Words by Danielle Baker
Photo by Paris Gore
Rob Warner is a legend whose World Cup commentary is as worthy of your attention as the racing itself, Seriously, when was the last time you heard an announcer state, "He's all over the place like a monkey dry-humping a football!"? When I found out that Warner was in Whistler for Crankworx, I had to get an interview with him.
Naturally, I followed the standard journalistic protocol for such matters, which is to say I propositioned him in the line-up for a bar. Like a creepy groupie violating a restraining order, I blurted out, "You're Rob Warner! Will you go on a date with me?"
Surprisingly, that approach didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Two nights later, with some solid work from two wingmen (apparently I can't even pick-up for a fake date on my own), I got Rob to agree to an interview over dinner with me.
“This is messier than a cow in a minefield!”
We decided to meet for sushi after the Canadian Open on the last day of Crankworx. I sat down and waited. And then waited some more. Followed by a bit of waiting. I watched out the window of the restaurant as people came and went. At 9 p.m., there was still no sign of my date and I began to mentally draft "Rob Warner Stood Me Up." It was a witty article and I was almost disappointed when Rob eventually showed.
Rob immediately admitted to having no idea what a date was, which was obvious, given the entourage of assorted dudes and bros he'd brought along. While my dreams of an intimate interview that would reveal Rob Warner's deep love for women in World Cup racing had evaporated, my disappointment was alleviated when he started talking about pig wrestling and cross dressing.
"He has gone down harder than the U.S economy!"
Admittedly, I knew nothing about Rob other than his colorful commentating and reputation for misogyny. However, as we chatted between awkward silences filled with the sound of sake margaritas being slurped, I started to learn more about this man; a man who was fired from the only 'real' job he ever had, kicked out of college, got his first tattoo (of many) at age forty, blames alcohol and age for not remembering his worst date and once stood up a girl who won a night out with him on a game show, because the producers wouldn't pay for his cab into London. I started to fall in love.
“He’s letting it all hang out like a fat bird in a bikini!”
Rob Warner has made a career out of not giving a f*#k; an occupational strategy that has made him one of the more rock 'n' roll role models in mountain biking. Yes, I said role model. However, as our sport has evolved in its professionalism, so has Rob. Like tempting a fat kid with a cupcake, I fired off questions designed to elicit the controversial opinions Warner is so well known for, yet he responded with a surprising degree of reserve. He balked at some of my questions, referring to them as 'career enders.' After some soft pedaling with mildly sarcastic and overly politically-correct responses, his smirk and the twinkle in his eye gave away the real and witty responses that were dying to make their way out. He couldn't help himself. Things got interesting.
"That's about as popular as a ginger-haired stepchild!"
Rob credits alcohol with his success in the early years. With no formal training and no experience, he learned his trade on the air. When asked if he ever royally screwed up live or has any regrets he replied, "Nah, because I was that pissed, I didn't really care anyway." He says that Freecaster was just a big party but, "People liked it because it gave it that whole mountain bike/downhill wild feel back a bit."
"Pumping harder than dogs in heat!"
While the outspoken and inappropriate Rob is still very much alive, he has made some compromises in favor of his career. There is a bit more of a throttle on his vocabulary when it comes to the 'Warner-isms' that he is known for and, with more than a hint of regret, he says, "There are so many good ones that I can never use."
Warner (along with alcohol) has crafted some of the more memorable moments in World Cup racing with quotations like, "How does Danny Hart sit down with balls that big?" These days, he claims it is almost impossible to use his own catch phrases, now that they need to be clean. Like something from the fine print in a contract and spoken in the monotone voice that killed rock n' roll, Rob Warner says that he doesn't mind it. In a society where the wrong music choice can piss people off and being offensive becomes a legal issue for sponsors, becoming more professional is helping to grow the sport and bring in more money. While Dirty Business
"Look at the time!"
While there were moments during the interview, I am sure when I could have marched out of the restaurant, offended, in a dramatic exit, I couldn't help but enjoy myself. For once, I was sitting next to someone who is more offensive than I am on a first date. It was liberating.
We--myself included--often spend too much time taking life much too seriously. Nine times out of 10, it's only mountain biking. We aren't saving lives. Rob Warner is a living, breathing reminder that we should relax every once in awhile and remember to laugh. As Rob put it, in my favorite 'Warner-ism' of the night, "If they can't laugh at that, fuck 'em, that was funny. In my opinion that was solid."
This is why Rob Warner is a role model and a legend.
When our bill came, Rob Warner looked at me and said, "Are we done here? Can I go?" And, with that, I believe I became the worst date Rob Warner ever remembers having.