Axiom 51 says, “If you leave it to the weenies, the weenies will win.” The only way to defeat weenie-ism is to take back the territory the weenies think they own. Take high school and college “notable alumni” lists on Wikipedia, for example. So far, to judge by my highly unscientific and casual check, 100 percent of the so-called notable alumni for my high school and university fail to mention alumni/ae who have excelled at motorsports and, indeed, in any motorized pursuits.
My high school—Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, California—ignored the fact that my class (1966) included Carl Cranke, AMA Hall of Fame member and seven times ISDT gold (and two silver) medal winner in 10 years of competition. The only solution? Fill in the gap by going online and putting Carl on the list using the system Wikipedia created to do just that. Carl didn’t ask me to do it (I think that last time we spoke was years ago when I mentioned him in another CW blog, in fact), but I happened to know him and of his significant accomplishments.
Why care about this? Because more and more, people seem to believe that if it ain’t on the Internet, it ain’t, period. So, we who care about the accomplishments of racers, tuners, fabricators, dreamers, writers, artists and the many others whose work and lives are in the motorhead world owe it to posterity to ensure that when we can, we set the record straight online.
Just to take one example, I figure that anybody who has received such an honor as being included in the AMA Hall of Fame should be listed in his/her school’s notable alumni/ae Wikipedia or school sites. Then, there are those whose works have changed our lives on the road, on the track or just in our hearts and minds.
In part, the academic arrogance of what constitutes “notable” is behind the lists as now conceived: People who spent their careers on Dean’s Lists naturally tend to think that only the same sort of alumni/ae deserve to be called “notable.” But we know from life that such is hardly the case. When we are students, we are, of course, in an academic environment, but we are also in a social environment, in which a great deal of what we learn is not in books or in classrooms.
I vividly recall racing Carl on the streets around our school—his Honda CB72 vs. my Yamaha YDS-2. Our rivalry carried on into the only class in 1965 we shared: first-period P.E., where Carl would taunt me with every win we read about in Cycle World or Cycle News by Mike Hailwood on his factory Honda, or I would torture Carl with every win by Phil Read on his RD56 Yamaha.
Same at my next step in formal education, at U.C. Berkeley, where I met then-graduate student Phil Makanna not in art classes but on the racetrack at Vacaville, where he was busily winning yet another championship on his 750 Norton.
Each of us has similar memories and tales, and some of us are the ones whose lives and works should be included in the “notable alumni” lists. Does the list at Princeton University, for example, include Clarence P. “Cook” Neilson? Nope. Not yet. But it obviously should, as every fan of his editorship at Cycle and everyone who knows what he and Phil Schilling did with “Old Blue” in Superbike racing will attest.
Very few of us care about all this enough to do more than snort when we might run across a notable-alumni list without the geniuses and sportsmen and women we know should be on the lists. But we should. If we don’t, the record will be incomplete, and the weenies will win. Again.