When you’re watching competition in person or on TV, which would you rather see: Excellence in action, or an event where anybody could win?
I could take either side of that argument, so that’s why I’m asking you. Some of you are probably already seeing through my opening lines to the real question: Is Tucker Hibbert’s domination good for snowmobile racing?
In the 2008-09 racing season, Hibbert won every single final he entered. He carried that run over into the 2009-2010 season, where he was beat only once on the track – when he had some troubles in Utah and had to watch Tim Tremblay be the first one to see the waving checkered flag in Pro Open. In each of those seasons, Hibbert raced for half the season, claimed an easy looking gold medal at the Winter X Games and then checked out of snowmobile racing to pursue his motocross racing dreams.
Watching Hibbert race is like seeing a great artist work – in high speed. The way he selects lines in the rugged snocross courses, the smooth efficiency with which he slices through traffic on his Monster Energy-sponsored Arctic Cat, the amazingly soft way he lands his sled after catching big air – it’s almost poetic the way he dances with his snowmobile.
Each lap, he pulls another two seconds away from his very talented competition, building a seemingly insurmountable lead by mid-race. The only hope for the competition seems to be waiting for a mistake, but they very rarely come.
It really is awe-inspiring, and to some, it’s like watching the way Michael Jordon impacted the NBA in the 1980s, Jeremy McGrath took over motocross in the 1990s, or Tiger Woods’ impact on golf in the 2000s.
To others, however, it lends a level of predictability that may keep them away from races. I’ve heard it from a few of my friends – I’ve asked “Are you going to the Canterbury Snocross this weekend?” and heard, “Why? To see Tucker run away from everybody again? No thanks” in reply.
Using the aforementioned examples, Jordon, McGrath and Woods all proved to be very good for their respective sports. Jordan’s excellence was celebrated, and attracted people to the NBA. McGrath’s excellence resulted in a boom for motocross and supercross. You’ve likely all heard stats on television ratings of tournaments in which Woods competes or heads into the final round in contention vs. events he skips or falls far behind in – hundreds of thousands of additional sports fans, many of them not even golfers, will be glued to their TV to watch Tiger close out a tournament.
Some people like to make a comparison to NASCAR’s Jimmy Johnson – as Johnson has won titles in recent years, NASCAR ratings have slipped. Cause and effect? I would say no, as the last two seasons, Johnson has “only” won 7 events each year in a 36-race schedule. That’s certainly still impressive, but there’s not a level of inevitability each weekend at a NASCAR race like there was with McGrath (or later, Ricky Charmichael) in motocross, or with Hibbert in snocross. Nobody is going to stay away from the Richmond race this weekend because they just know that the No. 48 Lowe’s car is going to win.
So, enough with my babbling, I’d like to hear from you: Is Tucker Hibbert’s domination good for snowmobile racing, or bad? Does his excellence make you more likely to attend a snocross race, or less likely? Either post a response here, or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.