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Thrills of motorcross racing zoom into city arenas

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Promoter Mike Goodwin held a motocross race this past weekend at the Los Angeles Coliseum and more than 61,000 people showed up. Motocross, in case you didn't know, is a bunch of fearless guys riding motorcycles who try to tame a man-made obstacle course that resembles a bombed-out city.

Originally motocross racing was held on some out-of-the-way piece of land that had enough natural disasters of its own, like potholes, hills, gullies, rocks, and water hazards, to please the customers.

But since 1971, when Goodwin got the idea that his sport should be brought to the city and could be if places like the Coliseum would let him haul in about 5, 000 cubic yards of dirt, people can watch it just as they do a football game.

Of course the dirt isn't dumped indiscriminately. It is arranged so that the riders fly over it, under it, through it, and around it. If you don't lose control of your bike at least once during the evening or bump a fellow competitor, you're just not trying. If there's anyone in this sport over 30 years old, he isn't telling.

By the time a driver finishes, he's so covered with mud, dirt, and debris that even his own mother wouldn't know him. Although there are reports that some of the top bikers make as much $250,000 a year, the bulk of that money comes from commercial endorsements.

All you have to meet is about three motocross drivers before you start to get the impression that most of them would try wire walking if they had the chance, volunteer to put out oil well fires, or drive without brakes on the Hollywood Freeway. They have nerves of steel.

Motocross racing makes money because where else can you see a whole covey of Evel Knieves trying to wear out a motorcycle in one evening? The truth is that some of them do it in half an evening, and I guess that's what puts all those spectators in the stands.

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