Features 22 Mar 2012

The Matthes Report: 11

Pulp MX's Steve Matthes checks in from the U.S. every single Thursday, presented by Fox.

So you want to be a pro motocrosser, eh? Well seeing as how only the one percent of us actually will ever make it to that level where people will pay you to ride dirt bikes around a stadium for money, maybe you’re thinking that the next best thing would be to write about the sport for a living like I do?

And yes, I do have it pretty sweet, but in case you haven’t noticed, our sport isn’t exactly as big as football is over here, or rugby is down there. So to be a full-time media guy who goes to all the races, you had better have some serious credentials and put in the time.

By my count, I would think there is probably somewhere around seven or eight media guys who are going to every race and getting everything paid for by their employers. And I’m not one of them!

You see, as a journalist (and I use that word lightly, please take it easy on me), I’m not hired by one company to provide content to just them like say a Brendan Lutes (Transworld MX), Steve Giberson (Vital MX) or Jason Weigandt (Racer X), so I don’t have one company footing the bills for me.

I’m what you call a freelance journalist (there’s that word again). And as a freelance guy, I can work for as many people as I can and I’m not tied to one media entity. But with that comes a hook (two rules to live by: there’s always a hook and it’s always all about the money) and the hook in my deal is no one pays my expenses.

I lay all that out and hope that my intake of money is greater than my expenses. So I’m hustling for work and as you can see, MotoOnline.com.au has contracted me for my services of telling stories every week. And I couldn’t be happier, Gobert’s a good guy and this site is blowing up in case you hadn’t noticed. Exhibit A: The BT101 signing!

This is the view from Matthes' office every Saturday evening in the U.S. during Supercross. Image: Simon Cudby.

But my biggest client is Racer X here in the USA and as well I have work I do for magazines in Australia, Italy, Canada, plus I have my own websites called Pulpmx.com and Promototalk.com. I also have a Monday night radio show called The Pulpmx Show, with a variety of guests each week talking about the sport.

All in all, it’s a living and I’m pumped with what I do. But let me tell you, it ain’t all roses and rainbows people. Let me take you through my weekend this past Saturday going to Indianapolis.

Friday morning board a flight at 8.00am for the four-hour trip to Indianapolis and with the time change, land at 5.00pm EST. Call up my buddy, BTOSports.com/BBMX rider Jason Thomas (number 66 in your program, but number one in your heart) and we headed out to dinner at a steak house in downtown Indy.

Get back from dinner and immediately start typing out a story idea I had on the plane for possible use down the road. I have about 20 stories on my computer that have a paragraph or two on them and then they never develop. Although other times, I’ll bust out a stream of thought in 20 minutes and have a 1000 words staring back at me.

Saturday morning, wake up at 8.00am to head to the track. Once there I’ll drop off some X Brand goggles for Kyle Chisholm (just another job I have to pay the bills. Go buy some to support me!) and hang out in the pits talking to the teams and riders about god knows what.

At 11.00am, it’s time to head out for track walk and this is prime time to get some scoops and talk to people in the industry. Walking the track and looking at the obstacles is secondary for guys like me, after all, I ain’t jumping any of these triples.

After that it’s practice and there are six sessions in total and right after those are over, the second set of practices start. I’ll be up in the press box at this time watching practice, taking notes, talking on the phone, all happening. Oh and along with some watching and Tweeting about what’s going on.

Around three o’clock there’s a bit of a break for us hacks to head back to the pits and try to see what happened in practice, who’s doing what and how the track is. This is about an hour and then it’s right back to the press box to watch the third, and final, set of practices. Sometimes I’ll skip these ones to stay in the pits and get more information of the day and how it’s been for the guys.

Interviewing the legends of the sport is only a very small part of the AMA SX reporter lifestyle. Here, Steve chats with Roger De Coster. Image: Simon Cudby.

After the last set of practices, it’s already around five and time to grab something to eat from one of the teams (most likely for me is Kawasaki, sometimes JGR, sometimes Honda) and make the rounds one last time. It’s at this point that 87 percent of the time someone is already mad at me for something I Tweeted from practice that made me laugh.

7 o’clock and the night show begins! It’s non-stop racing until about 10:30 at night when the 450 main event ends. As soon as the chequers flies, it’s a rush to save your Word Document, close your computer up and get to the stairs or elevators to get down to the podium. The top three in the 450’s are down there and it’s a great time to get a word or two in with those guys.

After that the scouring of the pits begins with me trying to find the top three in the 250 Class and get an interview with them on how their race went. I also just wander the pits in a zombie-like state looking for any other rider that will talk to me about their night and all that went down.

Around midnight I drive back to the hotel and get to work. Yes, I’ve already been working for 16 hours, but it’s time for some more. I download the audio interviews I’ve gotten from that night, edit them and put them up on Pulpmx.com. Then I Tweet said interviews out to the world.

I also begin the 3000-plus word column that I’ve been doing for four years called ‘Observations’. I make notes during the race to help me remember things that I want to talk about. That goes up on Racer X Tuesday or Wednesday. I finally turn off the light around 2.00am.

At 6:30am the alarm goes off and I’m up to catch a flight home and once home, I make some coffee, walk the dogs and sit down to line up guests for the Monday night Pulpmx Show and keep on typing up Observations. I’ll work until 3 or 4 on a Sunday afternoon and then close the laptop so that I stay sane. As I said, it’s a nice life that I get to cover the sport that I love but it’s not always easy!