Perception vs. Reality…this is not a blog!

Muddy Creek team setup

This website was created with the sole purpose of promoting this race team.  We never intended it to be anything other than a resource to promote our brand, sponsors and our riders.  As I was driving home from Loretta Lynn’s I just had some thoughts that were running through my head, you could say that I just need to vent a little.  So that being said, we are using this opportunity to venture into the wonderful world of blogging.  I’m not crazy about calling this a blog post because to be honest I’ve always thought the word blog just sounded like it should be a dirty word for some reason.  We’ll just call this a random internet post about things that I notice being a race team manager.  These comments and thoughts in no way reflect the views of Team Media Allstars and are solely my personal opinions so don’t read into any of this stuff as a stance our team takes.  On second thought let me restate that…our team doesn’t always take the same views that I do but Jorge and I both have pretty strong opinions that we usually keep between the two of us, I’m using this post to just voice a few of those opinions.  So there is your official yet unofficial disclaimer and intro to this “internet opinion, not blog” post.

America is a great nation.  This country has been great for a long time no one can argue that fact.  The generations before us that made this country great knew about a hard days work, sacrifice, earning your keep, and to speak in general terms not being worthless.  Somewhere along the line parents failed.  I’m not sure which generation dropped the ball, I know my parents did a great job making sure I knew that nothing in life was given to you.  I think it started with my generation honestly.  I sometimes forget how old I am, my best friend from grade school has a kid that is a Junior in High School so my generation is certainly old enough to be the spawn of the problem with America today.  That problem?  We all know what the problem is and it’s that kids right now and many adults in that 18-40 range are entitled.

We as race teams are starting to see that entitled attitude creep into our sport.  Maybe it’s been there longer than I realize but it seems like I see it more and more the longer I’m managing this team.  I’ve been racing ATV’s since 1998, my first national was at Daniel Boone MX back in 98.  It was a simpler time for our sport, that was mainly due to the fact that most people had time to forget what factory support was and we’d all just come to grips with the fact that we were going to be racing on a budget and that pretty much everyone except a select few would be privateers.  You had a couple of race teams but Nac’s was the only one to my knowledge to offer a ride that even resembled “factory support”.  Racers didn’t expect anything from their sponsors.  I was so happy just to get a letter in the mail that said “congratulations you’ve been accepted and will receive 25% off”.  The first time I got my Nac’s racing sponsorship contract back in 2000 and it said 50% off I thought I had factory support!  I was big time 50% off!

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Media Allstars 2005 with FMF factory support

Fast forward a few years and now we are in the heart of the factory support/glory days 2.0.  The period of time between 2004-2008 saw an explosion in the sport of ATV Racing.  Kory Ellis showed up at High Point in 2003 on a brand new Yamaha YFZ450 fresh off the assembly line and with only a few suspension mods took Doug Gust and Tim Farr down to the wire on their fully built production z400 machines.  That same year at Loretta Lynn’s saw almost a full gate in the Pro Production class and most of those racers were A and Pro-am guys that would have never thought about racing pro before.  Thus the birth of production ATV racing and the sport was rolling.  2007 saw factory racing all over TV when ESPN picked up the WPSA series and even a team like ours had what felt like factory support with free parts, free bikes, free gear, swag, free food at the races etc…  You get the picture we were on our way, look out flat billers the quads are coming!  Whoo who!!!  Then the economy decided to tank in 08 taking that momentum with it.  Don’t get me wrong things weren’t bleak but you could tell that our sport had taken a hit, no more ESPN but there were still several factory teams running strong and sport ATV’s were still selling.  Sponsorships were still great and companies hadn’t taken a huge hit just yet so they could afford to give riders free product.

I’m not sure when the wheels fell off the bus?  I’m going to say somewhere around 2012-13?  The problem wasn’t anything we as ATV racers could control.  The economy had recovered to some degree so people had enough disposable income.  This is also the time when Side by Sides started to really gain momentum.  No longer were you limited to just the Yamaha Rhino or the old 750 Teryx.  The cute little 800 RZR that looked fun had been replaced by the 900xp that was really fast and really fun.  The Can-am Commander and Maverick were also released to the sport SXS market.  Looking back we should have all seen it coming but SXS’s have taken our industry over.  I mean it’s a machine that has a cage so everyone thinks they are safe no matter what while in one.  You can troll around the woods and drink adult beverages (remember the cage thing), you can take your old lady with you…heck if you drink too many that thing is automatic and has a steering wheel so she can drive you out of the woods if you forget how (adult beverages again).

Working at a huge multiline dealership gives me a unique look into why our sport…the sport of ATV Racing isn’t growing.

1.) You only have 1 450 sport ATV available to purchase

2.) Everyone wants a SXS machine.

That’s it!  Pretty simple really, the SXS’s have taken over our industry.

To those of us that just race the nationals we see good numbers and what feels like zero decline or even an increase in racers signing up.  The truth of the matter is that while National ATV Racing may not have taken a huge hit numbers wise, the local scene for most is dying or dead.  Tracks are turning quads away or shutting their doors altogether.  Honestly it’s not just ATVMX that is seeing a decline locally but MX in general.  The SXS revolution has put a major hurt on bike sales as well, we just don’t realize it.  Right now in this business if it doesn’t have 2 seats and a steering wheel it’s collecting dust.  You compare dirtbike sales today to what they were say 3,4,5 years ago and you’ll see what I mean.  Not every area is affected the same but I know in my part of the world (Central and Eastern Kentucky) ATV and Bike sales combined won’t make up 25% of any dealerships total sales.  Let that sink in for a minute…ok now think about all the companies that support our sport and the sport of bike MX and SX.

This is where I am tying things together so pay attention.  Our sport in 2016 although strong to us from the inside isn’t growing from the roots.  The local racing is dying.  When I started racing we had several tracks in KY that held races every other weekend, quads were welcome and some had great turn outs.  That isn’t the case now.  ATVMX and MX in general in KY are dead we might have 4-5 tracks in the whole state and I don’t even know their names!  I’m not sure there is a track within a 2 hour drive of me that even holds bike races anymore.  I know that some states are still going strong like PA, IL parts of TN and WI.  But in general MX at the local level both bike and quad is dying out.  We look at our sport with blinders on, we see decent numbers at the national level and we think things are just like they’ve always been…this just isn’t the case.  So many of the racers today think that we are still in the glory days because they don’t see a ghost town on the starting line at the nationals.  We have a handful of individuals that have stepped in and emptied their pockets to form race teams like ours to help keep the appearance of factory racing going.  Teams like Root River Racing and Koster Racing on the amateur side and there are several pro teams that are getting major support from a few individuals that have money already within our sport.  Although I’d rather MAS be the top dog I am perfectly content with accepting the fact that the more riders that can get support the better.  The problem all comes back to how I opened this entire “not a blog” post.  Since the emergence of these teams it seems like the riders in our sport are becoming more and more entitled.  Maybe it’s just all going back to bad parenting or maybe it really is Obama’s fault, what isn’t these days?  But in my opinion we have a whole generation of riders that were on mini’s when the factories were involved, they saw those flashy rigs, those amazing pit setups they heard about the free bikes, the free swag, the pro rider contracts etc…  Now they look at the handful of blessed individuals that get a full ride from these big money teams and they expect that.  They don’t understand that not everyone can have that, just because you race and you are successful doesn’t mean you’ll achieve that kind of sponsorship.

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Media Allstars 2011

Teams like ours are totally and solely reliant upon product and funding from our sponsors.  We don’t have a team owner with deep pockets, I wish we did as Jorge and I would love to have the money to grow our program.  Instead we put out proposals and try to rack our brains for ways to give our sponsors the best bang for their buck in the industry.  Sponsors are finding it harder and harder to give riders and teams product though, I mean I stated before that our sport is dying.  Why would a company give away product or give a team cash to a market segment that shows no return on investment?  That’s the battle we are fighting right now.  Our sponsors have been amazing and I personally feel the only reason they stick behind us is that they trust us.  We’ve built a relationship with each one of them over the course of our 12 year existence, with us they know what they are going to get so they continue to give us what they can afford to give us.

The problem I continue to have within the ATV Racing community all comes back to that entitlement issue.  Riders see those free rides and think that all race teams operate with a budget like that.  The truth is far from that perceived misconception.  The actual truth is that racers in 2016 should feel lucky to get a good discount and a free hat maybe a tee shirt.  We get lots of resumes each year but we also find that what most of those riders are really looking for is not to be a part of a team, or a family, not to take advantage of the vast knowledge those that run our team have but they just want a to know if the bike is provided.  In 2016 when there is only 1 production 450 on the market we have kids that want to know if we provide the bike for our riders to race.  It seems that learning to be a part of a team, learning from your peers, getting amazing exposure and being part of a team that has won over 40 National Championships doesn’t amount to much.  The “I race, it’s expensive, give me something” mentality that young people in our sport/industry have today just drives me up a wall.  I am glad that our sport has a few individuals that can provide a full ride to a few lucky riders.  I have zero issues with what those teams are doing, we compete against each other and our teams all offer our riders something different.  We just can’t “provide the bike”.

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MAS Team Picture 2015

Moral of this not really a blog post?  Riders need to take the time to think about what they want from a potential sponsor before they ever send out a resume.  Don’t expect the world if you’ve never set the world on fire.  Sponsors and race teams operate almost solely on a discount basis in 2016, it’s really similar to how things were back when I started in ’98.  Be happy when you get sponsored with a discount deal.  Building a new bike won’t cost you 10k it might only be 6k with those discounts.  Don’t be that guy or girl that turns your nose up when a sponsor says they can only offer you X, Y or Z and none of those spell FREE.  Don’t be that entitled little punk…be grateful that companies still care enough about a dying sport to throw support at it even though they know it won’t help their bottom line.  There is a simple fact about racing that will never change, IT’S EXPENSIVE.  There is an old saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” so just take a long hard look in that mirror come resume season, try to have real expectations and don’t turn your nose up at something that may just make you a household name.

I’ve been a part of the Media Allstars since 2007 and have been race team manager since 2010.  During that time I haven’t once seen a rider that joined our program leave it worse off.  We build champions, we build character, we teach life skills, we look after our own long after racing is over.  Racing isn’t always about what can you give me, sometimes it’s about being able to share knowledge and experience with your friends and teammates, it’s about running to the podium to see how excited your teammate is after a big win.  Just remember sometimes being a part of something special is more important than being entitled.

-Chase Cunningham (MAS race team manager)

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