Wednesday, March 15, 2006

today : Brrm Brrm Yawn

Is there anything more a complete waste of time than Formula One motor racing? I ask, because yesterday I was driving and thought I would listen to the radio. I am a bit of a radio person and listen to the BBC much of the time.

So there I was tootling along in my car in the snow and the CD I was listening to finished. 'It's Sunday,' I thought. "There'll be some exciting Premiership football on the radio." Football, strangely, is often much more exciting on the radio than it is on the TV. The fact is that the commentators are actually there, and even the most dispassionate commentator will ultimately allow themself to get caught up in it. And if the match is a tedious 0-0, a good commentary team can fill the time with general footballing chit-chat, of the kind you might indulge in if you were there yourself. Radio 5 have an excellent commentary staff, with knowledgable and skilled commentators matched with insightful and often amusing and eccentric partners. Steve Claridge is the best co-commentator, due to him being almost totally off his trolley.

Anyway, I digress. I knew that football was happening in the world, but for some reason was pained to discover that it was being ignored so that I could hear a wheelturn and automatic gearchange by wheelturn and automatic gearchange account of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Now, I have seen Motorsport live and it's okay. There's the noise, the glamour, the smell and the general atmosphere that's enough to make any Petrolhead turn somersaults of delight. But on the TV it is just little cars going round and round for two hours. On the radio, despite the best efforts of all involved, it is some people describing little cars going round and round for two hours. You might as well have someone describing their computer defragmenting. This is a sport where they spend several days deciding who will start at the front, and the person who starts at the front almost always wins. One hates to be nostalgic for death and disaster, but a couple of decades ago when someone crashed or something went wrong there was the possibility of a spectacle. Engines blew up, cars spun in the air, people were taken to hospital or the morgue. Nowadays, cars drop out due to a software fault in the fuel delivery system. They go round and round and then simply stop. How very exciting. That's before you realise that you can't remember a time when Michael Schumacher didn't win pretty much every race and championship, like some winning robot.

The essence of excitement in popular sport consists of two things. The first is that you can imagine yourself doing it and therefore identify with your heroes. No kid ever plays Formula One Grand Prix. These drivers are like Supermodels. There are only 20 of them in the world and normal people simply have no chance of ever egetting in the club.

The second thing is unpredictablity. Good sport means that the underdog can triumph through force of will, even if it hardly ever happens. In F1, the little guy has a crap car, or didn't qualify for the race. Each year there are only 3 or 4 people who can compete because it isn't a sport, it's an extremely nerdy engineering project.

So I listened until I got bored, imagining the excitement and incident that would be happening in football grounds throughout the land. It took about three minutes before I switched the radio off and enjoyed the muffled swish as my wheels skimmed over the snowy Chevin road.

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