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Behind THE Barriers Director’s Cut: Stupid dummy

Sam Smith on putting failure behind

I love the movie “Freddy Got Fingered,” written, directed, and starring Tom Green. It really taps into a young man’s adolescent, absurd, bathroom humor side, a side, for me, that is rather large and prominent. I’m a sucker for bodily function jokes and nonsensical antics in movies. But, like any bad comedy tries to do, the movie deals with some pretty serious themes, like love, arrested development, and, maybe most importantly, self-doubt. There’s a scene where Tom’s character, Gord, is talking to his girlfriend, Betty, about the rocket-powered wheelchair she’s building:

Gord: That’s incredible. Does it work?
Betty: No. I haven’t been able to quite figure it out yet.
Gord: Don’t you feel like a stupid dummy?
Betty: Excuse me?!
Gord: You tried to make it work, but it doesn’t. It must make you feel like a stupid dummy.
Betty: No…

Gord obviously has problems with self-doubt, which is probably why he still lives in his parents basement at age 28. Betty, on the other hand, exudes confidence and seems to be dead set on achieving the goal she has set for herself. We all have those “stupid dummy” moments, where a rock sinks to the bottom of our gut and we beat ourselves up because we screwed up or things didn’t go perfectly. It’s a horrible feeling and the worst part is that sometimes it’s hard to break free after it has set in.

It happened to me on this last trip to Belgium. We flew in, I set the camera up, and we went about the rest of the day. That night, I was looking at some of my footage. I noticed that most of the audio sounded like garbage. Turns out the audio input on my camera had crapped out, and it had defaulted to the built-in pinhole microphone. A drawback of the camera I use is that it doesn’t have a headphone output, which means I can’t monitor our audio while I’m shooting.

I potentially won’t notice there’s a problem until it’s too late. It’s something I’m always paranoid about, and frankly, I feel like it’s negligent on my part to use a setup like this, but the alternative would be to buy a camera that costs significantly more than the one that I use. So I make the compromise.

As soon as I realized there was something wrong, I went into problem solving mode. What are my options? There’s no possibility of repair, so I had to buy a new camera. I managed to find a store that sells the equivalent camera, get to that store, and buy a new one. Luckily, everything was taken care of, and I was back up and running within 12 hours.

Even though I was all ready to go and back on track, the next day I had the “stupid dummy” feeling. I was bumming myself out just based on the fact that something got screwed up. It wasn’t horrible, and I didn’t lose all the audio. I just had audio that was not as good as I would have liked. It might not seem like a big deal, but camera people pride themselves on having a rig with everything in working order. If it doesn’t work, they fix it without having it affect their shoot. So I guess it messed with my pride a little bit.

At the end of the trip was the Zolder World Cup. Jeremy’s 37th place finish was well below his expectation for the day. It was the last big test before nationals. As anyone can imagine, that can probably wreak havoc on your average Joe’s mental state. But what I’ve come to realize from a bunch of years hanging around these elite cyclists is that they’re not mentally average. All the really good ones have an uncanny ability to think positively and confidently, even when things might be a little off or imperfect.

Sometimes at big events, I pick up on this weird, over-exaggerated energy around the pits. It almost seems like some of the racers are convincing themselves that everything is going perfectly and the day is favoring them in every way. It’s a strange thing to say you pick up on, but it’s definitely there. And it makes me think about how important someone’s mental state is.

Ever since that first bummed out day with the new camera, I wake up ready to shoot, not thinking, “stupid dummy,” but instead, “here I am, 10 episodes in, with my exclusive euro edition Canon 650D, doing what I love.” And I’m sure Jeremy’s waking up this week not thinking, “stupid dummy,” but instead, “here I am, defending U.S. champ, CrossVegas winner, USGP champ, doing what I love and getting ready to defend my title.”

See everybody in Madison this weekend. You’re going to be there, right?


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