Friday, August 3, 2007
Updated: August 5, 4:55 AM ET
By Brian Kamenetzky
About a half hour before the Moto X Best Trick competition, Scott Murray, a shaggy haired demo rider who drove himself from Helps, Michigan to Los Angeles in a decommissioned ambulance (something so ripe with symbolism it's like shooting fish in a barrel, prosaically speaking), bounced like a kid at Christmas in his gray, off-the-rack uni watching highlights of Travis Pastrana's double backflip on the Staples Center Jumbotron.
"I get the willies every time I see this, and I've seen it a thousand times," he said. More bouncing. Massive smiles. Then a question, likely rhetorical, clearly born from nervous energy.
"What am I doing here?"
Hell of a question.
It had all the makings of a Disney movie. A dude from the Michigan backwoods posts footage of himself pulling a double of his own, and two weeks later he's at X Games. Rudy on a motorcycle. On the other hand, big and bad as the Georgia Tech kick return team was, chances were good Rudy was going to leave the field alive. If something went wrong when Murray hit his homemade ramp, towed with him from the Wolverine State and disconcertingly propped up on a stack of wooden planks, this feel good story would be anything but.
Meanwhile, nine other riders, their bikes, helmets and bodies tricked out in sponsorship stickers and shout outs to their websites, readied themselves. There was grumbling. Murray's presence meant a pro was squeezed out. Remember, this is a living for those guys. They could devote their lives to the double back, too, if they didn't have a season and a career to worry about. But more than that, everyone hoped he didn't wreck.
"He's like when we started," Brian Deegan said. "Just running it in shorts and whatever he's got." Old school, like it was before sponsorships and factory gear started to define a guy's career. Yeah, it's a dicey issue for riders who work all year to get to X, but "he's still a guy who has to do a double back flip."
Watching Murray before the ball dropped, as Deegan shared his pre-comp music (Metallica) with the semi-pro (Boondocks), it was hard not to pull from him. Watching Murray bury his head in his hands in awe "That was Travis Pastrana!"after finishing a TV spot, it was impossible for everyone, including his competition, not to be nervous for him. "They're all wishing me the best of luck. I've had more riders come up to say they're going to pray for me," Murray said.
Todd Potter started things off with a big kiss of death flip that would have scored higher than the 87.5 he scored had he not been first out of the gate. Next to ride was Kyle Loza. The first time X Gamer, who at a tatted and pierced 5'6", 130 looks like an elf who escaped from a Linkin Park tour, broke out his Volt, a Chuck Carothers-esque body varial that scored a 94.20, good enough for first. More riders, more tricks. More nervous bouncing from Murray before it was finally his turn.
There was trouble from the start.
"I was uncomfortable on the drop," he said. "Everything was wrong. I hesitated, and did it completely off kilter. Right off the top, I knew I wasn't coming around."
Murray under-rotated. His front tire hit the landing and sent him flying down the dirt. The crowd went silent, until Murray popped back up. He took a quick bow to the appreciative crowd before medical whisked him away. Total score, 66.00. His bike wrecked, his elbow swollen, Murray's night was over.
He missed Potter's climb into podium contention with a Kamikaze flip for a 91.00. Adam Jones, originally squeezed out by Murray's inclusion and only in the competition because Nate Adams couldn't ride, equaled Potter's score with a Shaolin flip. The podium was set.
By the time Murray made his way back out, the media throng that hounded him before the competition was centered around the medalists. Murray quietly passed by the horde, trying to keep his head up, his pride bruised worse than his body.
"I'm pissed at myself," he said. "I knew I should have been able to do it, and I didn't get it done."
But he'll be driving that ambulance back to Michigan, as opposed to riding in one. It's not quite a Hollywood ending, but it beats the hell out of tragedy.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Pastrana on Murray, before the comp: "The double back, it's not the most technical trick out there. It's not the hardest thing to do. It is the scariest, it is the craziest, it is the one with the highest risk of major injury. I think he'll make it, I know he's going to be fine… but I'm praying for him."
Despite both posting a 91.00 on their second run, Potter was given the bronze because his first run was scored lower than Jones'. "It was a little disadvantage to go first, but I came here to get a medal and I fulfilled what I wanted to do, so I'm happy," Potter said.
Jones had two tricks that nobody else was doing. He started with a stripper flip, and finished with the Shaolin flip. "I was pumped on the first trick," he said. "I did what I wanted to do. The second one was more of a groundbreaking trick, but who knows what the judges are gonna think? I'm so excited. I didn't see it coming."
Jones on edging out Potter for silver. "We were going to cut it in half, but I'm taking it. I'm gonna wear it when I ride at practice tomorrow."
Loza on sticking his Volt: "I've been working on it for a long time. It felt really good, but it's gnarly. You have to do the whole trick before your bike peaks out on you."
Among the luminaries in the crowd watching the action? Golden State Warriors point guard Baron Davis. Swish.