(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Less-Than-Great Santini Edition

What follows is both setup and excuse: On Saturday night, John and I went to Ray’s MTB Park in Cleveland. I brought two bikes with me: my 20″ wheel skatepark bike and my 20″ racing bike. The park bike was just there as a backup, so I didn’t prep it before loading the truck and heading out.

When we got there, John and I headed for the “pump track”, which he’s been using to practice for his BMX races. I went around a few times myself on the race bike and felt pretty good — until I pushed it a bit too far, lost traction in my front wheel, and crashed. I’d put brand-new tires on that bike a few days ago and I guess they were imperfectly scuffed and/or overinflated. Another run through confirmed that I didn’t have as much traction as I wanted. So I swapped back to the park bike.

A three-hour ride in the back of my Silverado had brought the pressure on the park bike’s tires pretty far down, to the point that it felt sluggish and difficult to ride. I should have gone and aired-up the tires but at that point we were running short of time and I didn’t want to waste ten of the remaining twenty-five minutes going out to the truck and getting the pump.

John asked me to take a GoPro video of him riding the pump track. Which I did, and I gave him a headstart so I wouldn’t run him down. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I couldn’t quite catch him. When he continued for a second lap, I fell behind to the point that the video wasn’t any good. I had to call a halt to the proceedings and start again, leading to the footage you see above.

Last month I set up an impromptu challenge at the pump track and offered money to the fastest rider. The rules of the game said you could have 15 feet to accelerate before dropping in. I managed 25.7 seconds. My pal Martin, an Elite-class rider who made the qualifiers at the World Championships earlier in the year, did it in 24.6 and was the fastest 20″ BMX bike. The fastest rider was a NORBA dual slalom champion in his twenties who used a 26″ dirt-jump bike to get around in 22.8.

With no 15-foot headstart, and without knowing that he’s being timed, but with a couple of cheater pedals along the way, John’s doing it in 31 seconds or thereabouts. Which explains why I couldn’t make easily catch him with underinflated tires. In the end I had to pedal just to stay close. In four years I’ll be fifty and he’ll be twelve. There is no way I’ll be able to keep up with him. Not around the pump track, not around a full-sized BMX track, maybe not even around a long MTB trail loop.

There’s a special place in hell for men who cannot graciously yield to their sons: the Great Santini basketball scene is a classic example of that. Yet it’s also a fact that young men need to triumph over their fathers eventually, and that there needs to be some kind of effort involved. If I’m going to pose any sort of challenge to him at all, in any arena, I definitely need to work on taking better care of myself. Yesterday, we went to the indoor kart track where I proved able to beat John by about 1.1 seconds. It’s likely that I’ll give him some trouble in a race car well into my fifties; it’s possible that I’ll be able to box and spar with him until he is in his mid-teens.

For all I know, John will eventually decide to be a writer, in which case I might challenge him well after my death. I have advantages that he will never have, a headstart given to me by a full fifteen years of my life where I managed to read a few hundred pages every single day no matter what. Courtney Love complained a while back that she had to compete with men who “disappeared into their rooms for ten years and came out with all these guitar chops.” The implication, of course, was that Courtney was too popular and happy to spend a decade’s worth of penance-via-practice. (You can see for yourself, if you want.) I think John will be the same way, I think he’ll be too popular and too well-adjusted to read Moby-Dick three times in a row as a teenager the way I did.

The inevitable and necessary conflict between me and my son will occur across a broad range of battlefields, some yet to be named. My job is to put up as much of a fight as I can without resorting to Santini-esque churlish nastiness. On basketball court, race track, or printed page we will come to know ourselves in the struggle, much as Frederick Douglass and Edward Covey did. On two wheels, however, the conclusion to our story has already been written. It’s just a question of how long my pride will prevent me from reading it.

* * *

For TTAC, I asked a reader question about low-cost leases, put the spotlight on predatory lenders, and asked the B&B about their worst deal ever.

At R&T, I drove a Miata for two days around a track and told some stories of the saddest car ever made.

Happy New Year, everybody!

20 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Less-Than-Great Santini Edition”

  1. Tom KlockauTom Klockau

    I enjoyed reading the Taurus post. About a dozen years ago Illinois Casualty had 2002-03 Taurus SESs as company cars. They were pretty robust, I drove them on a regular basis and had an ’02 Sable to use for errands. We bought them 2-3 years old and sold them when they but 125K. Decent to drive, and much easier on the eyes than the 1996-99.

  2. Avatar-Nate

    Wow, that looks like fun .

    It’s possible to challenge your Son and never have the typical blowback when he discovers he can out do you, I did this with my multi talented Son who blew past me long ago yet we’re still very close and I never did have the typical ” !!FUCK YOU DAD !!” screaming fits most every other teenager I even knew did….

    Have heart Jack, I am quite certain John loves you and konws you love him so when he physically puts you down one day, he’ll do it as gently as he can and won’t tease you about it in front of your friends .


  3. AvatarScout_Number_4

    Jack, I know of what you speak re: sons and fathers. You’ve struck a chord with me AGAIN.

    I’m a bit older than you, my son is now in his first year of college studying computer engineering. I remember well THE moment when he bested me–With us, it was running. Never fast, I was always a distance guy–cross country in HS, a marathon, tons of 5Ks and 10Ks and a long resume in the Hood-to-Coast Relay. Once when he was 12 or 13, I took him to a local golf course for a training run. I was trying to get back into shape, figured I’d run “with” him….it could be great father-son time running/training together….right? About 1/2 mile in, while I was clearly holding him back, he said, “Dad, how ’bout I wait for you at the car?,” and he disappeared in about 30 seconds. I knew right then that the torch had been passed.

    Luckily, I’m still mildly relevant (to him) because of my background in electrical engineering and to a lesser degree business and investing, but I will never forget that day….this has reminded me to ask him if he remembers it. Do you think he will?

    Thanks for the article, sir.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      If he remembers, it will be because you were important to him and still are.

      If he doesn’t, it’s because you didn’t make it traumatic or difficult.

      Either way is good, I think.

      • Avatar-Nate

        Just so – I bet as time goes on he’ll come back to discuss technical things with you ~ my Son’s first Mechanic job was in a lawn mower shop and he’d discuss problems and how he’d diagnosed and repaired them, then he became a modern car Mechanic and would explain to me how things had changed and were very different from what I’d taught him (all pre computer stuff as I’m old) , now we chat about works he does on his race cars, bikes and his boat that has a V6 (Chevy I think) engine with carby and Volvo – Penta outboard drive .

        He still asks me occasionally how to do things which is nice but mostly he teaches me, much as you alls here do, I find it comforting that I can still talk easily with him, many cannot, I never could at any time with my Father .

        I’d say you’re doing fine .


  4. AvatarScottS


    The Taurus article was really good. One of our neighbors bought a new one as soon as they were on the market. It looked like a rental car from day one to me, and I’ve rarely given them a second thought.

    I read your stories on fathering with much interest and I am hopeful that you will raise a successful son. The fact that you are thinking about the process is very positive. I chose not to have children out of dread fear that I would be the same kind of father that I had. The sociologist prediction is that I would end up in poverty and/or prison, and die at a young age. My brothers have proven the social scientists wrong and it’s gratifying to see the children they have raised.

    On writing and style, I have a question on the spelling of numbers versus usage of the numerical representation. In your TTAC article on Low-Cost Leases, you use both forms to describe dollar values such as, “requires about $8,200 more outlay . . . “, and “Antoine is going to spend about four thousand dollars . . “. This is an area of writing that I always struggle with, and over the years, I have relied on Owl, and my well worn copy of Strunk and White The Elements of Style although the former gives only limited treatment. Grammarly, a recently introduced grammar checker gives more extensive treatment on numbers and writing style, but there really are no concrete rules. In any given piece that I write, I strive for consistency of treatment.

    What say you?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Given the regularity with which the rules of style are violated on automotive websites, I don’t worry too much about strict rules regarding numbers. I try to write out the number where it’s easy to read and type it out when it’s not:

      five bucks
      a dollar fifty
      four thousand
      one million

      I should probably be more conscious about it.

      • AvatarScottS

        To be clear, I’m not picking on you. I’m genuinely interested in the topic of writing and how to become a better writer. It was you who introduced me to the concept of Chekhov’s Gun which I did not know of previously. In your excellent TTAC article on sub-prime lending tactics, there are several characters including the well developed Tina, and the African-American woman. While I feel like I know something about Tina and your infatuation with her, the African-American part of the other woman was seemingly left for dead. Now I happen to recall in one of your previous articles that an African-American woman at this same company gave no quarter to those of the same ethnicity which tied the descriptive aspect of being African-American more tightly to the story.

        Hey, you’re teaching us and some of us are paying attention in class!

        Now, what about that writing tutorial you mentioned some time back? Any plans on moving forward with that?

        Happy New Year

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Sharp eyes — it was the same woman, which is why I gave her short shrift in this article. With 1,000 words or so you can really only develop one or two characters.

          I’m going to start the writing program some time in the next few weeks, I appreciate the reminder!

      • AvatarJeff Zekas

        The rule for numbers, according to Mrs Smith, my 7th grade journalism teacher, is a follows: Never start a sentence with a number, spell it out. Never end a sentence with a number, spell it out. Never have a number on the edge of a paragraph, spell it out. Those were the rules in 1967, but they may have changed, just as colloquialisms used to be banned, but now appear regularly in articles.

  5. AvatarDanny

    Aside from Moby Dick, do you recommend any novels to get through the 9 degree daily highs we’ve been having lately? My girlfriend bought me Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” for Christmas, and it’s nearly as bleak as the salt-pounded roads on my way to work..

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      McCarthy is a bleak writer… Blood Meridian makes The Road look like a comedy.

      For something completely opposite, try “Sabbath’s Theater” by Philip Roth.

  6. Avatarhank chinaski

    I recently had a hankering to re-watch that fine film and had to get a copy from the public library, as Netflix didn’t carry the DVD. Duvall and pre-Caddyshack Danny Noonan knocked it out.
    Is it a decent read?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Once you get over the idea of it being a “classic” or a piece of “required reading” you come to understand the humor and majesty of it IMO.

      • AvatarWren

        I can never fully get through his chapters exploring the color white.

        The first part of the book is brilliant. Great characters, intriguing story, a real sense of time and place. Then it goes off the rails for hundreds of pages only returning at the end when they have their final showdown steel cage deatmatch.


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