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Photo by Genghis

SHE'S GOTTA BE FAST: Who says the hero can't be a woman.


I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life


It bothers me that some in the biker subculture, need to be followers. Some bikers need to find heroes to follow, whether the heroes are so-called motorcycle "masterbuilders" or some other biker whose ego is larger than theirs, to tell 'em what to ride, how to ride, when to ride, how frequently to ride, or how far to ride in order to meet the arbitrairily set standards of the "hero biker." What these bikers forget, is that these hero bikers they idolize, are other bikers just like them. What this hero worship reveals, is how weak the followers' egos are, that leads them to put other bikers on nosebleed-high pedestals. As a loner and a freethinking and truly independent biker, I've never had that type of hero worship problem. However, I as many in the biker subculture as in society in general, do look for heroes in sports. Like Bonnie Tyler, we're lookin' for strong and fast heroes in our sports. Sometimes these heroes are of the female persuasion, makin' us heroine addicts.

Seeking heroes in sports, is a form of tribalism, where people look to their sport's "representatives," to lead their "tribe" (team) to success. Every sports team's fans thinks of himslef or herself, as a co-owner of the team, where these owners (fans) of the team feel that it's their employees' mission to win games. This feeling of "ownership" of sports teams by the fans, explains the fans' use of "we" and "us" when referring to the teams. For example, "Wow, we won the game!" I'm a member of the tribe known as New York Jets fans. I look to my employees, in this case the New York Jets football team, to win and fight for victories on my behalf. In the arena of professional football, fans depend on their representatives on the field of play to fight and win for them (us). To me, this form of hero admiration, is perfectly acceptable for bikers. While bikers can rule their own roost and decide how to ride (they don't need false idols to tell 'em how to live and ride), obviously bikers can't jump on the football field to lead their teams down the field for a touchdown. We need our heroes on the team to do this for us. Neither can we bikers jump into Formula 1 cars to take a pole position. There is a vast and important difference in being a sports fan, and letting another biker dictate rules and regs of living our lives.

Hey man! Don't get me started on how some engineer boot-lickin' bikers worship other bikers as heroes, and how I think this makes these bikers look weak. You've all heard me rant about this issue before. Why do bikers, who are supposed to be independent and free in their lives, allow others to dictate what style of motorcycle they should ride? "It's gotta be a rigid, gotta be kickstart only, can't have a hand clutch, blah, blah, blah..." It's enough to lull me to sleep to hear morons pontificate to the lame, on how to conduct 'emselves as bikers. Here's what I have to say to these bikers who are Genuinely Licensed Hero Worshippers in the culture: Stand up and grow some balls. Stand on your own and decide for yourself, what's righteous or not. Use your own head and heart to lead you, not some other biker, who after all---is just another biker. Be your own hero, man!

If you need heroes, that's what sports are for. Just pick a sport or two or three, and worship away. My sports are football and car racing, and they have acted as conduits for the expression of my passion, outside of the scope of my experience, since I'll never play professional football or drive racecars professionally. I have lots of heroes in sports, always have. Joe Namath. Joe Klecko. Mark Gastineau. In car racing, I've had a few: Jimmy Clark, Ayrton Senna, Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, Sebastian Vettel and Dale Earnhardt Sr. One of the few times I felt moisture swelling up in my eyes when someone I didn't know personally died, was when Dale Earnhardt died. That's what happens when one adopts a hero of sorts in a sport, that causes us to feel that we know that "hero" outside of our own purview. We can vicariously enjoy the highs of victory, as if we were in that racecar or on that football field. These heroes carry us onto their particular arena of competition. We rejoice in their wins, and feel the depths of despair of our heroes' losses. But who says that a hero can't be a woman? Yesterday, Danica Patrick made car racing history by being the first woman in NASCAR Cup history, to win a pole position. The pole she won, is for the 2013 Daytona 500 that's running next week. I've followed Patrick's career with interest, since she made history by the first female driver to lead the Indianapolis 500.

There was only one other truly gifted female driver in NASCAR, and that was Janet Guthrie, who unfortunately never had the advantage of being on a good team. She never had top tier equipment. Danica does have good equipment, being on Tony Stewart's team. This is a well-funded and managed team, using Hendricks-built Chevy motors Historical benchmarks in sports mean something to me, because I'm a big believer in history and tradition. History and tradition should be respected, whether in sports or in the biker subculture. To be the first of anything in a sport, is a great achievement. In 1936, the Knucklehead motor was the first Harley mill to have the OHV (overhead valve) configuration in the Harley-Davidson lineup. For this reason, bikers will revere the Knucklehead because of its history as the first, no matter what Harley motors are those bikers' favorites. Mine is the Shovelhead motor, but I will always hold the Knucklehead in great esteem because of its place in Harley history, and as the Shovelhead's predecessor by two generations. Danica Patrick was the first woman to win an Indycar race, when she won the Indy Japan 300 in 2008. This counts for something, because the history and tradition in car racing demands it. Patrick in fact, has three firsts. She was the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, the first woman to win an Indycar race, and now, the first woman to win a NASCAR Cup pole. Who knows what the future holds for her in NASCAR, but at least she has the talent and equipment to go fast. What she needs is more experience under race conditions, and then we'll see how she does.

Sports can elevate one's life, I know this from personal experience. Like motorcycles, sports are an emotional experience. Sports transcend mere entertainment, and create lifelong highlights in someone's existence. One of these highlights of my life, was when the New York Jets won the Super Bowl in 1969. Jimmy Clark's winning the Indy 500 in 1965 in his Formula 1 car was another. Sebastien Vettel's winning his third consecutive Formula 1 championship in 2012 at the age of 25 , was another. Sports victories, where our chosen heroes make our spirits soar, are an indispensable part of my life. When they win, I win. In the sports I'm interested in, big sports stories like Danica Patrick's winning the first-ever NASCAR Cup pole position, is hugely engaging and important. The story's being reported on media venues as mundane and mainstream as the CBS local morning news this morning. When does a local news program ever mention NASCAR in New York City? The answer, is usually never. In fact, the story's being reported on practically evey TV channel I turn to this morning. Danica not only elevated her fans, but also elevated the sport of stock car racing. There's no doubt in my mind that she doubled the TV audience for the Daytona 500, all by herself. It's a marketing miracle from our hero(ine).

Sports define us a part of a tribe. This is something bikers can easily relate to, as the biker subculture is nothing if not a big tribe. The tribal imperative in the biker subculture is to ride and cherish our Harleys, and my personal tribal imperative is to worship at the Avons of my Harley 74. For the tribe of car racing fans, the tribal imperative is to rejoice in our sports heroes' triumphs. Sports stories like Danica's, show what a special social phenmonon sports are as the glue that bind a tribe together. In this case, it's the car racing tribe. Even more specifically for me, Danica's pole is a win for the Chevy Tribe. NASCAR used to be more brand-driven, where racing fans pulled for their car brand. With NASCAR racecars having less true resemblance to their street versions, NASCAR has become more driver-driven for fans. I still favor drivers who drive Chevrolets, as a lifelong Chevy fan. For this week leading up to the Daytona 500 next sunday, my hero turned out to be a heroine, and her name is Danica. Later.