I love racing, all kinds of racing. If an activity involves piloting some type of motorized vehicle faster around a course than the other vehicles, I love it. I also love motorcycles. Dirt bikes, street bikes, cruisers, racers, bobbers, café racers. I just love the look of a beautiful bike. So it goes without saying that motorcycle racing is my favorite form of motorsport. The Isle of Man TT is one of my favorite annual events and definitely on my bucket list! I watch motocross every Saturday and one of my former employers sponsored a drag racer. And then there’s MotoGP…
Valentino Rossi is considered by many to be the greatest motorcycle road racer of all time. He’s won more Grand Prix titles (nine) than anyone else and seven are in the MotoGP premier class. Three times he won back-to-back championships. His nickname, The Doctor, speaks to his surgical precision on the track. This season he is enjoying a great run as he tries to unseat rival Marc Marquez, one of my other favorite riders.
However, Rossi has his share of disappointments as well. In the 2006 season he lost the closest MotoGP championship to American rider Nicky Hayden. When a champion loses a title, they often go back and look at individual races. That season, Rossi had Portugal to blame. In 2006 Rossi lost the Grand Prix of Portugal by .002 of a second. Try to count that time on your phone’s stopwatch. Good luck. Seriously, it was one of the wildest finishes I’ve ever seen. Right up there with Ricky Craven at Darlington and Rubens Barrichello at Indy. Everyone cheers these racers! Because they beat champions like Kurt Busch and Michael Schumacher to win. In 2006 Toni Elias (who?) beat Rossi…and cost him 5 points in the standings. Five CRUCIAL points!
At the end of the 2006 season Rossi lost the championship to Hayden by…five points. Had Rossi won in Portugal, a race where Hayden was retired just four laps into the race due to an accident with teammate Dani Pedrosa, he would have won the championship thanks to having more wins that season than Hayden. He essentially lost the championship by .002 of a second.
Or did he? Rossi also suffered numerous mechanical issues that season. And he crashed in the season ending race at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. Hayden’s crash in Portugal was an anomaly. Consistency helped him win the championship that season, not a single loss by Rossi.
As another semester draws to a close, I’m reminded of this racing lesson. Many of my students feel compelled to email me asking for a chance to earn “extra credit” because their final grade is a couple points below an A, or a B, or passing. Some of them are even ballsy enough to just ask to be bumped up. I’ll say it here and now, I don’t give extra credit. Life doesn’t give you extra credit. If you were supposed to sell 20 cars by then end of the month, you don’t get extra days to keep trying when you only hit 18 or 19.
By the same token, I give students a set number of points they can earn in class. They have the opportunity to take quizzes and do activities to earn as many of those points as they can. I also take points off for not fulfilling obligations and expectations like keeping the appointments they set and attending class. If you do what you are supposed to do and do it well, you are rewarded. If you do it consistently well you are well rewarded. If you are inconsistent or fail to meet your obligations you aren’t rewarded. Sometimes you’re punished. Sometimes you fail.
We cheer champions like Rossi, and Dale Earnhardt, and Michael Schumacher, and Hurricane Bob Hannah because they do amazing things. They dominate their sport and set standards of excellence that fans celebrate. But each of them has failed at some point. And NONE of them ever asked for extra credit.