I love the word conundrum. I love typing it, saying it and, in the shower, I even love singing it. With a cloud of steam fogging up the bathroom and the mirror on the medicine cabinet completely obscured, I pretend I’m Eddie Vedder and belt out “co-NUN-drummmm!” with all the gusto that Vedder sang “Evenflow.” Three syllables are powerful. That’s another thing that I love about the word conundrum.
But, what I don’t love about the word conundrum is its definition. No, I don’t like its definition at all:
1: an intricate and difficult problem
He is faced with the conundrum of trying to find a job without having experience.
2: a riddle whose answer involves a pun
Why didn’t the lost hikers starve in the desert? Because of the sand, which is there.
In MotoAmerica, a lot of fans perceive something that I call “The Cameron Beaubier Conundrum,” the basis of which is centered on the future endeavors of one Mr. Cameron Beaubier, who just won his third MotoAmerica Superbike Championship and fourth AMA professional motorcycle road racing title.
To date, Beaubier has won a grand total of 32 Superbike races, and he is currently ranked third on the list of all-time Superbike victories, with only his former teammate Josh Hayes (61 race wins) and the G.O.A.T. Mat Mladin (82 race wins) above him on the list. He also has 53 overall AMA road racing wins, which include victories in Supersport, Daytona SportBike and Superbike, and he is the winningest rider actively racing in the MotoAmerica series.
What else does Beaubier have to prove as a road racer here in America? That’s the question that a lot of fans have asked after Beaubier clinched each of his three Superbike titles. Many people think Beaubier should take his talents overseas, race in World Superbike or MotoGP, and show everyone that American motorcycle road racers are still the best in the world, as did Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Fred Merkel, Wayne Rainey, John Kocinski, Doug Polen, Kevin Schwantz, Scott Russell, Kenny Roberts Jr., Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden, and Ben Spies. World Champions, all.
It’s no secret that MotoAmerica president Wayne Rainey wants to see Beaubier race in World Superbike and/or MotoGP. After all, that would further legitimize MotoAmerica as a bona fide talent developer and feeder series for the World Championships. But, is racing in a World Championship the best thing for Beaubier?
As a factory Superbike rider, it’s pretty safe to assume that Beaubier is making a lucrative salary from Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. And, in the seven years that he’s been a Yamaha factory-supported/full-factory, rider, he’s found a home with the bLU cRU. The term “home” is meant in the most literal sense of the word. Race boss Keith McCarty, team manager Tom Halverson, crew chief Rick Hobbs, mechanics Bryce Eikelberger and Lee Vaughn, and everyone else who makes up Yamaha Factory Racing are absolutely like family to Beaubier.
So, if he were to make the leap to a World Championship, even if he stayed with the Yamaha brand, he’d have to leave all that family behind. He’d also have to leave his actual family behind: his mother and father Tanya and Jeff, his brother Ezra, and his girlfriend Shelby. The Beaubiers are an exceedingly close-knit family.
He would probably have to leave a lot of money behind, too. There is a perpetuating assumption that racers competing in World Superbike and MotoGP are all millionaires, if not billionaires. Since they race in what is considered the cream-of-the-crop motorcycle road racing series in the world, they are compensated with cream-of-the-crop salaries. And, while that’s certainly true for riders like Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Jonathan Rea, and others, it’s not true for everyone.
Imagine if you were given the opportunity to take a job with a company that is considered to be more prestigious than the one where you currently work, and you’d essentially be doing the same job that you’re currently doing, but you’d have to move to Europe and also take a pay cut. Or, even worse, maybe you wouldn’t receive any salary at all. Would you take that job?
So, why should Cameron Beaubier make the jump to World Superbike or MotoGP if he would make far less money than he currently does as a Yamaha Factory racer in MotoAmerica?
Beaubier is a professional athlete not unlike those athletes employed by the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, etc. Professional sports is a young man’s/woman’s trade where peak earning years are in your 20s and 30s. Beaubier is currently 25 years old. Doesn’t it make sense for him to make as much money as he can now while he is at the top of his game?
Mladin won seven AMA Superbike Championships, Josh Hayes won four AMA Superbike titles, and both riders dipped their toes in the World Championships. But neither of them took the full plunge, either by their own choice or due to prevailing circumstances.
What if Beaubier never goes to World Superbike or MotoGP? What if he stays in MotoAmerica and even manages to eclipse Mladin’s seemingly insurmountable seven AMA Superbike Championships and 82 AMA Superbike race wins? He would be considered the G.O.A.T. in AMA Superbike like Mladin is now.
AMA Supercross and Motocross riders are, by most accounts, the very best in the world at their sport, but there is a Motocross Grand Prix World Championship. And, while MXGP riders like Jeffrey Herlings are certainly considered to be topnotch riders, especially in light of the 17 wins and 19 podiums that he notched on his way to becoming the 2018 MXGP World Champion, the fact remains that, other than Ryan Villopoto in recent years, AMA Supercross and/or Motocross champions do not move “up” to MXGP.
Why should professional road racing in America be any different?
Consider this, too. Motocross was invented in Europe, but Europe is not the epicenter of the sport. Superbike racing was invented right here in the U.S, so why isn’t, or can’t, the U.S. be considered the epicenter of the sport?
Toni Elias thinks it is, and he’s stated emphatically that he is in the U.S. to stay. Why can’t Beaubier do the same?
I guess, when it all comes down to it, “The Cameron Beaubier Conundrum” is really not a conundrum at all.
Pardon me while I go take a shower.