I got out of work on Saturday around 11 p.m. and like so many of my compatriots in the restaurant industry, I am always too restless to go home. To go from the mad dash of bartending to the stillness of my house is always an eerie feeling and some nights I just can’t handle the quiet. So I head to another bar to watch other bartenders move as quickly as they can, wishing they had eight appendages like an octopus so they could do more simultaneous action. Or wish they had Go Go Gadget arms so they could reach for that bottle on the top rack instead of having to hold your breath and stand on tiptoes, reaching your arm up and over in hopes that you don’t take any another bottles with you.
This late at night, most of the Monday-through-Friday patrons are paying their tabs, getting ready for whatever golf course is calling them on Sunday morning. There might be a bachelor party doing its best to make the bachelorette party as uncomfortable as possible. There are a few witnesses leaning against the bar, chatting up their co-workers after a long night of turning tables and a few straggling solo dudes that really should go home before they get dragged out by the bouncer.
But tonight was different. The bar was packed with so many downhill mountain bikers it was almost ridiculous, but it was more confusing than anything. At first I thought it was the biggest bachelor party this town had ever seen but that didn’t seem to make any sense either as all the attention was focused on one corner of the bar. Most specifically, on this one very tall dude wearing a neck brace — not your usually late night bar attire. After saying hello to my friends behind the bar, I sipped my drink and let my ears open up to the craziness around me.
The word GOAT started slipping into conversations around me and I wondered if any of these dudes were farmers or which restaurant had to scrub goat cheese out of their bar tonight. You have no idea how sticky that stuff is until you put it on a cheese plate at a restaurant. It is delicious, but it takes forever to clean up. Anyway, that was not what was going on. With the FOX U.S. Open in town, the GOAT was here.
That’s right, Greg Minnaar of South Africa, the four time World Cup Champion with 23 world cup victories (the most of any rider) was in town hanging out in Killington for the weekend. Given the fact that he was wearing a neck brace, I am going to hope that he was here signing autographs rather than riding but most mountain bikers are crazy so maybe he just switched from his brace for a leatt and and sent it. I worked in Killington’s mountain bike shop over a decade ago, but I had no idea who this guy was.
So I got to sit and listen to my biker friends get all fanboy and tell me. When I started to laugh at them — they were quick to remind me of how the entire town reacts when Mikayla comes to town. I mean, the BF got a photo with Makayla’s grandma and it’s hanging on our fridge. I guess when you live in a town that attracts the best. It’s a weird phrase, GOAT. We apply it to athletes in all walks of life, claiming the same lifetime as these heroes of sport. There’s Serena, Michael and Michael again, there is Makayla but there was Stenmark and how does one quantify freeskier Shane McConkey? There’s that guy that quarterbacked for the patriots, that closing pitcher for the Yankees or the doctor (you should definitely Google 9x MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi with his 89 victories and 400 races).
When do people start calling you the GOAT? And can anyone be one or is there some magical formula that a person randomly finds the sport that they just click with, that somehow just breathes out of them. What if Serena had played softball? What if Makayla had chosen to be an ultra runner? What if McConkey had just been a ski racer? What if Minnaar’s dad hadn’t given him a dirt bike for his third birthday — would he have chosen a mediocre career as a golfer instead? But it was great to have the big kids in town, riding the big whip and providing the stoke for thousands of mountain bikers, young and old. Like the Beast’s World Cup, the U.S. Open will create a new generation of New Englanders, stoked to fly down mountains — and call the Killington area their home. And I so want to be here for that.