I know a lot of readers are as tired of hearing about the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge as I am of writing about it. I figured it was pretty much wrapped up weeks ago, except that I had never heard anything about the charities that were supposed to benefit from it. So I did what I do, I started asking questions.
One of the charities responded to my query in an email that was copied to Annie Molloy, one of the Hoka Hey organizers. About two hours later my phone rang and it was Jon Compton calling, identifying himself as the Executive Producer of the Hoka Hey Challenge. I can only assume that Annie forwarded the email to Jon and he decided to speak directly with me.
I had a good, long talk with Jon and while I came away with a generally positive outlook on the event they’re planning for 2011, I was still left with doubts.
A bad start
It didn’t help, for instance, that Jon asked me how I got the idea that the Hoka Hey was a fundraiser for the charities. From the Hoka Hey website, I told him. No, he told me, it was never a fundraiser.
I then read to him from the Hoka Hey website: “In tribute to today’s soldiers and native peoples, the organizers of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the following charitable organizations:” What followed on the site was a list of veterans, American Indian, and other charities.
Switching gears, Jon told me that there were no proceeds, the charities would get nothing, because the Hoka Hey had lost money. But why had he told me initially that the Hoka Hey was not a fundraiser? All I can figure is that in the minds of the organizers, the fundraising aspect was an afterthought and nothing they were ever all that focused on. A cynic might suggest they were using the charities to attract riders who cared about those groups.
The discussion generally went better from there, with Jon answering some longstanding questions and listening to and responding to issues I raised.
For instance, Jim Durham had said that the photo taken at the finish line showed Will Barclay’s wheel crossing the line four inches ahead of Frank Kelly’s. But that photo has never been released. It turns out, “They got there before we did with cameras, so it’s an amateur photograph that will not show you a whole lot. First of all you can’t see who’s on the bikes, and what you see is the front fenders and tires. And here’s the second thing, Kelly was not a qualified runner because he missed a checkpoint, which disqualifies the person to win the money.”
I told Jon I had seen an unsubstantiated report that Kelly claimed he did not miss that checkpoint and was calling for the sign-in register to be released, which would show his signature.
“We have a sheet where he did not sign in. He was not there, no matter what he says,” said Jon.
Why not release the photo and the register, I asked. Jon said he would pass those suggestions back to their publicist.
Jon then surprised me telling me that the story that Barclay and Kelly had agreed to split the prize, whoever was declared the winner, was totally false.
“Will never, ever, ever told him that.”
That is the first I’ve heard of that story being disputed. But I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with Barclay or Kelly, and I wasn’t there, so I have no idea what really happened.
Jon blamed the Hoka Hey’s failure to make money on the bad publicity that went out over the internet.
“It was all started with this blog stuff. If everybody’d kept their mouth shut, dealt with facts, we might’ve had more riders, we might have got some corporate involvement, there might have been a profit, the charities might have got money. But they didn’t.
“The reason it didn’t make any money was because of the bullsh– on the web, none of which was true. Anybody that put out negative information on Hoka Hey is just as guilty as saying proceeds rather than profits (sic), so let’s share that guilt.
“Stop listening to the crap that starts on the net, and not one of those people . . . the Homer Tribune, your blog, and Cyril Huze, and I could go on for hours, without verifying anything through Hoka Hey just went ahead and jumped right on board.”
I pointed out to Jon that I had in fact spoken with Annie Molloy twice, I had offered her a chance to give her rebuttal to the allegations, she had done so, and I had published her statements. I also told him that both times I spoke with her I asked for her to put me in direct touch with Durham and she said she would. But it never happened.
Jon responded that “We were getting a thousand phone calls every couple of days, there was just no way we could get everybody.”
I can understand that, I told him, but it is absolutely untrue that I put up the stories I did “without verifying anything through Hoka Hey.”
I also told Jon that, contrary to his characterization of some of my reporting as “negative,” I wasn’t interested in promoting or putting down the Hoka Hey. I was just interested in finding the facts of the matter. I pointed to Jim Durham’s statement that the FBI would handle polygraph testing of potential winners. Durham later described that as “just something else they got wrong,” but Durham stated explicitly on a KKBI radio interview that the FBI would do it. It was not negativity for me to rebut Durham’s statement with a denial from the FBI. That’s what a reporter is supposed to do, check the facts.
If all this sounds like a lot of confrontation and arguing, it wasn’t. It was a very friendly, entertaining conversation, we laughed a lot, and I came away with the impression that Jon Compton is a perfectly fine person who is working to ensure that next year’s Hoka Hey avoids the pitfalls that this year’s event suffered through. And to that end I suggested that they do their best to keep Jim Durham away from microphones. He created a number of issues unnecessarily because he opened his mouth without engaging his brain.
As for the people who still claim that the event was a scam and a fraud, and who claim to have proof, I think it’s time, if that proof exists, to show us what you’ve got. I have a contact with the FBI who I’m sure would be very interested to see it.
Otherwise, I really don’t want to write anything more about the 2010 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. This has been way too much already.