Aug 21, 2015

Posted by in Science, Bikes

Doctored – MotoGP’s Obsession with Valentino Rossi

Doctored – MotoGP’s Obsession with Valentino Rossi

Within his own sport, from the fans to the media to the organisers themselves, the preoccupation with Valentino Rossi is staggering.  Why does this obsession exist?  It can’t just be his talent can it? This is part one of a series of three articles examining the future problems facing MotoGP as a result of this fandom of one particular rider.  

Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further.  I am not, in this article, nor elsewhere, disputing the fact that Valentino Rossi is an incredibly talented motorcycle racer.  He is a seven time MotoGP World Champion as well as World Champion of the 125cc and 250cc class.  He’s won the second most Grand Prixes of anyone, ever.  He’s won the Suzuka 8 Hour.  And at 36 years of age, at the time of writing, he is right in the fight for this year’s championship.  To suggest he is not one of the sports all time greats would be absolute madness.  However, that I need to point this out off the top is kind of the point of this article in many ways.

Nor am I looking to get into an argument about whether Rossi is the GOAT.  The Greatest of All Time.  That is something that is purely a matter of opinion.  Many people will swear till they are blue in the face and have worn their keyboard bashing fingers to the bone, that he is.  Personally, I’d hang the GOAT medal around the neck of one Mike Hailwood, but as I say, that’s a discussion for another time and another place and preferably involving pints of something.

Nor, I guess I must declare, am I massive fan of any of Rossi’s key rivals.  I am a fan of motorcycle road racing.  Grand Prixes, Superbikes, Road Racing and so on.  It’s the sport I love.  I cheer for a great race, not a rider.  I cheer for skill, not only the skill of one.  If there’s one rider I do actively remove my hat of impartiality for though, I must confess, it’s for Remy Gardner in Moto3 but that’s because his old man is who got me interested in MotoGP in the first place and the Gardners are friends with my family, so, fine, that’s a vested interest.  You got me.  But it’s hardly relevant here.

What I want to look at in these series of articles is ‘Rossi-Mania.  ‘Rossi Fever’.  I capitalise it because I think it’s a real thing that could be defined by science and medicine.  Why is it that fans, the media and even the sport’s governing body are so utterly, blinkeredly obsessed by Valentino?  Why does he get the free pass many other, not just MotoGP riders, but greats of their own sports, do not enjoy?  What is it about him, and humans in general, that such blind hero worship is not just observed in the case of #46, but is entirely the norm?  It’s not something I’ve ever witnessed with any other sports person in history.  And I’m curious as to why.  And if it’s a good thing for the future of the sport in general.

There’s three areas I want to look at as mentioned above.  His popularity amongst fans, the media’s portrayal of him and his place within the sport itself.

For Part One, let’s start with the fans.  The fans of MotoGP and, of course, more specifically, Valentino Rossi himself.

To merely state that Valentino Rossi is the most popular MotoGP rider is to understate things massively.  That would be like saying oxygen is quite a popular gas amongst animals.  By way of comparison, in his prime, Michael Jordan was unquestionably the best, and also the most popular basketball player, arguably the most popular and well known sportsperson overall, in the world.  He received the bulk of the fan and press attention, but a lot of this had to do with the fact he was winning.  Everything.  MVPs, scoring titles, gold medals, championships, battles with Danny DeVito led cartoon aliens, you name it, he won it.  Now, while it is true that in years gone past, especially during the birth of the 990cc era, Rossi too was winning everything put in front of him, the subsequent levels of adulation heaped on Rossi, across the board, are seemingly unaffected by his results.  

His popularity has not waned from his days of domination to his disasterous run at Ducati to his late career resurgence now.  Jordan was always popular but he was surpassed in fan and media excitement by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and others in his later career, especially when he was playing for the Wizards.  A team who, at that time, were basically the 2011 Ducati of the NBA.  In Jordan’s final year the fans did not even vote him to the starting lineup for the All-Star Game.  Vince Carter was more popular.  Now, Vince Carter was no slouch but you take me point.  And yet, by contrast, during Rossi’s Ducati tenure the largest queues at the merchandise stands at any GP would always be, without fail, at the VR46 huts. The crowds remained a sea of yellow.

Aside from his popularity I wonder about the benefit of the doubt given to Rossi by fans as well.  It seems for a Rossi fan there is no grey area.  And indeed, for casual fans of racing, Rossi will more often than not get the benefit of the doubt without argument.  For example, and I offer these without judgement, think of Jerez 2005, Laguna 2008, Motegi 2010 and Jerez 2011.  Now, imagine if you will, the reaction to incidents in those four races if Rossi had been in the position of the other guy involved?  It’s worth thinking about.  Not about who was right or wrong, just simply the shift in public reaction.  And there’s a solid scientific reason for that, which I’ll get to.

dba2195a87232d689550fe18a2811085Why people flocked to Rossi to begin with is, I’d suggest, for a number of reasons.  As a youngster, in his 125cc and 250cc days he was a big personality.  He joked and mucked about with victory celebrations at a time when the sport was perhaps lacking personalities.  Mick Doohan was dominating the 500cc class like no-one had for a very, very long time but Doohan was what you might call ‘the consumate professional’.  Doing press annoyed him. He didn’t go in for big celebrations after a win.  He got on the bike, rode the shit out of it, won, and went home.  Before Doohan there had been the much loved flamboyancy of Kevin Schwantz and until Rossi arrived, himself an openly large fan of Schwantz, there hadn’t been that big personality in the sport.  Fans were drifting away and an injection of some sort was thought to be required.

And so Rossi was the right guy at the right time.  That’s how it started.  That he had the talent to back it up was obviously an integral part of that.  Many purists might’ve been annoyed by his antics but they would at least begrudgingly admit that he had earned them unlike their often voiced disdain for the likes of Randy Mamola in his Cagiva days for ‘too much showboating, not enough winning’.  And Rossi also recognised the value of a brand, something that was becoming more and more important.  The constant #46, the dayglo yellow, the sun and the moon.  He was a ready made package.  It’s worth noting that, aside from a few exceptions such as Kevin Schwantz’s #34 or Barry Sheene’s #7, keeping the same number year to year wasn’t exactly the done thing before Rossi.  He excited current fans of the sport, reinvigorated some old ones and brought in swarms of new ones.   They were Rossi fans first, bike racing fans second, if at all. And this where a separation begins for me.

There is, in sport, a difference between a spectator and a fan, as discussed by Beth Jacobson from the University of Conneticut in her 2003 paper.  Spectators watch a sport, and enjoy it, often just for the sport, the contest.  A good example here being myself during the current Ashes series.  As both a British and Australian citizen my allegiance, or ‘fandom’, if you like, is split.  I don’t care who wins.  I just want to watch a good game of cricket.  When this hasn’t been an option, as all the games have been one-sided affairs one way or the other, my interest has waned.  A fan does not do this.  They are invested.

fan-club-valentino-rossi-mugelloThis is where what social psychologists call a ‘collective identity’ comes into play.  These identities can come and go depending on circumstance.  There are political collective identities during an election perhaps, or ones of class in society.  In terms of sport, during the course of the live event, these collectives form for the duration of the event.  Researchers Hirt, Zillman, Erickson & Kennedy published a paper in 1992 that suggested that sports fans of a particular player or team are unique in that their community is already formed, ready made, before any individual members have already actually met.  When someone arrives at a race track in yellow, you already know that they are on your side.  Over time, this grows and grows.  Humans’ need to feel like they are part of a group is built into us by evolution.  For safety, for carrying on genes and so on.  So to be part of a winning group is a much more powerful urge and so, when Rossi arrived and started winning, then clearly this is where people flocked.  He was exciting and people wanted themselves some of that.

‘Balance Theory’ as proposed by the Austrian psychologist Fritz Heider, suggests that we are all looking to achieve some sort of psychological balance in our attitudes and beliefs.  It’s our lazy human brains not wanting to be challenged in many respects.  An example here might be, ‘I like George Clooney.  George Clooney likes Nespresso.  I like coffee.  So I will like Nespresso’.  Or the inverse, ‘I like George Clooney, but I hate Nespresso, therefore George Clooney must be a dick.  I don’t like George Clooney anymore’.  When it comes to sport this comes into play via a psychologial mechanism, part of Social Identity Theory which dates back to the early 20th century, called BIRGing (Basking in Reflected Glory).  It’s why sports fans will often refer to their team as ‘we’.  ‘I am their devoted fan, therefore if those players win the game, I have won the game’.  This is, clearly, a huge factor in the beginnings of Rossi-fandom and, during the period he was not winning like he used to, it plays a massive role in the strengthening of the myth.

More on that later.

Traditionally this existed in a stadium or perhaps down the pub during a telecast which, at the time Hirt and co penned their paper, was people’s only real access to their collective community. But in 2015, we have the internet.  And timing, as much as anything, has helped fuel the Rossi fandom flame.

This all makes pretty logical sense.  Obviously the most successful and exciting sports people are the most popular right?  Whilst not true in every case, it’s a fairly safe blanket bet.  The Chicago Bulls are more popular than the Milwaukee Bucks.

1753140747-23102011040909Collective Identity also comes into play with nationalism and patriotism.  Motorsport is massive in Italy and now the fans had a true Italian star to get behind.  There have been countless papers in sociology and beyond about national identity in sport but that’s not something I want to get into here.  Now, it is fair to say Rossi is hugely popular amongst non Italian fans as well which is something that, in MotoGP certainly, falls into the same collective identity system.  There are only a handful of MotoGP riders to choose from as a fan.  It’s why Rossi is so popular around the world because there aren’t necessarily riders from countries where the sport is very popular like Holland or Indonesia.  It’s why the NBA and the EPL are more popular than local leagues.  

Britain especially took Rossi to heart.  His reign was at a time when the UK was severely lacking in MotoGP talent but interest in racing was high thanks to Carl Fogarty and James Toseland in WSBK.  The likes of Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow and Danny Kent were many years way and so, loving to back a winner, the Brits jumped on board Rossi.  He was a bit of a laugh and fitted right in with the sort of racer that Brits loved.  Brits went in for showmen or gutsy riders.  They had adored his like before.  The showmanship of Schwantz and Sheene and the guts of a Gardner or a Sarron.

Also Rossi lived in London for a time.  And here’s where it gets interesting.

During Rossi’s time in London he had, essentially, been paying a lot less tax than he should’ve been.  Both in Italy and the UK.  Now, Rossi was not what you might traditionally call a tax cheat by any means.  He was in London, not an island off of Malta.  And when it all caught up to him, and the lawyers duked it out, he swallowed the pill and didn’t run, he paid up.  Some £30 million plus.  And he returned to Italy.  His reputation entirely untarnished.

Wait, what?


Photo Credit HRC

Now, you can argue back and forth about the ethics and the morals of what did and didn’t happen in this situation but usually one whiff of tax avoidance around a celebrity and the UK media and fan base take a deli number to line up to nail them to the wall. Not even Take That was immune and when the British public turns on Take That no-one would seem safe.  Rossi, on the other hand, was seen hard done by.  That the tax department was just out to get him. And he was a hero for paying up.  I’m sorry, what?  Again, you can research the case and make up your own mind, I’m not here to judge, but can you imagine anyone else getting this almost universal free pass?  Even if that’s true it’s usually the job of people to simply read a headline and jump to the exact opposite conclusion.  Motorsport forums the world had fans falling over themselves to defend him.  And he gained fans.  None left.  One would expect at least some to take a leave of absence.  And yet the legend grew.

Because now these fans were invested, massively.  They could not remove themselves from him because they, through BIRGing, were him.  Which brings us to CORFing.  The other side of the social identity coin.  Cutting off Reflected Failure.

You come at Rossi, you’re coming at us.

CORFing can take many forms in sport.  The often used comic example in the UK concerns Andy Murray in England, where he is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses, enabling fans to distance themselves from the failure but be included in the victory.  Bandwagons come into play here as well, and bandwagon supporters are of course the bane of any ‘true fan’.  I’ve been a Fremantle Dockers member since day dot so I know a thing or two about that.  Talk to me when you’ve sat in the outer in the WACA in a winter storm, drenched to the bone watching us (look at me BIRGing) take a 100 point beating (or maybe not.  Maybe that’s BIRFing, basking in reflected failure).  But Rossi fans did not dwindle during his dark years.  They still came.  Only when he was not physically there, during his broken leg in 2010, did they stay away, not during his disastrous Ducati years of 2011 and 2012.

In an 1980 paper, two psychologists, Cialdini and Richardson took a look at how college sports fans in the US deal with loss and it is a phenomenon very much at work when it comes to Rossi. They observed, by surveying and studying a large sample size of students, that when their self esteem was threatened, after their school lost a basketball or football game, rather than accept the defeat, or jump off the bandwagon, or even attack their own team for not playing well enough, they resorted to what Cialdini and Richardson called ‘Blasting’.

Photo Credit The Age

They were part of the school, as students, so to attack the team, even in outrage would be to attack themselves.  And so they attack, critisize and belittle the other school.  Not to put them off their game as the game was already over, but, as the author’s quoted, in an attempt to “look good to observers, one option available to us would be to make those with whom we are negatively connected with look bad: to publicly blast the opposition”.  The collective identity must be protected.

They are protecting themselves, not Valentino himself.  He doesn’t need protecting.  He’s got a thick skin.  He’s, whether publicly admitted or not, aware sometimes he cannot win.  It’s the fans protecting each other from competitors to their crown, their shared glory.

This is often seen in sport amongst rapid fans, or in intense rivalries such Man U and Liverpool.  Or when people’s politics spill into sport such as the booing on Adam Goodes recently in the AFL by a handful or narrow minded, ignorant, racist, morons.  To put it lightly.  But with Rossi, it is all about the man himself.

There’s two examples that show the extremity of this when it comes to Valentino Rossi.

The first is that infamous, frankly disgusting, Day of Champions at Donington Park in 2007.  I wrote a big article about it at the time and was attacked for it by Rossi fans.  And, in many respects, the parallels to Adam Goodes, although in an entirely non-racial way I must add, are obvious.

Rossi was struggling in 2007.  The tyres and the bike were not to his liking.  He had lost the championship last year for the first time since most of his fans had become fans.  Rossi had fallen.  They were already on the defensive, ‘blasting’ Nicky Hayden as lucky and undeserving as a champion.  Nonsense of course and, as Julian Ryder is often quoted as saying, the more distance we get from 2006, the more we appreciate Hayden’s achievement that year.  But in 2007, Rossi’s climb back to the top that had been largely tipped, had not arrived.  There was a new kid in town on a new bike.  They hadn’t liked Mick Doohan back in the day, and now here he was again, only this time calling himself Casey Stoner.

Stoner had said that he wasn’t a huge fan of Donington Park (many weren’t, especially the spectators) and this was supposedly the kicking off point.  But, I’d argue, that’s bollocks.

The biggest cheers of the Day of Champions, a superb day of fundraising for the Riders for Health Charity held annually at the British Grand Prix, were always reserved for Rossi, the local riders and usually Colin Edwards who fitted the mould of everything the British crowd loved. Gutsy, a good laugh and a man who knew his place at Yamaha.  Don’t beat Rossi.  So when Casey Stoner, leader of the title chase at this point, came on stage one might’ve expected him to not get the sort of cheers of the others because he was a relative unknown, didn’t have that big personality and so on.  Instead he was roundly booed.  At a charity event.  It was entirely appalling.

Photo Credit FastDates

Photo Credit Fastdates.

The excuse was he had bashed Donington.  Or that he had bagged out England.  Or something . He had lived in England for years, began his career there and was hugely fond of the place. So none of that rang true.  At this stage he hadn’t even publicly said something non-glowing about Rossi as he later would.  All he had done was beat him, fair and square.  He was the enemy of the highest order.  He was an attack, the first real, sustained, genuine one there had ever been, to Rossi and his diehards.  Rossi was already down but 2007 was meant to be the comeback year.  And yet here was this kid, this really, really talented kid from Australia of all places, already a mortal Ashes like enemy of England.

And so the only defence was to attack him.  Belittle him as a way to prop themselves up.  It was the bike, not him.  The tyres, not the rider.  Rossi just had bad luck etc etc.  And they booed.  I remember it well.  It was the first time I’d ever seen such a thing in a MotoGP, a sport where the upmost respect was usually given to all riders.  They were after all risking their lives for our entertainment.  The defence was it had nothing to do with him winning, it was about his attitude, or his comments about Donington or anything else.  ‘It’s because he stages for free kicks, not because his Aboriginal’.

This was when I first began to think about the collective identity, and all that came with it, of Rossi-Mania.  With Stoner it just grew and grew.  Logic went out the window.  Stoner was the antichrist.  The antirossi.  From Laguna 2008 to Jerez 2011, it was literally impossible to have a sensible discussion about Casey Stoner with most MotoGP fans because most of them were only interested in a Rossi defence first and foremost.  I once likened it to a fellow MotoGP writer that it felt like arguing with a creationist at times.

The second example is simply, the internet.  Sporting websites have always been a place for debate and ribbing of opposition supporters and so on.  Most of the time it is good natured or genuine debate save for a few bad apples.  Though to stumble onto a pack of rapid Rossi fans on an internet forum wherein someone has dared to suggest that, perhaps, Jorge Lorenzo or Casey Stoner has some modicum of talent, is to suggest that you wish to render their children orphans. The blind defence of The Doctor is incredible.  I have, in all honesty, never seen such a thing.

To go back to basketball, Lebron James is, right now, clearly the best player on the planet.  But to read the comments under an article about him on ESPN is a mix of love, hate and indifference. To read the comments under any MotoGP article on somewhere like Crash or MCN and it will invariably have turned into an argument about Rossi.  It might be someone simply saying, ‘Nice lap by Lorenzo’.  Within a few comments you will find, ‘Fuck Lorenzo, he’s only good because he stole Rossi’s setup’.  It might be an article about Suzuki but you’ll end up with ‘Rossi could win on a Suzuki tomorrow’.  It is the Godwin’s Law of MotoGP online.

Marquez vs Rossi at Laguna. Photo credit BBC

Marquez vs Rossi at Laguna. Photo credit BBC.

The speed of the defence.  One could argue, as I will throughout these articles, is hugely scary for MotoGP.  The fanbase for Rossi far outweighs the fanbase of motorcycle grand prix racing. Rossi fans support, unquestionably, their hero.  They will occasionally root for the underdog, a non-threat to Rossi such as Colin Edwards, and then even the respect begins to wane for the rest.  Lorenzo was fine, till he started beating Rossi.  Marquez was a fun new novelty, and for a while it was fine he was beating Rossi because Rossi openly liked Marc.  And then he didn’t, especially post Assen this year, and now he’s a public enemy of Rossi fans everywhere.  He’s suddenly been ‘found out to be a fraud’.  A four time world champion we’re talking about here.  It’s the world’s most predictable graph.  The sort of thing Matt Parker drools over.  I’ll take a look more into the online nature of Rossi-Mania with the media section in Part Two.

Sports fans will defend their teams though, that’s not uncommon, what intrigues me with Rossi is the level of ‘blasting’ and CORFing that takes place.  Why is it?  Perhaps, it’s to do with my first point, the spectator versus fan situation.  A great deal of Rossi fans came to the sport via him, and so, without him, there is no MotoGP to them.  If Rossi falls, there is no Plan B.  Every other rider is simply a background artist to the Rossi Show.  And so he must be defended at all costs for without him, there is no MotoGP.  It’s entirely possible that this the subconscious thought at play in the minds of many a Rossi fan.  And that’s a massive problem for the sport and it’s an idea I will later argue is not exclusive to fans.

Now, all of this is not necessarily to ‘have a go’ at Rossi fans although I think it’s fair to say some of them could tone it down a little, and I am sure this article in particular will be seen as such. It’s also not to have a go at Rossi the man, nor his career.  The latter speaks for itself and we’ll be looking into the former a little more in the next part, although in my infrequent face to face dealings with him as a member of the MotoGP press over the years I have found him to be no more or less pleasant than most of the other riders on a race weekend.

I just think it’s one of the largest unexplored phenomens in MotoGP.  You can dismiss much of the pshycology as mumbo jumbo if you like, but you’d be wrong, at least on a scientific level. These are human processes that exist, and have been tested over and over, I am merely attempting to apply them to the sport I cover.  You can dismiss gravity if you like, it’s still taking place.

Next time, we look at the media and I don’t exclude myself from that.  So that should be fun.

Part 2 is here.

All referenced papers can found via the links in the main body of the article.  Special thanks to Cardiff University neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett for his assistance.  Photo Sources credited where information was available.  Please contact the page if you feel something has been incorrectly attributed.

  1. My personal observation is that Rossi is the perfect meeting of three key factors – talent, results and charisma.
    Even the most popular sports stars are lucky to have two of those three at anything above an 8 out of 10, wheras Rossi has a 10 is each category. He’s a statistical freak of nature, and the perfect storm of having everything his fans would want to have for themselves.

    • I agree with Bill. In my life experience I have never met someone as charismatic as Rossi; and I am not Italian. That his charisma can cross cultures is, in my experience, rare. Personally, my main objective is to watch good competitive racing. That said, I do tend to pick a “horse” to root for each race. This year I’ve mostly been rooting for Jorge. But, even I have to admit that Jorge lacks charisma, as does Danny Pedrosa, and most of the rest of the field. They all have it of course, but to varying degrees; but no one is even close to Rossi in the charisma department. Marc, at first, you are drawn to (perhaps I should reword and say “I” was drawn to). And he holds, always, my utmost respect for his skills. But that smile of his only seems to go skin deep. His charisma is lost on me.

      So, my point, in the end, is that Rossi, quite simply, is the most likable fellow on the screen, and that’s why people root for him. Someone else recently stated that we need more “villans” in MotoGP so as to provide drama and contrast against a field of really nice, skilled, but ultimately uncharismatic riders. Even Batman would be nothing but a weird guy in a cape if not for the Joker. Few more villans and we’ll start to see other rider’s character in stark contrast, and we’ll more easily be able to ‘obsess’ over them as well. They need their Biaggi too!

      We root for Rossi, because he’s the one most easily to root for. In fact, I would argue that the more Rossi loses, the more I’ll root for him.

      Good article though, I look forward to the next two installments.

    • Exploring Charisma is fine idea however as people better than me have said defining Charisma is like chasing the butterfly. I would encourage the people to watch the actual footage and commentary from Rossi’s early GP career – there are some free on youtube under the motogp classics section. Rossi was dimissed as another talented Italian rider who was helped by the a Honda.

      Watch his second year in MotoGP and he was classed as lucky for making the move to 4 stroke and then again being on Honda.

      His move to Yamaha took balls – real balls – ok it made him a lot of money but that first year with Yamaha made the mass’s stand up and take notice. Winning a champion on the yamaha of time with about a 20kph straight line speed deficit is like Maverik Vinyalis winning next years championship on a Suzuki.

      People like talent, people like underdogs and people are loyal. Credit everyone with ability to make up there own mind rather than following the mass’s and realise he has done some amazing and unexpected things which is what draws people to motorcycle racing.

  2. Hilarious..
    A Casey Stoner fan trying to work out why Rossi is the GOAT..

    Mate..instead of linking us to all those high brow theories from Dr this an Prof that, which supposedly give the piece some credibility.. how about getting some basic facts right, like the year Valentino broke the leg?


    • Entitled to disagree obviously, but can’t see what you mean about the year he broke his leg being wrong. That was most certainly 2010.

      • Nice edit..

        But seriously, many Rossi ‘Fans’ are fat old wheezing tab smokers, who have been watching the sport since before you were born.. So how does that work?

        Do you not think there maybe an element constantly deriding Rossi – not to mention his fan-base – because they are jealous?

        The Brits support him because they haven’t got a winner of their own?

        Tell us more about your opinion on Jerez 2005, Laguna 2008(oh dear), Motegi 2010 and casey stamping his feet by the trackside when Val skittled him in 2011?


        • Another Rossi lifer who comes rushing to his defense anytime he feels his idol is slighted. You’re so utterly predictable.

          It’s as if the article is written solely about you, and no one else. The real scary part is how accurate it really is, and how it describes you to perfection, literal perfection. I can see why you are so upset as it’s difficult to look one’s self in the mirror when facing so much hypocrisy.

          If you can say with a straight face that if it was Sete who overcooked the corner, and used Rossi as a berm to win at Jerez, and you would be okay with it you’re a liar.

          You have to be okay with Marquez’s move on Rossi at Laguna simply because you cannot publicly, knowingly display your hypocrisy.

          Had Lorenzo broken his leg and was out of title contention and fought with Rossi that hard at Motegi while he was trying to wrap up the championship you would be calling for his head. But since it’s Rossi that was acting like a D-bag he is off the hook.

          Rossi never has and never will do wrong in your eyes. The exact things that hypocrites like you spout off about with other riders, Rossi has done the same, but it doesn’t count. Those examples are almost endless. So again, what is it about this article that is inaccurate?

          • As an old fat dying smoker who was reared by motorcycle racing parents and brought to every race from the late 40s and who remembers GP racing UGP since 1952 and following the GP races by reading motor cycle news and motor cycling.
            I’ve seen all the greats since Geoff Duke who was the first GP superstar and recently passed RIP with barely a mention some of his achievements shall never be surpassed. I left NI early 69 and lost touch with GP racing for a few years but with the help of Duke videos/DVDs TV and more recently youtube and the last 20 years foxtel, so from 7 to 70 (the last 20 years much to the disharmony with my wife) I have seen most races, however nothing compares with my beloved UGP so yes I did see all the WCs from Duke to Ago up close and personal.
            Getting back on subject, when I first seen Rossi I saw his potential and really liked him however due to his one eyed fanboys and some of his less than ethical morals I’ve lost my liking for him I do respect him as a racer but that’s where my respect ends. To me Rossi is the PC narrative of today’s PC idiots (you know if the narrative doesn’t fit bend it until it does). I look to someone who knows what they’re talking about, and that would be an interview I saw with Ago who when asked who did he think was the GOAT answered Hailwood pressured for an answer replied because Hailwood could jump on anything and get the best out of it while he like Rossi had to have the perfect setup he went on to say Casey Stoner was like Mike a view I also have when one recalls Casey’s Ducati days compared to Rossi’s and having a giggle about the 80 second fix up and doing what and believe me the number of arguments I’ve had over this is unbelievable and when backed into a corner with no explanation they fall back to the only answer they can come up with 9 times 9 times 9 times. OH boy.
            I do have a soft spot in my heart for a couple of racers Ray Amm who when I was told of his death and being a child cried for a week and my all time fav Bob MacIntyre who won the 250cc UGP in 1962 by a country mile beating 5 or 6 WCs that race is embedded in my brain.
            Fhanks for this site very interesting.

  3. owen kirby says:

    Why should the phenomena that is valentino and his fan base even be explored,why should his popularity even be under investigation,
    There is an arguement that hailwood or surtees may have been the goat,and there is an arguement that casey was faster on a motorcycle,but to ask if valentino should or should not have the following he has just seems to be a tad irrelevant,and to be honest i think a litle provocative,surely there are more rellevant areas to be scrutinised in moto gp,,
    Ime sure even the staunchest stoner fans would admit vale is a godsend to their chosen sport,and would not be sitting round asking why casey was or was not adourned with such adulation,
    valentino is what he is and his fans like it,end of,,,

  4. Nunik Eka Sari says:

    I am new to Moto GP (since 2013), but I have known Rossi for more than a decade though I didnt know what Moto GP is. Now that I am a Moto GP fan, I have to say that it was because of Rossi. I’ve been questioning myself on how Rossi is closely attached to Moto GP and got most crowd in every live race; I realize that I have no exact answer. I think he has the charisma. And about the diehard fans supporting him in any situations, it simply is due to his love to his fans. It’s a common theory of “take and give”.

    • ‘take and give’
      You’ve hit the nail on the head.

      A well balanced guy. who hasn’t lost touch because of his fame.. but who is a warrior at heart.

      Fans of other riders, who are arguably as talented on a bike, don’t get it.. and like the aces they follow, are just plain miserable bastards.

      For Rossi, bikes are a way of life and he is interested in the development. He gives something back and will continue to be involved after he’s retired..
      Unlike some..

    • Dave Lace says:

      Several years ago we were leaving Mugello with some of the Rossi Fan Club people from Tavullia.
      My wife asked one of them why Valentino is as relaxed as he is!
      The answer came back, “He is just a normal man from a small town who is able to race motorcycles very fast!”

      That’s exactly how his close friends see him!

  5. I think there is a ‘cool’ factor that has to be taken into account. Whatever you say about Rossi, and I like him, he does have a certain amount of coolness. In the same way Steve McQueen was cool and all bike people have some kind of association with that kind of biking coolness that none of us really have. I think someone like Lorenzo doesn’t have that, but there is no doubt in my mind Lorenzo will be champion in 2015. Also Rossi is very media savvie. When he see’s he is on camera his demeanor will change, like Guy Martin, and people are taken in by it. Stoner was honest, to the point and real. You will always offend someone by being that honest. I’m not sure how genuine Rossi really is but people are taken in by his charm.
    He, like all the riders at this level, is incredible at racing motorbikes. You don’t have to be nice to be fast.

    • Abstolutely agree with the article. I’m from France and in le Mans its exactly the same as donington each year : Boeeing lorenzo and stoner is pathetic. I love vale and his personality but i’m starting To think that it will be a Good thing when he will stop his career. i’m tired of those Rossi fans who love rossi and not the motogp..the same that are happy when a rider crash and insulting the guy when he makes the move on rossi. All riders deserves the respect. None of us is capable of doing what they are doing…sorry for my english

  6. Madalena Simões says:

    Your article is very interesting and reveals a truth that I’m not proud of, being a Valentino’s fan.But however not every fan think like that. I’m aware of the things he does right so as the wrong ones. I’m not blind at all. He isn’t perfect and when He does a not so good result the “other type fans” (sorry I don’t Know how to call them ahaha) act like wasn’t his fault … all kinds of excuses including disrespecting other riders, for me this is very wrong. Every rider deserves respect.
    I’m going to be sincere.. When you have a Kid you don’t love him more or less if he sings better, if he runs faster… And that is what I feel about Rossi, If he is 10th in a race or 1st the feeling I get is the same… Love …Love ins’t a strong enough word. Although my heart just melts watching the way his face lights up when he wins.Of course I want him to win and want him to be happy about his results but if he can’t that’s okay he has got nothing to prove, He already proved to be one of the greatest man motogp ever seen. And I really think he’s the GOAT look at the things this men conquered and will conquer with 36 years old! 36! And I’m aware he will be not the only Excellent rider, but difficultly the ones that will arrive will have the personality that this legend has and his carisma. I’m not saying I’m the only one that think this way, not all his fans are like you’re saying, I know the real meaning of Yellow Family.
    Thank you for reading,

  7. He is moto gp period.he has made the Sport what it is today.

  8. I lost interest in reading any more of this drivel after the comment about Motogp racers “risking their lives for our entertainment”

    Wait, what? I’d argue that’s bollocks.

    They are all professional athletes competing at the pinnacle of their sport, all with one goal in mind. To be world champion. The fact they have an audience is largely incidental.

    Doohan rules, Casey is a knob.

  9. I’m sorry, but despite the strengths of this article I feel compelled to point out some points that are simply appeals to emotion and have no basis in fact. For example

    “… think of … Laguna 2008. Now, imagine if you will, the reaction to [the] incident in [that] race if Rossi had been in the position of the other guy involved?”

    You must be talking about the infamous corkscrew move that Rossi put on Stoner. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to imagine. We already know. Neither Rossi or his fans took the piss out of Marquez for that *nearly identical* move. That’s racing.

    Yes, I know I was paraphrasing and pulled out only 1 of the 4 examples listed. But for each of those I’m sure I can find an example of the same thing being done TO Rossi and his fans not getting all butthurt about it. It’s provocative (and doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking) to say that Rossi gets away with things other riders don’t, but the reality is that Rossi (and fans) take it every bit as well as it’s dished out.

    “During Rossi’s time in London he had, essentially, been paying a lot less tax than he should’ve been … can you imagine anyone else getting this almost universal free pass?”

    Again, we don’t have to imagine. Has anyone heard about Marquez (hate to keep using him as an example) moving to a tax haven? People wailed and screamed, but in the end it didn’t cost him any fans.

    Once again, Rossi — rather, the way he’s treated — is not exceptional in this regard.

    “So when Casey Stoner, leader of the title chase at this point, came on stage … he was roundly booed … All he had done was beat [Rossi], fair and square. He was the enemy of the highest order.”

    Ridiculous! The posit is that people didn’t like Stoner because he was beating Rossi. But if that’s the case, why didn’t Hayden get booed like that when he beat Rossi the year before? Why didn’t Lorenzo get booed when he beat him a couple of years later?

    Isn’t it possible that people, rightly or wrongly, just think Stoner is a dickhead? Clearly he didn’t get booed JUST because he was beating Rossi.

    Overall this is a pretty good article. Too bad it’s colored (and demeaned) by the Cult of Personality paranoia.

    • Thanks for the well thought out reply without resorting to mudslinging! Much appreciated! I don’t expect to sway your opinion however just wanted to raise some further points to consider or mull over on your three points.

      1) Wasn’t specifically referring to the corkscrew as Stoner himself said that wasn’t really the move he had an issue with, but rather other stuff. Again, not suggesting Stoner right and Rossi wrong, far from it, more raising the point that the general online discussion was to simply blanket discount one side of the argument as moaning or being a bad loser. And certainly in my time in MotoGP I have observed that Rossi fans are largely that are the most unable to deal with criticism of him, although an argument can be made that perhaps that just due to their greater numbers. ie. This comment of yours is one of the few I’ve gotten here and across many forms of social media attempting to make a point and not just abusing me.

      2) Your point about Marquez actually strengthens the point I was making. Many fans did say they wouldn’t support Marquez anymore, particularly Spanish ones and the basting he got in the press, rightly or wrongly, was very apparent whereas what Rossi was subject to was more forgiving or just simple unemotional reporting which obviously influences the public stance. I’m going to get into that more in Pt 2 next week.

      3) Lorenzo has been roundly booed, both in Italy and at Silverstone on the stage. I know because I was there, stood at the side of the stage as it was happening and a rather well known member of the MotoGP media, who I shan’t name said, ‘What the eff is wrong with these people?’ As for Hayden, he was not booed largely at Day of Champions that I can recall but I can remember all too well being at Valencia in 06 and hearing jeering at him on his cool down lap as ‘Rossi was robbed’.

      The Stoner booing argument is much deeper, and I did an article on it for another site years ago. You can say it’s ‘because he’s a dickhead’ or whatever but the more you boil it down you end up at ‘Because he’s not Rossi’, hence the Adam Goodes comparison. Now, yes, other riders also aren’t Rossi, but he is the literal polar opposite. Does that mean he deserves to be booed and insulted and so on a charity stage or podium or something? No, of course not. By all means, don’t support him and cheer for someone else but the dislike for Stoner is always tied to Rossi. If he complained it was always followed by, in most fans perception by, ‘Rossi never does that’ in the same way it was with Gibernau or Biaggi. Again, I’m going to look a lot more at that later.

      The point is, to say it’s not happening is just not true, and it’s a worry for the future. How much it matters is what’s open to debate, and one I’m hoping this articles will generate.

      Thanks again for the comment, any further comment from me on your points will hopefully be covered in Pt 2.

  10. Hey! Thanks! Thanks in 2 ways. One for publishing my comment. When I hit Submit and saw the “Awaiting Moderation …” tag I thought, “Well, I’m disagreeing. Not much hope of that one getting published.” It speaks highly of your integrity that you were willing to do so.

    Two, for giving my thoughts enough consideration to craft a lengthy and well reasoned response.

    Intellectually, I know I should wait until pt. 2 of your article to comment further. Emotionally, well … I got some shit to say. 😉

    1) “Wasn’t specifically referring to the corkscrew as Stoner himself said that wasn’t really the move he had an issue with, but rather other stuff.” I remember vividly watching that race and jumping off the couch numerous times. In the intervening years I’ve watched it multiple times. And, to my eye, it seems that the only instance that Stoner could sorta, kinda, maybe have a legit issue is the corkscrew pass. Otherwise it was clean racing and the only time contact occurred was when Stoner initiated it. From my perspective it just seems like sour grapes.

    2) “Many fans did say they wouldn’t support Marquez anymore …” Yes, that was certainly *said* by a number of fans, but how many *actually* stopped supporting him? It doesn’t seem like that many to me. I could be wrong.

    3) I was not aware of Lorenzo being booed like that. Like your media friend, I also have to wonder what’s wrong with those people. And booing Stoner at a charity event — world’s largest dickhead or not — is totally unacceptable, you’re right about that.

    A little side track here, but I had the pleasure of attending the Indy MotoGP this year (been trying to go for years, finally made it!) and a restaurant owner had this to say about the different types of fans that come to the track: “The Indy Car crowd are a bunch of snobbish assholes. The NASCAR people are rude and crude. But the MotoGP crowd? Mostly they’re nice and seem reasonably intelligent.” In that context (and from what I personally witnessed), it’s hard to imagine either of those incidents happening. Not that I disbelieve you in any way. It’s just … disappointing.

    You mention “a worry for the future” and I do have to agree with you. At Indy I was almost embarassed to be wearing a day-go yellow t-shirt because it seemed like EVERYBODY had some sort of Rossi gear. Yea, I’m a Rossi fan, but I can absolutely remember willing Schwantz to pass Rainey (didn’t happen often enough! haha), so I’m no “jump on the bandwagon” fan. And I don’t want to look like one. What’s gonna happen to the series when Rossi retires? Are all those “fans” going to disappear? I’m afraid they will.

    There are times when I wish I’d been born in a different era just so I could witness the changes. The ’60s come to mind. I was (just barely) alive during that time, but not old enough to take part in what was a revolutionary decade. Also, the ’20s, because — hey! — they were swinging. I’d like to be alive in the future, too, to see what kind of shit we’ll get into next. But one thing I am absolutely grateful for, and have been for ~10 years, is to be alive right now to watch the Doctor at work.

  11. Thanks for the article. I’m looking forward to the next and I’m guessing you are going to be outlining an armageddon scenario for when VR retires. ( I think the pay to view situation is worse actually for the sport)

    First thing is: in registering the Rossi phenomenon – riding talent is a red herring. I think we all know by now that in ideal conditions on a deserted track with the perfect team Stoner, Lorenzo and Marquez may well do a faster superpole than VR on the same bike. But all on track at the same time who’s your money on?

    I am nobody’s fan. But I am only gripped by MotoGP when VR is in a ‘battle’ for the lead. Otherwise the hypnotic seesaw of Lorenzo cornering majestically for lap after lap and the rise and fall of the revs puts me to sleep.

    When it comes down to it every one loves a rogue and a ‘rogue’ could be defined as someone who has talent, panache, bravado and most important humility ( at least on the surface)

    Lorenzo is not a rogue because his celebrations are awkward and contrived, his nature is hot-headed but he uses mind-techniques to control himself and we think he would like to control others. He started out being a great big barge-arse like de-angelo and others but once he realised he needed everyone to respect his space so that he could do his metronome thing he castigated others for doing what he used to do.

    Stoner is not a rogue because he doesn’t like us ( the press are our agents unfortunately, and he hates the press). He also doesn’t know when to shut up. He is too concerned with trying to put right real or imaginary slights, and can’t stand it when his rules of fair play are broken.

    Pedrosa wasn’t a rogue because he seemed to have the golden contract, never smiled, and looked like he was sh*t scared of being found out about something. Then he was found out about some boating exam and he took it on the chin, then started smiling more, and now copes extremely well with being no.2 to mr.Marquez who is stealing the best years of Dani’s career. So we like him now and we think he might be a bit of a rogue underneath.

    We admire Marquez’s mercurial talent ( same as Stoner – who wouldn’t?) but Marquez has always been a bit of a barge-arse too. Unlike Huggy however, Marquez’s rumbunctious style contributes to his laptimes so thats all to the good for him. But he’s not a rogue because he is not quite spontaneous enough in his track escapades to captivate the crowd. He practices his audacious moves over and over, (as he said he did at Assen) and is dismayed when out-manoeuvred by his ‘hero’

    So why are we engaged by Rossi? Because he genuinely is pleased to be there. Its not a job. He has money. Whats more he puts his ego on the line. Sete Gibernau got one over on him once and his quote was “he will never win another race” And he didn’t. Thats the sort of thing that fictional characters say, and it never works in real life, usually backfires in fact. When Marquez brilliantly replayed Rossi’s corkscrew trick on him Rossi hardly seemed to notice. (yeah right) We allow Rossi to get away with it because he entertains.

    Rossi ‘beat’ Gibernau, like he ‘beat’ Stoner and Biaggi. And whats more he not only beat ‘Honda’ who dared to say the bike was bigger than the rider, he rubbed everyone’s nose in it and entertained the world by NOT checking out and leaving a crap processional race, but hanging back, allowing overtakes, dicing to the last lap just to show that the bike is in every respect secondary to the rider if you want a good show. I live in hope that Yamaha will be able to provide Rossi with a much better bike than the rest before he retires so we can see these antics once more.

    Rossi is worshipped by people because he is himself in love with the hero character, and sometimes it comes true for him so we all believe in the fairy tale for 45 minutes. As with many worshippers Rossi fanatics tend to get disproportionately miffed if you insult their God.

    Unfortunately Rossi will never be as innately cool as Simoncelli but it is a very sad truism that only the cool die young so hopefully Rossi will be with us for a while yet.

    • PiedPiper says:

      I would actually correct you on something. Rossi never hangs back deliberately and he says this in his book. he only hangs back if he is certain that the cannot pull away this is when he chooses to sit until the final few laps otherwise he bolts.

      In response to the article I agree with most of it as a new fan I am not in the Rossi camp as the majority of people are. I do feel like Vale gets a free pass a large amount of the time e.g. Jerez 05 as although the reaction was originally as expected it has now been toned down to just a racing incident. I feel the phenomena you describe are accurate. an analogy for Rossi and Lorenzo occurred in F1 Hamilton came in immediately and was very popular for both his aggressive racing style and the fact there had not been a British world champion for 11 years at this point. then Vettel came along and started winning in controlling style and the fans hated this and thus hated him blaming his incredible results on the car and the car alone despite the fact that from 2011-13 he crushed his teammate and that as soon as he got beaten by his teammate he was *exposed* then for 2014 the mercedes hamilton was driving was infinitely better than the rest of the field and people turned a blind eye to it. I feel in both cases it is Ignorant and pathetic support who you support and dont crap on other people because they are not your favorite.

  12. Yeah Rossi has tons of fans because he has been in this sport for 15 years. He’s iconic. But we see that MotoGP fans are growing each year. Do you think they all (new fans) here because of Rossi? I don’t think so

  13. I’m not VR46’s fan but I respect him. It’s just his fans that annoyed me sometimes. His fanatic fans. They act like hooligans on social media. They’re rude and bitter when their idol get beaten. They don’t respect other riders. Seriously. I know they’re not tweens but they act childish like some Justin Bieber fans.

    • Could not agree more with that comment. To be sat at Luffield this year and hear a bigger cheer from the British fans when Rossi passed Cal than vice-versa was shocking! And on the Friday when the riders where on stage the deafening boos ringing out when Lorenzo unselfishly came out on stage to talk and sign autographs.
      Not to mention that when Vale left the stage and Bradders and Alex Lowes came out to talk, half the sea of yellow left while they were talking… At the British GP!

  14. Efil Rekib says:

    I am a Motorcycle Racing fan with no favourite racers although I do like Billy McConnell’s attitude. The article could reflect on Casey Stoner fans also, unable to see the wood for the trees. Casey could ride a Bike in ways that others were unable to, because of this Casey was able to achieve many Pole Positions which gave him a more than good chance of winning races & two Championships. The problem with Casey was that without the Pole Position down the grid surrounded by other Riders Casey became average because he did not like being in the mix, this is something that Casey Stoner fans cannot accept. Many other Racers in many other Championships relish being in the mix as does VR46, Casey was the catalyst of the boring years.

  15. I think it would be enormously helpful if the comments section of websites did not allow anonymity. If people had to write using their real names, would they write such nonsense? So this anonymity provides cover for cowards. And the colour of cowards is… ?

  16. Interesting article, but honestly I don’t think that much deep psychology annalysis is needed…

    I think it is obvious for most people that there are fans of the sport who of course like Rossi as the great rider that he is, and then there are the fans of Rossi the guy, Rossi the character, the ‘legend’ , it’s like a personality cult, they have an obsession with the guy, he obviously has a charismatic personality, the girls want to marry him, they boys want be him… the tipical celebrity cult.

    That’s fine and would not be a problem for most people, the problem is that these rossi-obsessed people bring down the sport, don’t respect it, bring a hoolingan mentality to it, don’t respect other riders, don’t care for anything, they boo riders on the podium, etc. even Rossi finds them embarrasing these days, he sometimes tries to get people to cheer for Lorenzo with not much sucess lol.

    I think Rossi is great and for me he’s the goat (ok I’m too young to have seen Hailwood), but his fanatical fans are an embarrasement to the sport and I can’t wait for them to dissapear when he retires.

  17. Great article, looking forward to the next parts!

  18. Dave Lace says:

    Quite enjoyed reading through this and am looking forward to the follow up articles!
    Now I’ll lay it on the line right from the start here, I’m a Rossi fan who would probably bleed Yellow if I was cut!
    I’ve been a Rossi fan since Graziano rode for Morbidelli in the 250 class. There was just something evocative about the combination of Italian bike and Italian rider that struck a chord with me!
    The combination was, quite simply, charismatic, and although I never had the pleasure of watching him for real I always followed his results via the pages of Motorcycle News.
    I clearly remember, back in ’96, watching the Malaysian GP from Shah Alam and the 125 entry list included one “Valentino Rossi” on an AGV Scuderia Aprilia. I said to my wife, “That’s got to be Graziano’s son!”
    History will show that the young Valentino started from 13th place and finished 6th, but for some reason we both felt that there was something special about him. We had no idea at that time just how special he was destined to become.
    I don’t believe that anyone who saw that race could have realised how special he was going to be – apart from his parents perhaps!

    I’ve been a fan of his since that day!

    I’d like to think that I’m not totally blinkered though because I’m also an old skool “Race Fan” who grew up with other idols like Hailwood, Ivy, Ago, Sheene, and one of my favourite underdogs, Helmut Fath!

    This leads me to Casey!
    Okay, I don’t like the persona that he showed to the camera but that doesn’t alter the fact that during his career he was (arguably) the fastest racer on the planet and quite incredible to watch if you took the time to study his technique! He was probably one of the first racers to put his trust in electronics, which prompted Filippo Preziosi to say that Casey was the only rider to ride the bike as he (Preziosi) had designed it to be ridden!

    Going back to those “Yellow people” who roundly booed Casey, please don’t consider us all to be the same!
    We were at Donington Park in 2009 when Andrea Dovizioso won the MotoGP race! During the podium celebrations we were rather saddened to hear two ladies “of a certain age” (who were clad head to toe in Yellow) discussing “Why are they were playing Valentino’s music when he hasn’t won?”

    There are those who are dire —and then there are others like us!

    Rarely do the two factions meet — or indeed agree!

  19. Funny because when I look back, Rossi actually put me off on watching and getting into Moto GP. It was Nicky Hayden that drew me into the sport. Sad, but fact. I get what this article is completely as it’s about time that people realise Moto GP is not just about Rossi. I never believe it’s been like that. I rather support other riders than Rossi.

    I hate Moto GP sometimes because of the Rossi hype and it’s like enough is enough cos there’s other riders to get behind apart from him.

  20. Lux (Rossi fan) says:

    Great article, I agree.
    There’s more than “being part of a group” too, I never go to races and don’t mingle with other race fans. And still see the man as “close to me”, as silly as that may sound.
    When I was 14 and dreaming of my first bike he was doing amazing things with a bike, and always with a happy personality, so I came to see him as “related to me” somehow.
    But again, that’s Rossi’s personality who made him relatable, it’s a quality he has.

    There are two points I wanna raise on this great article:

    Many people became fan of The Doctor because of his personality and silly antics after victories… However we forget one thing here: The Doc did on racetrack some of the most iconic moves and races this sport has ever seen. And some fans love him for that (too). Little important detail there.

    Many Rossi fans get attacked just for being Rossi fans. And we are not all out to bash other riders.

  21. There is a lot of words in this article, but it’s saying very little, for me at least. I understand that author is talking about fans, or spectators, or whatever, from scientific point of view, at least some of it, but to really understand so called rossi-mania, you have to talk about riders and search answers there, if there is any need for this type of, i don’t know how to call this really, research. I think that good starting point would be, it’s not only what you do or what you did, it’s important how you did it, and I think that’s the essence of so called rossi-mania. Even in your article this fact is revealed a couple of times, but maybe overlooked in some ways, on purpose or otherwise. So, for me, it’s totally wrong point of view to read some research about general fans behavior and implied it in any situation, I don’t think it works that way.

  22. Like Dave Lace I have been following this sport for a long time – my first race live was Donny ’87. I was a race fan first, followed by being a follower of Schwantz, Doohan then Rossi. They were the standout riders in their eras for me. It did not mean that I couldn’t appreciate the skills of Rainey or Gardner, even the tortured soul of Kocinski, whilst I rooted for Schwantz. Same for Stoner et al. in later years.

    Rossi was a standout talent to me in his first 125 season and I followed his progression to the top class with interest. Around 2001 I remember going to Donny and, despite my following of Rossi, being amazed at the amount of Rossi merchandise being worn by race-goers. Previous to that people would wear Yamaha gear or Suzuki or Honda etc. – there weren’t many, if any rider specific tee shirts available before then IIRC. 2000 was baltic, so the Rossi gear was doubtless covered by waterproofs and 3 jumpers!

    Some of these fans will leave when Rossi does, some have become race fans. It is an era probably never to be repeated, but has the sport really lost due to it? Late night arguments on the internet aside, the disrespect toward other riders (which I abhor) would not have been commonly found within the biking fraternity which were the main race-goers prior to the Rossi era. Back then a great crowd at Donny was 25000. Times change.

    As someone else said, more damage to the fan-base for the sport as a whole is currently being done by Dornas shortsighted views on TV rights – BT Spurt in the UK for example. Assuming that the money facilitating the sport doesn’t dry up, genuine fans of the sport will follow other riders once Rossi retires.

  23. digitalrurouni says:

    My mother in law is no motorcyclist. Neither is my wife. My wife loves to ride 2 up but she’s scared of bikes at the same time. They watched one MotoGP race and they latched on to Rossi. My mother in law still asks me how Rossi did in the last race. My wife will not miss a single MotoGP race and is a huge Rossi fan. I didn’t force anyone to watch MotoGP and neither did I say I am a Rossi/Marquez fan so you guys should be as well. Rossi has got the X factor and in spades. Marc I feel has some of that. Lorenzo is an amazing rider and I try to emulate a smooth style inspired by him but he’s one of my least favorite riders. My wife can’t stand him, calls him a fake. Hates his forced celebrations as she likes to call it. I know these are anecdotes but still…it’s something.

  24. Syed Mohsin Hassan says:

    After Reading Part 1 of this artical i feel the writer of this artical is also disliked valentino rossi because after going so much deep, he raise some point which u cannot linked to valentino. If some blind fan rude with other rider that there problem valentino did not say any thing to them. He love this sports thats why he is competing at high level. The fan of motogp today is not as big as before 15 to 20 year ago and this credit must go to valentino who had the strength and talent to beat his opponent at last couple of lap instead of cruising toward victory like stoner,Lorenzo,Doohan etc.
    I start watching motogp in 2003-04 just beacause of this man and there are so many fan who start watching motogp just like me. So give credit to this man because motogp know at this level just because of valentino rossi fan and hatters.

  25. whilst i am a huge Rossi fan, i would like to point out that there is an underlying subliminal disliking of valentino by this writer. i would agree that Hailwood was good, but he cannot possibly compared to Rossi if you apply a scientific approach this writer loves to promote in this article. Halewood is simply blown into the weeds by statistics. Furthermore Stoner was fairly deserving of his treatment by the fans, he was always stand offish, arrogant and asking a 9 time world champion if his ambition outweighed his talent was nothing more than completely disrespectful. i would also like to point out that whilst Valentino has done more than his fair share of fairing bashing i have never witnessed him whining about being the victim of such treatment whilst everyone who has fallen prey i.e Stoner, Lorenzo, Marquez have all complained and whinged incessantly.i think it is important as a member of the press to remain objective and this is something this writer has strayed far from with this article.

  26. I’ve been a motorsports “spectator” all of my 53 years. Originally drawn to NASCAR and NHRA in the late ’60s. Those two organizations produced two stars that had a similar obsessional situation. Them being The King, Richard Petty and Big Daddy, Don Garlits. Of course that being pre-internet and even pre-cable TV, they didn’t enjoy the same extent of rabid fandom saturation.

    Motorsports have their ups and downs and ins and outs. This season may be Rossi’s last chance at a championship. Anyone with a brain realizes he’s on the way out. Marquez is a very friendly, likable, and HUGELY talented rider. That he is on good terms with The Doctor makes it seem likely to me that he’ll be the next in line for adulation. A passing of the torch, if you will. It’s doubtful that anyone will hit the popularity of Rossi for a long time, though.


    Oh what a difference a day makes, his fan base is dissolving fast.


  28. Only reading this article now, but in light of the recent controversy it’s of course more relevant than ever.

    I’d have to agree with almost everything you bring up, though I believe there might be a few more psychological factors at play to explain the extremes of the Rossi fandom, both in size and actions. I would also call myself a dedicated fan of some riders in MotoGP (though neither Rossi, Marquez nor Lorenzo, I’m lukewarm on all of them), but my reason to wear a fan shirt or cap or flag is not to identify with a group as you brought up, but to show support for a rider. I am always wary of groups and collective identities in general (similarly, nationalism and patriotism are rather foreign concepts to me, based on completely arbitrary circumstances of having been born in a certain place).

    As one comment above mentioned, I’ve also almost lost interest in the sport because of Rossi’s antics and especially the hype surrounding him. I always felt it does a huge disservice to the sport and the other riders on track and the masses of yellow quite frankly creep me out. The first comments on this article already speak volumes. Merely suggest that Rossi might not be utterly perfect and you’re up for a bashfest in comments.

    Seeing the recent comments after the Sepang incident and the ferociousness and viciousness of his “fans” (in my view much of what has been happening can no longer be labeled as the actions of “fans” in that sense but “fanatics”) I have even wondered what would happen if Rossi would start his own cult. Honestly, I am 100% certain that there would be people blinkered enough to still follow him, because Rossi can do no wrong. Ever. People keep mentioning his charisma and it would make him the perfect cult leader.

    This worship of a single rider is bad for the sport and the way it’s been done makes me lose a lot of faith in humanity. If any of my favourite riders had done what Rossi did at Sepang or behaved like Marquez or Lorenzo, you can be sure that on Monday all my shirts, flags, caps, posters and other merchandise would have been listed on Ebay or kicked in the trash. I might be a fan, but I am not blind and the sport counts for more than a single rider.

  29. Try to do all these analysis through the eyes of Valentino. A hard working racer from some remote place in Italy, trying to make it better than his dad. Did he dream about becoming GOAT? No. Did he intentionally nick named himself as THE DOCTOR?. What ever you wrote can be applied for Michael Schumacher too? Try doing it you might have his fans attack you! Is this the fault of Michael?
    Here I would suggest you to write about all the journalists who want to earn their bread? If you look at Sepang, and watch the crowds reaction, till the time the helicopter shot was shown you would understand that no one supported Rossi.
    Fans or not we are not fools! We were upset earlier but after Rossi’s press meet we all believe that he is a gentleman at the age of 36.
    How many fans do you have to understand what does it take to have people adoring you even when you did not perform as you should for 5 long years.
    I dont wish to read your next article!

  30. Quite a challenge, try to describe Valentino Rossi in depth, so … kudos to you for that. However, there are a few imprecisions in this article:

    > There are only a handful of MotoGP riders to choose
    > from as a fan.

    This is not true now and has never been true. When Ago was the 500cc star, Jarno Saarinen and Renzo Pasolini had plenty of fans. At the time when Roberts and Spencer battled, I was a supporter of Takazumi Katayama, and some of my friends supported Graziano Rossi, who was the last rider (AFAIK) to ride without hanging his knees out in curves. When Toni Mang ruled, I loved Reinhold Roth’s demeanour on and off the bike. During Cadalora’s great years in the 250cc championship, I appreciated him, but Loris Reggiani’s skills and understatement made him my favourite (and he was not often a race winner). There’s always been plenty of choice. When Kevin Magee arrived in 500cc, I would swear I was destined for greatness.Well, I am often wrong.

    > And he returned to Italy. His reputation entirely untarnished.

    What? Really? I would not expect one to visit in advance every country s/he plans to mention in a blog post, but … go visit Italy, mention Rossi to somebody, and the tax issue will be mentioned within two minutes. V.Rossi’s reputation has taken a blow. A serious one. And when the media mentioned that “Valentino” was one of the Italians found in the Panama Papers, I held my breath… what a relief it was to discover that it was Valentino, the fashion designer.

    One idea I fully agree with, is that Rossi has been embraced and praised as Greatest Of All Time by the British press – and maybe fans – more than elsewhere. More than in Italy, for instance. Even before the tax issue, I had plenty of conversations with Italian friends, and there were several bandwagons:

    1) “Italian bike before Italian rider”: they support(ed) Ducati and saw Rossi as somebody who took points and chances away from the two-wheeled Red. Many loved Stoner. I have not met these friends during Rossi’s time at Ducati, therefore I am unable to tell whether they blamed him for Ducati’s lack of success or … whether they went through ecstasy (the winter news, the feverish wait for the championship to begin) and agony (when the “marriage made in heaven” turned out to be a rather sad affair).

    2) “Anybody but Rossi”. This camp was originally populated by fans of Biaggi and of other riders, who saw this impertinent, lanky brat taking points away from their heroes. They embraced Gibernau, Stoner, Lorenzo, Marquez. To this day, I know as many Lorenzo & Marquez fans as Rossi’s, in Italy.

    3) “He’s from another place”. Local rivalries are more important than global ones, in Italy, even now (it started about a thousand years ago, after the Roman empire but before the Renaissance). One supports his/her local hero, and beating the guy from the next town/province/region is more important than winning the race or the championship against “global” champions. Rossi is from Marche, Biaggi from Lazio, Agostini was (well, “is”) from Lombardia, Lucchinelli from Liguria, and most other Italian MotoGP riders tend to be from Emilia-Romagna (the land that gave us Ducati, Moto Morini, Frrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, to name a few).

    4) “Gimme an underdog!”. Not all MotoGP fans feel the need to back a winner, or a popular guy. Jeremy Mcwilliams has fans in Italy. Anybody riding the undersized Aprilia twin against 500cc was supported “a priori”, regardless of his skills. When Jean-Michel Bayle moved to motocross to road racing, many fans began supporting him, because nobody thought he could win (sadly, that proved to be correct), but he was appreciated for trying.

    5) “Make my blood run FASTER!”. Many fans (the majority?) are looking for entertainment, they want to see interesting races, exciting overtaking, plenty of late braking, and they don’t care how many points their guy scores, or if he crashes. Randy Mamola, Wayne Gardner, Schwantz, Simoncelli, the early Rossi. Many others.

    Most fans are part of more than one group. I am part of several. I found maddening how Schwantz could bring our hopes so high with some magical overtaking, then crash the next bend. I supported underdogs (Reggiani, Katayama).


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