I met a few Formula One racing drivers once. They were nice compact little guys all zipped up in their all-in-one driving suits, they were bred, I assume, to be just small enough to be squeezed into those tiny Formula One racing cars.
In their little suits, they reminded me of toddlers but, of course, they are not child-like at all, they are one of our favourite images of big boy macho masculinity.
Nothing wrong with being small of course but they just didn’t strike me as being as impressive as they look on those full colour posters designed to go on school boys’ bedroom walls.
Formula One is in the news at the moment, not only because the British Grand Prix happens, maybe for the last time, on Sunday but there has been a big fall out at the top and most of the famous racing car teams are threatening to pull out next year to form their own new organization.
Things have got a bit bumpy with the current head of the Formula One organization, Max Moseley. You will remember him, if you are not a racing car enthusiast, because he has had to suffer a bit of a Silvio Berlusconi in the newspapers. Without wanting to shock anyone let me just mention that he was photographed exploring his own private passion for that heady mix of Fascism and prostitution. Hitler’s only enduring legacy perhaps.
Since then, narrow minded people have found it difficult looking Mr. Moseley in the face and some of the more independent-minded racing car owners have run into difficulties with Max’s obvious enjoyment of power.
Now I, of course, know nothing about his private pursuits, but I felt that he should have been allowed to do what he wanted to do in private as long as those German-speaking prostitutes were consenting and well paid. It is a pity, I suppose, that Formula One racing has also been reduced to in-fighting because of his wider interest in whip flicking. As the son of Sir Oswald Moseley, the former leader of Britain’s Fascist Party, I suppose we should expect him to like flexing his muscles. Naturally, putting whips aside for a moment, this row which threatens to see this Sunday’s British Grand Prix as the last, is, in the end, all about money.
I keep hearing discussions on the radio about this racing car problem from earnest and passionate people desperate about the future of their “sport.”
That’s where I get confused. That time at Brand’s Hatch was very exciting for sure but, standing in the pits, observing the race at first hand, I was struck not by anyone’s sporting prowess but more by the wonderful smell of engines and motor oil, the exhilarating speed of the cars as the screeched in for a tyre change and the superlative skills of the mechanics as they leapt into action. Those drivers though, just sat there.
The BBC has been broadcasting a series of lectures by the great, and entertaining, Michael Sandel who is a professor of philosophy at Yale University where his lectures on Justice are always standing room only.
He was quoting a case in America when a partially disabled but very good golfer tried to get the courts to rule against the authorities who were trying to stop him using a golf buggy. The “sport” of golf was aghast and put up all their big names to argue that buggies were not in the spirit of the game. They lost of course and Professor Sandel cited the reason for the attempted buggy ban was that if golf was to be seen as a sport then the participants needed to be seen to make some kind of physical effort whilst playing it. The ball, he observed, always stands still until it is hit and the leisurely walk between holes is not exactly aerobic.
So maybe we should reassess these sports, along with darts where most of the participants are, at least, unashamedly lardy, and admit that they are really nothing to do with physical fitness. They should be called games.
I am a danger to all the customers in the pub if I attempt darts, I am with Mark Twain on Golf – it ruins a good country walk – and I am a terrible driver.
Well I was a terrible driver. Anyone who knows me is relieved that my brain haemorrhage has meant that I am now disqualified from driving until at least the end of this year. If any of you have read The Wind In The Willows, then to my shame, my driving skills have often been compared to the over-enthusiastic Mr. Toad of Toadhall.
Putting prejudices to one side, my objections to these sports comes from my delight in the physical challenge that real sport pits against us humans. Athletics, football, swimming, boxing, tennis and, my own particular interest, martial arts. They challenge our bodies to the extremes of our capabilities. It rankles when I hear them put into the same category as those leisure pursuits followed by zipped up young drivers, badly dressed golfers and beery darts players.
I suspect Max Moseley, a former racing driver himself, gets much more exercise from his other interests. As for me, well an aggressive session on a dodgem car down at the fairground is the nearest I will ever get to motor racing. Game of darts anyone?
If you didn’t get the offensive comparison that people have made about my driving, here is a clip of Mr. Toad on that famous driving adventure. Well driving is fun – nothing like being out on that open road, foot on the throttle, no one to stop you. Now I really want to get back to driving – bloody brain damage. Poop poop: