James Stewart, Jr., easily the most recognized face of the Motocross Racing world, is looking slightly rusty after sitting out the 2010 season with a wrist injury, which he suffered in a collision with Chad Reed in Anaheim last year.
Stewart, affectionately known as “Bubba” to his adoring fans, has a long list of incredible accolades as a MotoX mainstay. He could be considered the Boston Celtics of racing, almost a one-man dynasty. He has won several championships at the regional, national, and world levels since turning pro in 2002 at the tender age of seventeen. Another notable fact is that he is the first African-American to achieve such amazing success at the top-level of any motor-sports industry.
Now 25, Bubba is looking to return to the form that has already won him so many titles, but bouncing back from an injury and inactivity are clearly taking their toll on him this Supercross season. After finishes of 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, and 1st in the first five races, Stewart is now in the midst of the longest drought of his career, failing to place first in eight straight races. Out of those eight, there were also finishes of 18th, 15th, and 9th. It is hard to say what is hampering Bubba’s performances so far this year, but the inconsistency we have seen is not typical of arguably the best Motocross racer in the world.
Along with the inconsistency is the fact that competition is fierce now on the circuit, new riders are flying through the ranks, nipping at Bubba’s coat-tails. For years he has warded them off, remaining the best, but as with every sport, there’s always someone who comes along that can challenge the best. For James Stewart, there’s not only one person, but several. The likes of Chad Reed, Trey Canard, Ryan Dungey, and Ryan Villopoto are all gunning for Stewart’s crown, it’s going to be interesting to see how the season plays out with such talent in the mix. Stewart failed to end his streak of inconsistent riding last night in Arlington(4/2/11), as he once again collided with Chad Reed, dashing the hopes of a high finish for both riders.
On March 28th, Stewart was arrested in Orange County, Florida, for impersonating a police officer. He jokingly used red and blue lights to pull over a vehicle in his Toyota Tundra, and the inhabitants of the car he attempted to pull over were Florida State Troopers. He fled, but was later arrested Orlando and released the next morning. This type of behavior is not very intelligent, Stewart is seen as a role model for his adoring young fan base. I also highly doubt these types of incidents are going to help him regain his racing form, hopefully for the sake of Motocross, Bubba re-orders his priorities.
It is normal for fans to assume something is wrong if athletes don’t compete at a level they are used to seeing. The fact is, nothing is wrong with James Stewart, he just needs to get back into the swing of things after almost a year of inactivity due to the injury. People like Bubba, who are so great at what they do, take on sort of super-human personas. When things happen, such as injuries or sub-par performances that fall below the standards he has set for himself, it makes him look simply human. As fans, we have to remember that athletes are humans, but very gifted ones. It is not fair for us to hold these guys to such incredibly high standards, then assume they can’t get the job done anymore simply because human elements limit progress sometimes. We must learn to accept the good and the bad, if you’re a true fan, you will be with your player, or team, when they are winning and lose.
The same should be true for James Stewart. After all he has accomplished in his career, and all he has done for Motocross, I think the guy deserves to be cut some slack. Once he takes a step back and once again realizes what’s important, I have no doubt that he will come back to championship form, and answer all our questions on the track.