I'm not saying they have it easy, none of us do. I'm saying the more cushy their contracts, or a guarantee of pay and insurance would decrease the intensity of the racing.

We all do it for the love of the motorcycle.

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Is this sport even ready or capable of managing itself if it went mainstream and tv networks started paying the big bucks.? What would Feld do if the teams started asking for a piece of the pie? Start a team union etc etc. 

 

It'll never happen but it would certainly be interesting to see how the industry and sport would handle itself if it made it big time. Would it have lockouts and strikes? 

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  Here's is what I say as a former pro rider who made a decent living racing, it doesn't pay enough, it doesn't pay enough but its your choice to do it. I made the choice at 19 to go a different way and sure I sometimes used to regret it, but I moved on and now I'm way better off then most of the guys I raced against. I would say that most these guys know what they are in for by the time they are 21, and they chose o continue so they, or their wife's have no right to bitch because they know what they are marrying into and if they didn't like it, they shouldn't have married that guy.

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Is this sport even ready or capable of managing itself if it went mainstream and tv networks started paying the big bucks.? What would Feld do if the teams started asking for a piece of the pie? Start a team union etc etc. 

 

It'll never happen but it would certainly be interesting to see how the industry and sport would handle itself if it made it big time. Would it have lockouts and strikes? 

I'm against unions, but they need a riders union to get what they deserve.  The top guys don't need a union, but privateers do. Should a guy who makes the mains every week be on social media begging for money to pay his hospital bills after a major injury like Ryan Morias did after his big crash with Canard? IMO FELD should have every rider fully covered for race day and not charge an entry fee at all. What it cost a privateer in fees is sooo out of control, I wish they'd all band together and don't show up for a few rounds and see how FELD like a 15 man main event.

 

  FELD profits 14 million a year of supercross, take a few million of that a year and put it into some type of fund with a good intrest rate so guys who end up with a life altering injury don' beg for money to get a handicap van. Or maybe have it fund a 401(K)  that after so many years a rider can qualify for it and have some kind of retirement. Not every rider makes millions, that's a fact, and FELD is making money off those guys and IMO they should stand up for what they deserve.

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In defence of her, it really is a dangerous sport compared to others for very little financial return. The risks are wayyyy higher of getting seriously hurt or death for so little pay vs someone who mows lawns and makes close to same amount...

Pourcel made a point about this too...

There isn't a guy in the world cutting lawns that even near the same tax bracket of Shane Watts.

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