Guy Martin? Yeah I know who he is, he’s that truck racing fella off the telly.
Carl Fogarty? Yeah the jungle bloke… raced bikes, I think?
James Toseland? Not sure who he is.
Shakey Byrne? Never heard of him.
Speedway? Is that still a thing? I used to go to that when I was a kid!
Isle of Man TT? Dangerous place, people get killed there every year…
Sound familiar? Are the reasons we are met with blank stares during pub or work conversations with friends and colleagues down to our liking of a niche sport? Or is it because the sports we love aren’t considered newsworthy and “too exclusive” for the football obsessed, rugby loving, cricket and horse racing watching British public, so don’t get the airtime we would love them to have?
So why is motorcycle racing, in all its forms generally ignored by mainstream media?
There has long been a belief that the BBC has held the view that motorcycles are dangerous, but is it true? Well, not the dangerous part, but the BBC belief. I think you’d need to go a pretty long way to find anyone from Auntie Beeb who would openly admit that to be honest, after all it does show the NW200 and Ulster GP on BBC NI, and it even mentioned the fact that Cal Crutchlow had a wasp in his leathers during qualifying for the Spanish MotoGP in May, completely omitting the fact that he qualified on the front row in 3rd position!
But it’s not just the BBC who forget we exist. Watch any of the news channels or programmes after any MotoGP, WSB or BSB round and count how many times our beloved sport gets a mention. You could even create your own drinking game and award yourself a shot for every time a news report or mention comes on. I wouldn’t bank on waking up with a hangover the next day though!
Jonathan Rea has just made history and become the first rider in WSBK history to win 3 back to back titles. Yet not one of the news channels reported this historic feat, choosing instead to fill their sports segments on the latest football news and stories of a cricketer who can’t handle his drink, or his temper. It’s not just television that gets us aggrieved though, newspapers are equally as guilty. Trawl the sports pages for any mention of any motorcycle sport and you’ll be lucky to find more than a few column inches dedicated to it.
It must be infuriating for our home-grown riders to work so hard at their sport, risk serious injury or worse to receive virtually no discernible recognition for their unquestionable talent.
Yet, in a ghoulish way these same media outlets are quick to jump on the bad news bandwagon and revel in its detail, quick to point the blame at OUR sport for any serious injuries or deaths. The Isle of Man TT being their go to favourite when it comes to knee jerk journalism. The calls for this ‘prehistoric, antiquated form of gladiatorial combat’ to be banned ring loud if we lose a racer, the death toll figures are cranked out as though the journalists themselves are on a personal crusade (or is it a vendetta?) for the Health & Safety executive. What we know however, and they seem to have missed, is that as sad as any death is, none of these competitors were forced to ride – they did it for the love, the passion, the joy. Something that sadly our friends at the media know too little about. They also fail to understand that manufacturers have spent millions of pounds developing bikes on the island and passing that research down to our road bikes making brakes, tyres and suspension safer and indirectly saving lives in the process. But hey, why let that get in the way of a good story.
Let’s face it, we all love the sport and we all feel a little twinge of joy whenever it gets a mention on the news. But like a band that nobody else had heard of but you grew up listening to, it’s OUR sport and secretly, deep down we like it being exclusive so maybe it needs to stay that way. For our sake.