From unawares of MotoGP’s existence when we first met to near religious devoutness now, my wife, Maria, has become a verifiable MotoGP junkie. She knows the racer’s names, what bikes they ride, teams they ride for, tracks they ride at, and the countries hosting the rounds. Unsurprisingly, she’s enamored with the charismatic, nine-time world champion, Valentino Rossi. The curly light brown hair, blue eyes, adorable accent, charisma, intellect, racing talent, win record, fame, riches all conspire to send her heart aflutter. His finishing position oftentimes dictates how good or bad a Sunday afternoon I’m going to have. And then Sepang happened and she’s been in a tailspin ever since.
It all began at the opening press conference in Sepang when Rossi accused Marc Marquez of intentional sandbagging during the previous Phillip Island round. A possibility of his insinuation being a joke was later dispelled during Rossi’s subsequent press conference with the Italian media.
An earnest look of confusion on her face, Maria turns to me and says, “But, Marquez passed Lorenzo on the last lap and won at Phillip Island … How can Rossi say that?”
How, indeed? The remarks caught everyone (except for maybe Lin Jarvis) by surprise. Even more surprising was Rossi’s follow-up accusations that Marquez perhaps fabricated stories of Rossi being his childhood hero, questioning if Marquez really did have Rossi posters on his wall. Wow! Seriously? Add conspiracy theorist to Rossi’s resume.
I’ve been watching Rossi’s GP career since it began in the 125cc class two decades ago. Reaching into my trunk of historical racing knowledge, I tell Maria that this could possibly be some kind of Rossi-Jedi mind trick. Unbeknown to her is Rossi’s history of coercive persuasion. She’s loathe to believe me until MotoGP commentator Nick Harris reiterates my statement during FP1. In my mind, though, I’m grasping for excuses because these recriminations don’t echo the cunning subterfuge of which Rossi is capable.
The Sepang race weekend finds us in San Francisco celebrating our anniversary. We still set aside time to watch the remaining free practices and qualifying. The unfolding soap opera pervades everything MotoGP. After a night on the town I awake Sunday and begin watching the race. Maria’s flitting around the hotel room. My superstitious wife won’t watch the race, certain that Rossi’s comments are bad juju. On lap seven, she’s proven right.
“Rossi just took Marquez out!” I exclaim. Maria rushes over and we watch instant replay after instant replay. Maybe Rossi didn’t take him out, but his actions are questionable. The trip home is doleful. Thank god it’s a one-hour flight and not an eight-hour drive.
It’s not ’til days later Maria watches the first six laps of the Sepang GP. It’s her turn to exclaim, “What the hell is that punk-ass Marquez doing?” The back and forth, knife’s-edge passing is mesmerizing, but she’s furious that Marquez keeps impeding Rossi’s forward progress as Lorenzo inches away in the distance. For her, Marquez’s riding justifies Rossi’s reaction.
But wait, “Doesn’t Rossi’s verbal attack justify Marquez’s riding?” I ask in devil’s advocate style. “Rossi is embroiled in a championship battle with Lorenzo but chose to attack Marquez. He’s like Germany fighting two fronts. If I were Marquez and had just endured a weekend’s worth of Rossi lobbing verbal bombs my way I most likely would have retaliated the same way Marquez did. ‘Screw you Rossi and screw your championship,’ is what I’d be thinking as I again passed him up the inside.”
The two were destined to meet on the track. Did Rossi, after affronting Marquez since Thursday, think Marquez would submissively comply with Rossi’s championship agenda? “Well, it’s not very sportsmanlike of him,” says Maria in regards to Marquez. To which I reply that it wasn’t very sportsmanlike of Rossi to be taunting him the way he was.
There’s fault on both sides complicating the issue. Not like back in the day when it was more apparent who wore the white hat and who wore the black one. Rossi wasn’t perfect back then and he’s not perfect now, but this recent fracas has, for me, tarnished, however slightly, his shiny knight armor. Not so for Maria. She’s acquitted Rossi of all crimes and returned to her previous state of adoration.
I may not totally agree with her, but that’s okay; it’s marriage, right? At least I know who she’s thinking about when her eyes are closed during those intimate encounters between the sheets. “I scissorly love you,” I whisper into her ear in my best Vale impression.
These are for you, Hon.