Tom Ross: Born to be mild

Harley Davidson rejects the recession, why can't we?

Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how our approach to coping with the recession in Steamboat Springs might change if all our elected public officials rode Harleys?

Imagine Nancy Stahoviak and Loui Antonucci out in front of a pack of rumbling road hawgs riding a 2009 Iron 883. Nancy, in a black leather vest, has one hand on the handlebars; the other fist is raised in defiance. Tattooed on her bicep is the slogan "Screw the reserve fund!"

Loui is perched up on the back of the saddle, a bandanna knotted tightly to his skull and old-school goggles pulled low on his forehead. There's a maniacal grin on his face and his tattoo reads, "Build the blessed promenade!" And all across Ski Town USA, people are shouting out their windows: "Go big, or go home!"

You probably think I ate too many Lucky Charms for breakfast today. But you might be just as fired up as I am if you had seen the two-page color advertisement that Harley Davidson ran in the Sunday business section of the New York Times on March 29. You also can find it on Harley Davidson's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/harley-davidson). I'm going to describe the advertisement to you anyway.

Based on a recent article in the rival New York Post, I can put the cost of the ad that straddles pages 10 and 11 of Sunday's business section in the Times at more than $300,000.

The ad is devoted entirely to text, but the art director made certain its appearance isn't dull by arranging it in the form of an American flag.

In the upper left-hand corner, where a patriotic biker usually would see white stars in a field of navy blue, the ad reads: "You can file our obituary where the sun don't shine."

The stripes on Old Glory are filled with reversed type alternating between white and red.

The opening sentence reads: "It's times like these that raise the important questions. Do you cower, or do you live free? Do you succumb to fear and doubt, or do you seize the throttle and give it a fearless twist forward?"

The ad goes on to say that the people who roll up their sleeves and build products made in America are the ones who will "wrench" the life back into our economy.

That said, there are signs that 110-year-old Harley Davidson, still based in Fonzy's hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., is going to have to throttle back.

Perhaps not coincidentally, it was the Times that reported earlier this month that Harley (trading as HOG on the stock exchange) had to write down a pile of bad debt after its own credit arm loaned money to a bunch of rebels without a job so they could buy bikes they couldn't afford. Harley even securitized the debt and sold it to folks who no longer are so eager to purchase nonconforming debt on really loud motorcycles.

Just as it did in the real estate crisis, the easy credit led to trouble.

But it wouldn't be like Harley to go down easy, and if you bleed red, white and blue, you've just got to admire the defiant "live free" attitude of the producers of a purely American symbol.

Harley's ad in the Times closes with a pair of two-word sentences: "Screw it. Let's ride."

And so, on the eve of April Fools' Day, I'd like to encourage City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners to adopt a similar attitude and spend our reserves to prime the local economy.

To hell with the recession. We're Americans, dammit. We were born to be wild.

Community comments

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(Anonymous) stmbt80477 says...

Here, here! And this is from a Suzuki rider!

Posted 1 April 2009, 10:50 a.m. Suggest removal

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