Sports Ruin My Life/Keep Me Sane.

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(N.B. I originally wrote this piece around the same time last year, but for some reason, it languished unfinished on my drafts, until I found it again this year. While I am doing much better now, the general sentiment remains the same.)

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“When someone talks about something/someone they love, let them. You have no idea how much that love has saved them.”

I posted that thought as a tweet many months ago, and it got a lot of interactions and positive replies.

I sit here right now in front of the TV, watching a Wimbledon match, and I was ramdomly struck by the thought: “How many years have I been doing this?”

The truth is that I am struggling right now. I shall not bore or burden you with the minutest details, but I am in that place where I am aware of how I am still fortunate and blessed in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time, I am deeply dissatisfied with myself and my current situation. Not somewhere you’ll want to be, I assure you.

Anyway, the sound of tennis balls rhythmically getting whacked got me into thinking how several sports have managed to not only entertain me, but also kept me (relatively) sane and cocooned (both positively and negatively) from real life throughout the years. Watching sports has become one of my self-care/self-preservation mechanisms, and here’s a (not-quite-so) brief rundown of my history.

I used to feel kind of…alone back then, when I realized just how unusual my coping mechanism of watching and following multiple sports was. Surely there were more people like me? Nobody I knew in real life could relate to this side of myself, and it was partly frustrating and at the same time, strangely satisfying.

Enter the Internet.

However, I am getting a little ahead of myself…

Tennis

A local government TV channel used to broadcast old Wimbledon matches at odd hours, and I remember watching them as a kid, when I refused to take afternoon naps and there wasn’t anything interesting/good on TV. Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi became my instant favorites, and when my family finally got cable TV installed, Wimbledon became my favorite Tennis Grand Slam. All throughout high school, I would stay up late watching the matches, and it continued until my university years and beyond. There is something soothing about the sound of tennis balls being whacked. The level of competition and fitness required to succeed and dominate is just insane. Of course now my absolute favorites are the inimitable Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, and yes, I dedicated a whole blog post to explain why.

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Snooker

I’ve struggled with insomnia for a huge part of my life, and I suppose my schedule and workload in university exacerbated it. I’ve often seen Snooker matches on TV when I channel-surfed, but ignored them because I was more of a 9 Ball pool fan back then, aside from the fact that I had no clue how the game was played. A good friend from university managed to convince me to give it a watch, and when I researched and understood the rules, I could not stop watching it. Hooked was an understatement! There was something about the sound of the snooker balls colliding that calmed me, and I loved mentally calculating the points and anticipating the tactics/snookers (yes, I am such a geek at times). Coincidentally, back then most Snooker matches were televised after midnight, so my parents often found me sitting in front of the TV during the wee hours of the morning, watching men in bow ties with long sticks skillfully hiding balls. Every now and then, my Dad used to join me, and I had to explain to him all the rules, after which I often found him asleep after around half an hour of watching. Turns out Snooker was too soothing for him.

P.S. I was beyond heartbroken when my then-favorite snooker player Paul Hunter passed away. A few years after that, my sports cable channels ceased televising snooker matches altogether. I still miss it.

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9 Ball Pool

Filipino players are extremely good at it. Efren Bata Reyes is a legend of the sport. My father and brother plays it recreationally, and that’s why I gravitated towards watching it. Cable TV enabled me to watch many international matches, albeit at strange hours. I loved the technicalities and the trick shots and watching Physics in action. I even became a bit invested in the Mosconi Cup, 9 Ball Pool’s version of the Ryder Cup, as well as the World Cup of Pool. I’m not sure why but my cable sports channel somehow stopped televising pool competitions.

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Golf

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, I had a Golf Phase. I think it was partly because I chat with a lot of British Football fans at that time, which influenced me to check out the Ryder Cup. Of course I was firmly Team Europe. I despised those “In the hole!” screams from American fans every time their player hits the ball. I had (/have) a soft spot for Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, and I was so pleased when Garcia finally got the Masters he deserves.

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Rugby

It was the year 2003. I couldn’t escape the coverage of the Rugby World Cup, so I thought, if you can’t beat them, join them. Even before I watched my first match, I’ve already chosen England to support, to match my Football Team, and for consistency’s sake. Being a newbie, I had no idea back then that England wasn’t highly-fancied to go far, let alone win the World Cup. But I didn’t care, the more matches I watched, the more I enjoyed the sport. Fast forward to the Final and I couldn’t be more pleased that England made it. By then, I was already far too emotionally-involved. I prayed to the Rugby gods to let England take the cup. And that amazing Jonny Wilkinson tournament-winning drop goal? It still gives me the chills. Post-WC, I went full-geek and learned about the sport, the history, the Rugby Union vs Rugby League thing/rivalry. I managed to maintain being up-to-date on it for several years, but the decline in coverage of it in my country gradually lessened my passion for it, too. I still faithfully watch the Six Nations and the World Cups, and yes, despite not being able to sustain their level or even equal their 2003 campaign, I still have a very soft spot for the England Rugby Team.

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Basketball

I became a basketball fan at the age of two, mainly because my Dad used to watch it a lot. We supported different local teams, and had a “friendly but heated” rivalry. Basketball was, and is, still quite huge in my country. I remember rushing home after school just so I can watch the local league matches on TV, and buying stacks of local basketball magazines just to get to know my favorite players and to further understand the sport. My moods sometime were influenced by how my teams fared. As I grew older, my interest expanded to the NBA, and Michael Jordan became the Ultimate Basketball Player/Demigod in my book. Basketball was IT for me back then, until, one day, serendipity made a certain sport permanently dislodge it from my heart. Which brings us to…

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Football

Where do I even begin? I suppose I can (partly) blame Michael Owen for igniting my interest. I randomly chanced upon the highlights of the Liverpool vs Wimbledon match where he scored his first-ever goal for Liverpool FC, and for some reason (other than overactive teenage hormones), I had the feeling that that fresh-faced boy–just a few years older than I am–will become a worldwide superstar. A few months and some heavy-duty research later, I was a bona fide Liverpool FC fan, and the World Cup 1998 started. That World Cup changed my life. It was the first World Cup I’ve seen on free TV thanks to the official Philippine government channel. It was the first time I watched match reruns over and over again. Owen’s Spectacular Goal vs Argentina cemented my prediction that he will become Football’s Golden Boy. I literally cried when the England players shed tears after their penalty shootout loss. It was the first time I foregone sleep to watch the France vs Brazil Final, and finally understood why it is the most popular sport in the world. I used to save my allowance to buy the ridiculously expensive magazines. When my parents decided to get cable TV, I had my fill of highlights shows and the UEFA Champions League. When I finally got coverage of the English Premier League, I felt as if Life had finally begun (insert singing cherubs here). I joined Football forums, Football chat rooms, Football groups, the whole nine yards. I learned about formations, tactics, player backgrounds, club histories and rivalries. I wrote to players (cringe) to get autograph cards. I attempted to stream cup finals on dial-up internet. I made friends from all over the world because of Football. I’d be so engrossed discussing Football with fellow fans that I’d go to sleep at 9AM and then wake up at 1PM to go to university. I’d stay up to do my architectural drawings with the Spanish Primera Liga matches in the background. I learned the jargon and the songs and the inside jokes and got the latest transfer news and gossip straight from the most unlikely sources. I could probably write a dissertation on all the ridiculous, silly, hilarious, and juicy things I have done/found out all for the love of Football. But, perhaps those should be discussed in another blog post altogether.

P.S. Here is a sample, if you’re interested.

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MotoGP

MotoGP and I didn’t start off so well. While I’ve already loved F1 for many years, back then, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would choose to watch motorcycle racing over car racing. Oh, and MotoGP schedules at times interfered with my Football matches back then, which annoyed me. But then one day I watched an ESPN Sports Center special where they talked about this up and coming Spanish racer called Dani Pedrosa, and I got curious enough to check out one of his 250cc races. The rest, is history. I was converted. I finally got what the fuss was all about. I knew Valentino Rossi was the main man but I didn’t care. Dani Pedrosa became THE rider for me. He had that intangible something that spoke to me. The lean angles, the engine debates, the constant tussling, the tire wars, the rider rivalries–I relished them all. There’s hardly any boring or unremarkable MotoGP races, and that says something about the quality of its talents. There’s a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald that goes, ‘There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice’. I’m so glad I opened my mind enough for me to realize that my heart is capable of loving more than one racing series.

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Formula 1

If you’re not new to this blog and/or you follow me on Twitter, then you most probably already know that it’s Michael Schumacher and the scaled model of his 1994 Benetton car that got me into F1. F1 is THE racing series for me. My love for it is at times beyond explanation. I’m fascinated with the cars and the science and the technology and the ingenuity and the characters and the history and the glamor and the grit involved. It is the sport that made me throw caution into the wind and got me to travel alone. I drained my bank account when I was new to the workforce just to see my first F1 race back in 2009. I had to hold back tears the moment I first heard the roar of an F1 engine in person. I have often waxed poetic about F1 in this blog, and briefly touched on how it has helped me cope throughout the years. Not a day goes by without me thinking about returning to the race track so I can add more items and anecdotes to my list of ridiculous/hilarious/awesome experiences during a race weekend. I am not blind to its faults and shortcomings, there have been plenty of times where it has disappointed me and pissed me off beyond belief, and yet I keep coming back to it. I will defend Michael Schumacher until my dying breath. He is my all-time favorite and always will be. One of the best memories of my fangirl life is finally getting to meet Schumi in person. I bleed the red of Ferrari and legitimately shed tears when I saw a Ferrari double podium in the flesh during the 2015 F1 Night Race. I know far too much about F1 for my own good and yet I still feel as if I have barely scratched its surface. F1 has enabled me to meet many wonderful people and has given me opportunities and experiences that I will always hold dear to my heart. Is it any wonder that twenty-four years later, I still love it with the intensity of a hundred suns?

The car and the driver that started it all…

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I can honestly go on and on for much longer.

I don’t necessarily want to be the people I watch; I just find pleasure, escape, and I suppose a form of therapy and catharsis in being a spectator. For a certain period of time, “real life” is suspended and you get to be in a world within another world where you don’t have to be or do anything but watch, and yet, you are somehow included in an extraordinary communal experience that sometimes defies explanation.

All the times I have cried due to sports–whether out of agony or euphoria–I can still very clearly remember. The times I have bargained and prayed to the universe and all entities that will listen–hilarious in retrospect but no doubt will happen again. And again. It’s astounding to find out the spectrum of emotions you can go through in such a short amount of time. My empathy and sympathy levels have been vastly improved because of sports. Sports teach you how to win, how to lose, and how to be…human.

I could have had a different life had I not fallen in love with sports. I could have been…something. I could have become someone else.

But, sports have given me far, far more than it has taken away. And for that, I am grateful.

Regrets? None. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now, excuse me while I go find a sport to watch on TV…

Marquez, Motives, and This MotoGP Mess.

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I missed watching the 2015 Malaysian GP live because it was shown on the HD Sports channel I didn’t have. After the race, I went online to check the schedule for the repeat, and asked on Twitter whether I should remain unspoiled or not. Quite a lot responded that I should check the results, given that there’s been “an incident”, so I did, and to say I was gobsmacked at “Kickgate” would be an understatement.

I only got to see the incident through short video clips and gifs, and by that time, social media had already exploded with the Team Rossi vs Team Marquez war.

It’s tough because while I like and respect Valentino Rossi, I’m undeniably a bigger fan of Marc Marquez. Actually, I’m a ride or die Dani Pedrosa fan so I’m irrationally annoyed that this piece of drama vastly overshadowed his dominant win at Sepang.

There must be hundreds (maybe even thousands) of articles already published that have analyzed and over-analyzed the situation, so after watching the race repeat in full, I’m just going to put my thoughts here:

*I don’t believe that Marquez was (is?) deliberately helping Lorenzo to win the title:
Rossi made it clear to the media that Marquez wants Lorenzo to win the title during that fateful Thursday press conference. But why? Because they’re both Spaniards? If Jorge wins the title then he’ll have 1 more Championship than Marc, so shouldn’t he be preventing him from bettering his haul instead? Marc has never hidden the fact that he is a Rossi fan (even went so far as to put on record that he prefers Rossi to win the title), and with his 9 titles, Marc and Jorge still has a long way of even equalling Rossi’s. Is Marc really that petty to let past grudges (see: Argentina, Assen) dictate his on-track behavior and anger his childhood hero? Rossi’s “theories” made little to no sense, even childish for a man of his age and stature.

*It seems that the past is not the past between Rossi and Marquez…
Again, Rossi threw it out in the open that Marquez has apparently held their past on-track tussles against him and now that he’s out of the Championship fight, he might as well actively meddle in it. Let’s say that Marc may have been making it difficult for Rossi on-track and messing with his mind–what’s wrong with that? As far as I’ve seen, all of Marc’s moves on-track were legal and within the rules, and why shouldn’t he have some “fun” even if he’s not a Championship contender anymore?

*Lorenzo missed a golden chance to come off as the “bigger man” amidst all of this:
Had he only chose to say the 2 magic words–“No comment”–Jorge could have saved himself all the abuse and criticisms he got from rival fans and media alike. I don’t completely blame him for speaking out, though; that incident must have been akin to the straw breaking the camel’s back in terms of everything he endured while in the shadow (and being the teammate) of a “motorcycling god”. I felt bad though at the booing he got on the podium in Sepang, a man who worked hard for that 2nd place, whose only crime is having the audacity to challenge Rossi in the Championship. Nobody deserves that rubbish.

*Thank heavens for Dani the Diplomat:
Amidst all the ugliness, one rider’s class emerged, the one who actually won the Malaysian GP dominantly, at that. Pedrosa’s summary of the incident, the repercussions and impact on the whole sport was composed, dignified and insightful, to say the least. Coming from someone who entered the MotoGP Premier Class and immediately stirred up controversy (2006), it’s good to see how far he’d come in terms of maturity. In fact, Dani 2015 deserves a whole entire article devoted to him altogether. Stay tuned.

*Rossi has now appealed his penalty, so we might only get a “provisional Champion” in Valencia:
What a big damper on what could have been a Mega Race Weekend. It is incredibly frustrating to see someone who has built up the sport damage it in such a short amount of time. No World Championship should be won through the aid of lawyers.

*”Tainted title”? Nah.
Many fans are saying that no matter who wins the title, it’s already been tainted by this controversy. I personally do not think so, as for me, both Rossi and Lorenzo deserve to be this year’s Champion. Sure, Rossi had an infamous “moment of madness”, but if he manages to mount a supreme comeback in Valencia, then that’s that. Provided the penalty is retained and he starts at the back of the grid, though. Same goes for Lorenzo, who consistently fought to catch up with Rossi and be his strongest rival this season. If he keeps enough composure to qualify well and outrace Rossi and the rest of the field in Valencia, then he is the rightful Champion. Tainted is a state of mind, and either way, do you think Rossi or Lorenzo cares what we think after either of them wins it?

The sad thing though is that nobody completely wins and emerges unscathed from all of this. Well, maybe Dani, but then again he is not a Championship contender this year so what he gained couldn’t really be entered in the record books. What will probably be remembered by most when the 2015 season is mentioned is the ugly side of racing, which is vastly unfair to all the beautiful and positive on-track moments we’ve seen.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still watch the season-ending race in Valencia, and I’d still keep my eye out on the new developments (provided they come from reliable sources). However, a big part of me is already done with all the drama of this season, and I just cannot wait for the 2016 MotoGP season, hopefully with Dani Pedrosa winning the Championship in the end.

Because in spite of all that happened, I still believe nice guys can finish Champions.

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That MotoGP Magic.

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I have a confession to make: Last week, I didn’t want to watch the 1st Argentine MotoGP.

I cannot really explain why. I was updated of the free practice and qualifying times through Twitter, but I just felt no zest, no sense of urgency nor excitement to actually watch the races. It was strange. Why was this happening?

So I made a “deal” with the MotoGP gods: If our home telly was free during the races, then I’d watch; if it wasn’t, then I’ll just (maybe) catch the repeat. As it turned out, the TV was free, and I did get to watch all three classes. In the end, I’m glad I did, because they all reminded me of why I am a MotoGP fan.

You see, I never expected to fall in love with MotoGP—but I totally and unequivocally did.

Many moons ago, I used to fume and seethe whenever I catch the MotoGP races on TV, mainly because they happened to be broadcast on the same channel as the Football and therefore, I cannot wait for them to be over and done with so I can watch my precious matches. While I was already an avid fan of F1 for many years, during that time I just cannot understand the fuss about motorbike racing.

“What is so fantastic about this stuff?” I’d wonder.

“Surely, driving a racecar is so much cooler and more exciting.”

I shrugged and thought to myself that I would never become a fan of motorbike racing. Four wheels all the way, baby!

However, I ended up eating a huge slice of humble pie. All thanks to a certain wee rider named Dani Pedrosa.

It was simply through serendipity that I got to know him: One day, I was flicking through the cable sports channels when I chanced upon a segment of a programme (I couldn’t even remember the name of it now) where the presenters were gushing about a certain Spanish motorbike racer named Dani Pedrosa. “He’s such a precocious rider! The next big thing in MotoGP!”, they excitedly proclaimed.  Long story short, I decided to see for myself what they were exalting and checked out a 250cc race one weekend on TV. I was nothing short of gobsmacked. Pedrosa rode the bike like he stole it and schooled the entire grid like nobody’s business. Boy, was he worth the hype and more. I finally saw with my own eyes what the big deal was. I dove headfirst into MotoGP Fandom and never looked back.

I followed Pedrosa into the MotoGP premier class in 2006. I was already aware of the legend of Valentino Rossi way before that but I only cared about supporting wee Dani. It was a curious sort of season, with Dani registering some notable records and yes, very nearly destroying his teammate’s championship hopes by that controversial move in Estoril. Going into more details on what I have experienced would be incredibly long, but yes, eight years, 4 teammates, numerous injuries and 3 different engines later—I’m still here, a full-fledged, ride-or-die Pedrosa fan.

Even the lower classes (previously the 125cc and 250cc classes, now known as Moto3 and Moto2) are nothing to be scoffed at, as the likes of Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and reigning Champion Marc Marquez are all distinguished alumni and some of the best battles and on-track scraps can be found there. If you want a glimpse of true grit and balls-to-the-wall action, check out Moto3 and Moto2. That’s where the future stars of premier class racing is honing their craft and you shall not be disappointed.

MotoGP has the drama (Rider rivalries! Team bickerings! Tyre issues!), the comedy (Rider bloopers! Awkward interviews! Behind the scenes shenanigans!), the art (They’re more than bikes, they’re sculptures! Look at the way they ride the bikes like it’s a dance!), the science (Just look at them lean angles!) and more. I’ve watched pure genius on track, questionable moves, wince-inducing crashes and even some deaths. There’s a certain passion in motorbike fans that’s just distinct from racecar fans–It’s infectious, delightful and all-consuming. See for yourself how packed and well-attended the MotoGP races are. You just never know what you’ll get to see and experience that day. And that’s where the magic lies.

F1 may be my First Motorsport Love, but MotoGP stole my heart in ways that are difficult to express.

Asking me to choose between F1 and MotoGP is like asking a mother to pick a favourite child. If F1 is the “cool” child, the one who’s always trying to reinvent itself, then MotoGP is the “devil-may-care, badass, wild child”. Perhaps this F1 vs MotoGP thing should be reserved for another article altogether. All I can say for now is that I’m just glad there’s enough capacity in my heart to love both racing series at the same time.

I have been to a few F1 races already but I have yet to go to my first-ever MotoGP race. I am determined to make it happen soon. Also, I’m still holding out hope that I would be able to learn how to ride a motorcycle and be able to own one.  See how much this series has infiltrated my life already?

So, what happened pre-Argentine MotoGP? That was merely a blip. It was me, not MotoGP that needed a reboot/attitude adjustment. My sincere apologies for ever doubting you, MotoGP.

This unlikely love story has a long way to go yet, and I’m quite excited to see how it will continue to develop. Here’s to unexpected loves and the thrill of unpredictability.

And if you’re still a non-believer, then just watch a race, give it a try and let its magic work on you. You’re welcome.

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An Open Letter To Marc Marquez.

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Querido Marc,

I have to say, you are some piece of work.

It is so easy to dislike you, you know. To call you names, to criticize your riding style, your personality, and to basically just tear you to pieces. It would make my life so much easier.

But I can’t do that. Because I like you. I really do.

How dare you be so…naturally and effortlessly good and talented that I just can’t find it in my ice-encased heart to dislike you?!

Let me just explain myself, as a long-time Formula 1 and Michael Schumacher fan, I really admire and respect racers who push themselves to the limit—even if it means that they occasionally toe the line between being a hero and a villain.

I’ve followed your career progress from the 125cc to 250cc classes, and having a curious predilection for Spanish riders, one day, I just decided to “adopt” you, as you reminded me a bit of Dani Pedrosa when he was still competing in the lower classes.

When you were promoted to the Repsol Honda MotoGP team–as the successor to the ever-controversial Casey Stoner, no less—I got worried, I thought, “It’s going to be so weird liking 2 riders who are also (slated to become) fierce rivals.” It’s the Michael Schumacher-Kimi Raikkonen F1 dilemma all over again (long story).

So anyway, you came, you saw, and promptly broke circuit records left, right and center, at times made the likes of Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa look like fumbling amateurs, incensed a whole bunch of legit and armchair racing fans with your sometimes-questionable racing tactics and inspired them to spout essays filled with criticisms on various forums in the world wide web. To put it quite simply, you turned MotoGP upside down and shook it so hard until it begged for mercy.

Ruthless. Yet adorably dorky at the same time. What a hilarious dichotomy.

A MotoGP World Champion at the tender age of 20. One of the four riders who have managed to win the championship in all classes (125cc, 250cc and MotoGP). The first rookie to be crowned MotoGP World Champion and officially the youngest MotoGP World Champion (so far). Wow. One truly has no soul if they can’t find it in their core to be amazed by what you have achieved in so little time.

So yeah, my hat is well and truly doffed. Has it all sunk in for you just yet?

One request: Can you please take it easy on your teammate Dani Pedrosa next season?

On second thought, don’t—If and when he wins that first championship, I’d like to see him do it fair, square, and with a full-strength you competing against him. So as much as I like you and wish you well, it is not quite enough to make me give up my status of being a Pedrosista.

All is fair in love and war, and I for one, cannot wait to see how Dani, Jorge and Vale shall react and (hopefully) up their games for next season.

So thank you, Marc.

Thank you for making me feel as ancient as a dinosaur. For making me question what I’m doing with my life.

Just kidding.

Thank you for injecting new life into MotoGP. Thank you for proving that talent truly rises amidst adversity. Thank you for standing your ground and being true to yourself, no matter if it means showing the fallible and not-so-perfect sides of you for all the world to see and dissect.

Muchas gracias.

Let’s see if I’ll stay this gracious and magnanimous after next season. Ha! Best of luck and, as you Spanish riders love to say: Gassssssss!!

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With much admiration and sincerity,

Bouncebackabilitrix

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Look back, don’t stare.

Farewell, MotoGP 2011: Spectacular Spies, Stoner the “Stealer”, Celebrating Super Sic.

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Riders of all classes, led by ex-champ Kevin Scwantz, line up at the grid to pay tribute to Marco Simoncelli.

To say that the ultimate race weekend of MotoGP 2011 was emotional would be the understatement of the year.

For the first time in several years of following MotoGP, I’ve to say that it was the most difficult season-ender to sit through, as we racing fans not only have to bid our final farewell to the racing hurricane that was Marco Simoncelli, but also to the era of 125cc and 800cc spec motorbikes.

Here’s a fantastic tribute to the man they called Super Sic: Riders of all classes participated in a tribute lap around the Valencia circuit, spearheaded by former champion Kevin Scwhantz, who wore Marco’s no.58:

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On to the racing: Terol was crowned the last 125cc Champion, and although Bradl suffered a crash early on in the Moto2 race, the result was moot and academic, as the withdrawal of his closest rival, Marc Marquez due to injury, meant that the German was the new Moto2 Champion.

A lot of the fans, me included, assumed that already-crowned MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner would ride off into the sunset by himself for the main race, and while he did take an unsurprising early lead, the main talking point during the 1st half of the race was the dramatic T1 crash that took out Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista, LCR’s Randy De Puniet, and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. Fans of The Doctor can only look on in dismay as they abandoned hopes of a decent finish to quite a dismal season for the icon. C’est la vie.

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However, during the 2nd part of the race, the trifecta of Honda (Stoner in 1st, Dovisiozo in 2nd, Pedrosa in 3rd) was shattered by a charging Ben Spies of Yamaha, as he broke free from the shackles of 4th to overtake the 2 battling Hondas and, shocker of the day, managed to catch the seemingly cruising Stoner to take the race lead as the number of laps remaining continue to dwindle. Viewers were left at the edge of their seats as we all await on whether Spies can reach the chequered flag first and what Stoner can come up with. Remarkably, the 2011 Champion brandished his mettle as he beat the Yamaha to the line by a mere 0.015 second-photo finish! Quite a crazy end to a season of undeniable rollercoaster-type highs and lows.

Interestingly, Casey Stoner now holds the record of winning the first and last races of the 800cc era (2007-2011) in MotoGP. Show-off.

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To break up all the drama, have a photo of Ben Spies “planking” atop his Yamaha:

Spies making productive use of his downtime. Hmm.

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Until next season then, fellow crazy fans. Meanwhile, may we all live our lives as if we are racing without fear or regrets.

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The Bouncebackable Dictionary: DEMI-ALIEN.

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DEMI-ALIEN:
1 A highly-skilled MotoGP rider who is capable of winning but has yet to prove that he can battle long-term with the Recognized Aliens (i.e. Valention Rossi,  Casey Stoner,  Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa) of MotoGP.
2. A potential MotoGP Alien-in-the-making.

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E.g. Ben Spies is a very good rider, but being pipped by Casey Stoner on the line last week in Valencia showed that he needs to up his game and is still lingering in the demi-alien territory.

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Keep Calm and Race On: 10 Reasons Why The Jerez MotoGP Rocked.

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Let me get this out of the way: If you missed this race then you should bitch-slap yourself. Repeatedly.

Spain is a country that is absolutely loco over bike racing, and I’m pleased to report that the riders did not disappoint the faithful apostles that trekked to Jerez and dutifully donned their raincoats for the drizzly race:

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THAT Rossi-Stoner on-track tussle: The moment that racing fans will discuss, analyze, and fight over for the next four weeks. In typical Rossi fashion, he attempted to overtake Stoner on turn 1, but forgetting that he’s not riding a reliable Yamaha anymore but a temperamental Ducati, lost the front and took Stoner down with him in a tangled heap. Both riders had the agility and presence of mind to get back on their bikes to rejoin the race, but the marshals seemed to have given more assistance to Rossi (as proven by the 2nd photo) which cost Stoner precious time and eventually, the race. Small wonder that the gregarious Aussie was pissed.

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Marco Simoncelli’s jaw-dropping pass on Casey Stoner to take the race lead, and his surprising crash/retirement: The afro-haired Italian was most certainly the surprise package of the race. I was too busy keeping my eye on Stoner and Lorenzo’s cat-and-mouse chase that I’ve only noticed Simoncelli’s amazing charge when he boldly overtook Stoner’s dominant factory Honda for the lead, much to the astonishment of practically everyone bar his mother. Shame his amazing charge was halted by his crash. Post-race, Simoncelli also bemoaned the lack of assistance by track marshals. What does a rider have to do to get help, change their name to Valentino Rossi?

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The Battle for 2nd between Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies: They are my top 2 favorite riders in MotoGP, and when things started to heat up between the two on-track, I fought the urge to bite all my nails and almost had one eye closed throughout the tussle. I know both riders are generally “decent” and will not maliciously attack the opponent, but with a damp track and adrenaline coursing through their veins, anything can happen. Spies eventually got the better of Pedrosa and stole 2nd, but mysteriously crashed out a few minutes later which gifted the struggling wee Spaniard the 2nd spot.

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Rain–the Great Equalizer: No question about it, the rain dictated the tempo of the race and wrecked havoc with some of the riders’ fates. After Championship leader Stoner retired, race leader Simoncelli followed, then Randy de Puniet, and then Spies, and then Colin Edwards, who was poised to take the last podium position, bit the dust. Tough luck, mate.

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Dani Pedrosa doing a wheelie as he crossed the Finish Line: Seeing the likes of Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner performing the wheelie to celebrate victories is hardly surprising, but Pedrosa has always been unusually reserved when it comes to celebrations, so seeing him loosen up in front of his home fans was certainly a pleasant surprise. Must have been a massive relief for him to survive that crazy race!

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Post-race: Local hombre and race winner Jorge Lorenzo being labeled as Australian by one TV network. Um, que?! Geography fail. Either that or the tech dude is one big Casey Stoner fan. No wonder Jorge looked confused in the photo.

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Who’s That Dude with the Hombres? If you’ve told me last Friday that Nicky Hayden of Ducati will share the podium with Lorenzo and Pedrosa come raceday, I would have shamelessly laughed in your face, paused to take a breath, and then laughed madly again. However, the gritty American proved that the Ducati can be tamed and that he can calm down long enough to survive the onslaught of slides and crashes. I make fun of him a lot, but I’ll give him credit for this one–Well played, Haystack!

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The King and His Boys: King Juan Carlos of Spain is a massive bike racing fan, and he’s not afraid to flaunt it. His delight at having two Spaniards top the race was quite obvious, as he looked every inch like the proud father (or should that be grandfather?) while he fawned over Lorenzo and Pedrosa before and during the awarding ceremonies. Good thing the two hombres kept calm and raced on– now that’s what being obedient constituents are about! P.S. The boys also behaved themselves and shook hands willingly, no more need for the King’s intervention!

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Post-race: Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner’s face-to-face (or should that be helmet-to-face?) encounter about THAT crash: Apparently, Stoner was not visibly miffed with Rossi, but still managed to edge in the dig “Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent” after Valentino apologized. Meeooww! I want to take that words and put it into a t-shirt. Surely, that comment will live in infamy, Casey.

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Feast your eyes on seventy-five seconds of non-stop racing action from the weekend:

Sadly, we now we have to live with four weeks of MotoGP hiatus. Why must the racing gods be so cruel, at times?

Hurry back, MotoGP!