On second thought, one last ride around the dirt track

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(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A rider kicks up some dirt during a practice session prior to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross race last Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

Permission to revisit the Supercross / Dodger Stadium column last week, in a human moment:

With more ability and space to process what happened versus what was intended, it’s obvious that I had some misdirected frustration and let it get the best of me. Sorry for that.

It seems to be the kind of stuff that happens in all sorts of areas of life – with family, with spouses, with work. Even as you’re in the back yard cleaning up dog poop, and come to realize you can’t really be upset with the creator of this mess.

You’re just the one stuck with the job picking up the pieces.

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To see Dodger Stadium buried under mounds of dirt – no matter what the reason – was a jolt to the senses. Not just by me. I thought Orel Hershiser had the same feeling as well when I talked to him about it. I thought head groundskeeper Eric Hansen echoed that, too.

So where would I go with it? Who was to blame? Who benefitted?

I saw this unfold in a couple of stages. The first time, at a media day on Thursday, led to a blog posting with photos explaining how it all came about. The second time, at Saturday’s AMA Supercross, led to a column with some colorful language that was more of a reaction to what I was watching.

That column had about 960 words. I wish I could take about 100 of back. Especially those right at the top.

Going in, I had the structure of a column in mind — actually taking the side that that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions as to why the McCourts agreed for the first time to let this event take place. My research found information that Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers owner who moved the team to L.A. and oversaw the construction of Dodger Stadium, had wanted this place built 50 years ago to be a multi-purpose facility, drawing income in the offseason for a variety of things. He did it with movies and conventions. Not with messing with the finely manicured diamond that he’d spent millions to maintain on a year-round basis.

Did the McCourts really need the money that bad to allow anyone to come in and fill it with dirt? It sure appeared to be that way, but looks can be deceiving. Yet, it wasn’t unprecedented.

Then, things got a little twisted around.

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Walking through the parking lot en route to the stadium entrance, in amongst the fans that were doing the same thing, I saw the black leather, the bandanas, the tattoos, tight jeans, enhanced cleavage, big hair … and the smoking. It was creating an impression as I was trying to gather my thoughts even more about why this was taking place.

Having been to some Mickey Thompson Off-Road Race events at the Coliseum way back when, and a few X Games events with similar races taking place, I saw some similarities in the crowds. Surely, not enough stereotypes collected that represented the entire assemblage. But enough, I thought, to provide some comic relief to the situation. I needed the laugh more than anyone — to diffuse my edginess about the whole scene.

Once inside, the swarm of bees’ noise got into my head as well. I couldn’t focus. I had to sit inside the glass-paneled suite to block out the sound as I tried to create some paragraphs.

All that together seemed to be a toxic mix of what would come out on the keyboard. Again, the emotions got the best of me.

I have plenty of respect for the riders who were leaps and bounds some of the more daring athletes I’ve come across to watch in person in my lifetime. What I wrote had nothing to do with their performance. I don’t think that’s even an issue — although others disagree. Nor did I want to trash AMA for its coup in getting the Dodgers to agree to hold this event there. It raised the bar of the sport’s visibility to a new audience.

As for the readers who have endured my columns before — not those reading me for the first time — they’d be better prepared to know where I was coming from with this. I wasn’t trying to carpet bomb those who enjoy AMA Supercross. I was trying to have fun at their expense. It just seemed to backfire.

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Some of the incoming emails and comments had solid points to make, and I appreciated where they were coming from. But then there were others who not only reinforced the absurd stereotypes thrown out there, but really could have benefitted from a spell-check, grammar-check and human dignity-check.

(The word some of you were searching for was “Supercross,” not “Suppercross.” Loser has only one “s”. Whoever wrote “Your and Idiot” … that’s my favorite. That, and “I hold both an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a high level position in the financial services industry. My income has been in the six figure area for over 20 years, and I would describe my political inclination as liberal. I am a huge motocross fan!!” Your family must be proud.)

I don’t consider that subset of Supercross fan a reflection on the total population, nor do I even think anything I’d write in response to their email appeasing their reactions. It felt more like an orchestrated campaign rather than individual responses moved by true outrage. Their outrage, in those cases, was handed to them.

Yet, they were an easy target, and chances are the kind of folks you’d find in any kind of crowd of that size — baseball included.

Stubbornly, I tried to stand my ground in a follow-up blog post that really was too watered down to clearly explain what happened.

The bottom line was that the disappointment in my own inability to clearly write was compounded by the reaction. Whose fault is that? Mine. Thanks for holding us to a higher standard.

I wasn’t trying to push anyone’s buttons or manufacture dozens of web hits. I’ve done those sophomoric kinds of columns before (see: lacrosse fan and drag racing fan). I needed a shower afterward, but I knew (or thought I knew) what I was doing then. This time, it was completely unintentional.

That wine stain is all over me this time. You have every reason to whine in reply.

I’ll keep trying to inform and entertain, opine and discern, and throw in some humor when it’s called for. Then hope I don’t go ego-over-handlebars again.

See you at the Monster Truck rally in a couple of weeks. Or not.

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== The original column, with the 900-plus comments still attached (linked here)
== The blog followup (linked here)

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  • Jeff Emde

    Thanks for the follow-up, Tom.

  • MxRacer215

    Tom Hoffarth, I have read all articles that started with the defamation of motorcyclist all over the world. This type of racing is known from every corner of the globe. After reading all of your words over and over and over again, I just completely do not understand why you didn’t do some kind of research to understand what your writing about. Your knowledge of the financial services industry, doesn’t mix well with people that do not understand it. If I was to talk about the financial services industry I wouldn’t want to piss that entire industry off by not do some research. Knowing your education back ground doesn’t make any sense degrading the AMA Supercross and the fans, families,sponsors, and anyone else associated with Supercross/Motocross. Swallow your past 20 years making 6 figure income pride and apologize. From human to human apology. That is all everyone has asked for. It is too late to do the research and try to patch it. Just apologize!

  • mxforlife

    hey tom as one of the biggest commenters on your two articles i sincerely accept this apology. were all humans some of us may enjoy playing chess and some might enjoy extreme sports. but in the end we all breath the same air and live life how we decide. thanks tom for making a sincere apology.

  • KtmtroopeR

    Words cannot express the lack of respect I have for you. I will now stop reading anything you have to say and stop visiting any web site you are associated with. I hope those who advertise on the site move along as well as they will not get my money, because of you.

  • vetrider217

    Hey guys,(MxRacer215), in defense of Tom, his comment was not about his own schooling, career, or income, but rather was a quote from someone writing in.
    Pay attention and don’t validate his first opinion!!!!

  • Jindo2

    Thanks for rethinking this thing. Guess we have to put ourselves in a Baseball fan’s head. Covering the field in dirt would be like closing one more woods trail or motocross track from riding due to a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker sighting. A bit of a shock. Hope you can make it to another race and experience just how exceptional the athletes, teams and fans are. It’s a great sport,a fine community, and something really fun to scrub off some of that stress that gets us all. I can say from the heart that we riders were humbled by the opportunity to see a race in Doger stadium, where if the game is slow, the sunset is fantastic. I guess we may have bit back a little hard. But still, I refuse to use spell check.

  • cogren

    Tom,

    Im in total disbelief Im trying to hold my composer and be professional however its very hard. You go from bashing our FAMILIES and our sport to bashing our grammar or simple spelling errors. Wow, you are a real piece of work! I really hope that we find your name on the unemployment list, because thats where it belongs.

    Christine

  • Bretzky

    I will also accept this apology. More down to earth. Even though I doubt baseball fans could, grammatically, do any better.

    You don’t understand supercross and its fans, and I definitely don’t understand baseball and it’s fans. But that’s fine. It’s our unique personalities and the freedom to express them that make this place great.

  • kctjkmtywrvpc

    The irony about this whole mess is that these “monster truck” supercross riders are shining examples of athleticism and bravery and romp all over the over-paid baseball players that you hold your nose up for. Do you wonder why they call them baseball PLAYERS? Because they are playing a GAME hence when you see the ESPN highlights they often use the phrase “The Dodgers won the GAME.” Much like a childrens GAME.

    This dangerous world of motocross is not for you. So, Tom Hoffarth, go back to your latte’s at starbucks, your lower-middle-class job, your typing of bullshit articles(because you have to “write” about something or you lose your job), your over priced Mac computer, Obama bumper stickers, cheap feeling of class, and having sex with your unsatisfied wife with your shirt on because your own fat and hairy stomach disgusts you. Stick to starring through a set of binoculars hoping to see overweight and overpaid men hit a ball with a stick.

  • PamF

    First, thanks for this article, which does show some introspection and sincerity.

    You mention that your first article should have been 100 words shorter, and I think you would have done well to edit this one also.

    Statements like “It felt more like an orchestrated campaign rather than individual responses moved by true outrage. Their outrage, in those cases, was handed to them.” are frankly just as ignorant and arrogant as those made in the first article, but directed towards respondents who didn’t fit your original stereotype.

    In other words you feel there were two groups who responded; those who fit the yokel stereotype and responded with crude and laughably incorrect language, and those who did not fit the stereotype so were obviously coerced by some unnamed and mysterious “orchestrated campaign”.

    There’s no orchestrated campaign against you Tom, just a bunch of people who were told by friends and riding clubs about your article, and after reading it were so upset they responded. This is truly impressive, usually it’s darned near impossible to get dirt bike riders to get up in arms about anything and respond in writing.

    ” I saw the black leather, the bandanas, the tattoos, tight jeans, enhanced cleavage, big hair … and the smoking.”

    Where the heck were you? Did you take a wrong turn and end up at a biker bar? Take a look at the crowd photos, honestly what percentage of those folks are wearing leather, or have big hair? Then take a look at photos of Dodger game fans – any difference? I’ll bet you’ll see many families in both groups, and the great majority of fans will be wearing jerseys and shirts proclaiming their favorites on the field.

    “I had to sit inside the glass-paneled suite to block out the sound as I tried to create some paragraphs.”

    There’s this amazing newfangled invention called ear plugs. They work wonders for loud situations, whether it’s motorcycles or crowd noise. Ask your fellow journalists about them.

    “I thought Orel Hershiser had the same feeling as well when I talked to him about it.”

    Orel was there because he’s a fan of Supercross, he came all the way from Vegas for the race.

    It appears that you have learned a little about the people who make up this sport. Hopefully once the Dodgers have taken the field on a newly-sodded and perfectly prepped surface come spring, you’ll see that we aren’t such bad guys after all. Maybe you’ll even give Supercross another chance. Just do us a favor, don’t write about it afterwards.

  • Heighton109

    I read some of the comments and think they are of the same level as the origional article. Accept the appology and move on.

  • revitrabbit

    Tom,
    I believe you missed the mark with your TWO attempts at apologizing to the MX world. Continuing to insult those you are claiming to apologize too really doesn’t do much to remedy the situation. Let us go back to our youth where some of us learned that “I’M SORRY, BUT….” was not only rude but made the apology worthless. The same rules apply today. Your apology/apologies would have been better received had you just stated the reason, said you were sorry and dropped it!

  • DirtRockr

    This is the best apology you’re going to get from this guy. He doesn’t seem capable of writing on this subject without throwing an additional jab or two.
    A simple “Sorry folks, I had a bad day.” would’ve sufficed. (Did I spell that rite?)
    Reminds me of the arrogant drunk you might find in the Hilton lounge…thinks he’s being witty and intelligent, when in reality, he’s just pissin everyone off.
    He’s just not a fan and thats fine. He’s made SX fans aware of his presence, and managed to alienate most of us in the process.
    Sad part is, he’s missed a golden opportunity and doesn’t even realize it. Our sport is growing rapidly, and the community surrounding it generally welcomes media types with open arms. He could have used this assignment to make new friends. That didn’t happen.
    Apology accepted.
    See you at the next big SX event…or not.

  • Steve Bauer

    Mr. Hoffarth:

    I sat next to you in the “glass-paneled suite” as you “tried to create some paragraphs” last Saturday night…or should I say afternoon? I say that because when I returned to the Deadline Press suite (after taking in the opening ceremonies from the Industry Seating) you were long gone, never to be seen again the rest of the night. Surely you must have been out in the main grandstands, immersing yourself in the Supercross experience and sharing the pain of your righteous frustration with the unwashed masses, right, Tom? You didn’t just pack up your little laptop and go home before the races even started, did you, Tom?

    No need to answer, Tom, the question was rhetorical. Just blame your lack of journalistic integrity on that “swarm of bees’ noise” that got into your head, or perhaps your early exit proved that old habits never die, since most Dodger fans peel out of there before the seventh inning stretch like it’s a fire drill.

    Very classy, Tom.

    This second attempt of yours to save face without apologizing is even more repugnant than the original column and I’ll tell you why.

    “…it’s obvious that I had some misdirected frustration and let it get the best of me. Sorry for that”. That weakass, backhanded shrug of the shoulders is your idea of an apology? Pathetic.

    You then followed with an analogy intended to (again) insult the racing community, but was actually 180 degrees off the mark: “Even as you’re in the back yard cleaning up dog poop, and come to realize you can’t really be upset with the creator of this mess.
    You’re just the one stuck with the job picking up the pieces.”

    Sorry, pal, the pieces you are stuck picking up are the direct result of the shitstorm you created with your biased, baseless and jingoistic original column, then compounded by your condescending, feeble attempts to mitigate the damage.

    I could go on and on about the irony of your comments about the poor spelling and grammar exhibited by some of the hundreds of people who unanimously took exception to your column, given that in this very column you made several typos (“…taking the side that that…”), and committed numerous basic grammatical errors (“Did the McCourts really need the money that bad”, when it should have read “badly”). The ironic part is that you are supposedly a professional writer, with editors that proof your work, and the people you’re chastising are simply fans of the sport who were upset, and in most cases didn’t give a shit about their spelling or grammar.

    IN closing, I have to pack for my flight to Oakland in the morning, where I’ll be returning to the Oakland Coliseum for the first time since I raced at the inaugural Supercross event there, 32 years ago, today.

    Wow, I wonder if their field has ever recovered from the trauma of having all that sand dumped on it…I’ll let you know in my story from the press box, Tom. Stay classy.