I Don’t Want to Talk Rampage – Ask Uncle Dave

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Oct 26, 2015

Dear Uncle Dave, 

There’s been a lot of hubbub over the past week scapegoating Redbull as title sponsors and organizers of Rampage. However, no one has really supported Redbull. Some have said that Redbull have so much power over the athletes that they are practically compelled to throw down. Even if that means one day ahead of schedule so that the broadcast can go ahead. I mean Redbull has nothing to gain by broadcasting the event, they sell soft drink, and broadcast the event out of the goodness of their hearts. It is in no way foreseeable that cutting the practice time short could have any impact on rider health, but even if a rider felt it would, he would be absolutely free from any consequence if he should choose to pull out of the event. It would have no impact on their reputation and standing in the mountain bike community that likely means so much to them. Therefore it would have no impact on sponsorship derived income, and all the things that flow on from that, like having a place to live and food to eat. And really, even if it did, I’m sure they have a career back up plan in their pocket. I’ve changed career and didn’t find it stressful one bit.

I mostly think those things aren’t really getting to the meat and potatoes of it all, and they’re not really new anyway. The new thing this year that has gotten a small group of obtuse internet commentators hot under the collar was how the broadcast commentators were given false information about Paul Basagoitia’s health status following his crash. Just because Cam McCaul has travelled to the same locations as Paul for over 10 years to compete in contests doesn’t mean he cares about him at all. Hence I’m sure he doesn’t feel betrayed, or even conflicted as he moves into a career in broadcasting himself. And who are we kidding here, there is absolutely no requirement that Redbull convey any information about rider health. What is most important is the viewer’s uninterrupted enjoyment of the transparent marketing of how their soft drink benefits human health. I mean, they have to make money, otherwise they might go out of business, we’d be without the health benefits of their soft drink, and then we all lose really. Don’t you think?

Adolf Hitler.

Dear Captain Genocide:

When I develop an argument, one of the first things I do is look for comparables. Is there a similar situation that we can look to for knowledge?  As I’ve sat here, thinking about this over the last week or so, I can’t come up with anything that is directly applicable. This is such a singular collection of weirdness, there is no place to turn to for ideas. In fact, if you took this to Hollywood and pitched it as a dystopian sci-fi fantasy, the idea would be turned down as “too unrealistic”.

Hold on a second. You’re saying that a group of 30 individuals trek out into the desert…and then they ride their bikes off cliffs and are scored using a questionable system of judgement…and then…and then the winner earns enough money to buy a reasonably priced family sedan…and second and third place earn enough money to pay for their weekend and a bus ticket home…and then…what happens to the rest of the competitors?  Bragging rights?  Get the fuck out of here.

My apologies if somebody has already made a Hunger Games comparison, somewhere along the way.  There is almost no point in talking or arguing about this any longer because we’ve entered into the domain of bad teenage fantasy/drama. There is no winner.

Maybe it’s for this reason that I really don’t want to talk about Rampage this week.  I don’t want to talk about Rampage because I wasn’t there and I don’t personally know any of the riders that were involved.  I don’t want to talk about Rampage because everybody is talking about Rampage.  But then again, nobody is really talking about Rampage.  The endless Facebook posts and comments suggest that the situation deserves more attention than the handful of (admittedly awesome) articles that have so far been produced (here, here, here, here, here).

So even though I don’t want to talk about Rampage, but there are a couple of things that I can’t get beyond, that are leading me to talk about Rampage.

  1. It is shameful that a competitor injured in one of our sports largest events is left to raise money for his recovery via an online fundraiser.  His family and friends shouldn’t have to do this.
  2. It is shameful that the company that has publically put the most on the line to support Paul…isn’t one of his direct sponsors and has arguably the shallowest pockets of any of the event sponsors.

I fully understand that there is a counter argument to be made to this one, and trying to change the minds of anybody out there that thinks differently is a near impossible task.  The arguments reach deeply into the right wing/left wing divide and far smarter folks than I have far more advanced things to say about such things.  But I’ll still try.

Back in University, I remember there being a question on an exam that almost nobody could figure out. After it was all said and done, one of the good engineers expressed bewilderment that we hadn’t solved it. “But it was easy. I just took it back to first principles, derived the equation and plugged in the numbers.”  I still have no idea what he was talking about.

However, I’ve started thinking about this statement relative to political discourse. We so often degenerate into these discussions about ideology that are so distorted by outside interests, there’s no chance we can come to an agreement. But what if we broke it down further?  There are many simple ideas that most of society can agree upon. What if we broke each argument down based on those “first principles”?  Could we start to see things the same way?

For me, these are the two “first principles” that I hope most people would agree upon and that I think apply here.

  1. You shouldn’t profit off the pain, suffering and lives of others.
  2. If you reap the rewards, you should also pay your fair share of the damages.

When I think about it this way, the situation doesn’t seem very confusing at all.

Still, I can understand why Red Bull or NBC or any of the other gigantic companies involved aren’t stepping in with offers of support.  If they open up the chequebook this time, are they setting a precedent for future liability?  So maybe there is a different way to handle this?

This actually started as an off-the-cuff joke, but the more I think about this, the more perfect it becomes.  At first, I was going to suggest that Red Bull pony up and provide blanket, gold plated, Cadillac medical coverage for anybody participating at Rampage.  But that’s some seriously old world thinking.  Instead, what Red Bull needs to do is sign up an “Official Health Care provided by” sponsor for next year.  This is a win-win-win-win type of scenario.  Red Bull gets to save their precious dollars and can pump that money back in to complaining about Formula 1 regulations.  Some vampire of a health insurance company can gain priceless exposure.  The athletes can continue to risk their lives without worrying about going bankrupt in the process.  And the fans can stop worrying about this stuff and get back to complaining about the judging.  Win.  Win.  Win.  Win.

I would also like to end this Red Bull slag fest off on a positive note.  Having top notch medical personnel on site and a helicopter on standby is amazing and Red Bull deserves to be recognized for this.  Unfortunately, while fantastic, this year’s events show that this is not quite good enough.  And if they follow my plan, next year somebody else will foot the bill for the helicopters.

Actually.  Final note.  I hope everybody keeps on top of Paul’s recovery.  Let’s wish him well and rally for change.

Uncle Dave

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Adolf –  you win  Ryders Thorn anitiFOG eyewear. 

First principles?

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Beatnik  - Oct. 28, 2015, 3:03 p.m.

Race for last on this topic, zzzzzzzzz


Big D  - Oct. 28, 2015, 10:57 a.m.

regardless of all of the other moral blah blah….

It will be a long time before there is any real money in our sport. Look at the link to compare what surfers make on the pro tour after what, five decades?, of pro surfing. And this is on the mainstream (mostly boring) tour, not the big wave dudes who are surviving on meager sponsorship if anything. Top surfer (if a quick google research yields a roughly correct result) is only making 1.5 or so and that dwindles exponentially. If you aren't in it for the fun and the glory you will likely be sadly disappointed.


NELSON  - Oct. 28, 2015, 9:56 a.m.

Finally, a discourse about Rampage and of course it comes from Dave. In other pieces on this site I've yet to read about a rider committee; is there one? Do the riders collectively come together prior to the event, even at Crankworks, to discuss terms and conditions with the even host/producer? If yes, what are the results of negotiations? If not, what the hell are they thinking? Maybe I'm wrong, but you'd think after a decade of events like this someone would have this figured out.

And please, enough with the opinion pieces NSMB, I've lost count. Put some journalistic effort into finding out what's going on. There's bound to be an interesting story behind all of this.


Lacy Kemp  - Oct. 28, 2015, 11:49 a.m.

About the rider committee- after I wrote my piece last week, one of the Rampage riders called me and told me that that is exactly what the FMB is supposed to be… take that as you will. I tried going to the FMB website to read what its mission statement says, but the page wouldn't load. Maybe someone else will have better luck.


NELSON  - Oct. 28, 2015, 2:31 p.m.

Coming soon?


wizard3000  - Oct. 27, 2015, 9:29 a.m.

f#@% Redbull they are worth more than $4 billion. The are being to f#@%ing greedy.


Justin  - Oct. 26, 2015, 10:59 p.m.

If you can't beat the system, make the system work for you.


Stephen Park  - Oct. 26, 2015, 10:35 p.m.

Very much agree, Dave. So far as I am concerned, watching Rampage is being part of the "system". So for me, especially having enjoyed it over a number of years now and garnered many hours of enjoyment, I felt it necessary to make a donation. I only wish more felt the same way.

I have challenged others who watched Rampage to also make a donation, only to be disappointed by some MTBr's responses. They include everything from variations of "the riders knew what they were doing so it's not on me" to a bury your head in the sand "the sponsors will pay". 🙁


Nat Brown  - Oct. 26, 2015, 10:24 p.m.

Nice reply.


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