Thursday, August 24

where is the sport in motorsport ?

I have a problem with the idea that is "motorsport". And, that is - I don't think, it is a sport. I tried, but I couldn't see a sport in "motorsport". I don't discriminate any form of motorsport - F1 or NASCAR or IndyCar. I hate them equally. More importantly, I think "motorsport" a misnomer. Call motorsport, a shameless and profligate expression of penis-envies, exhibited by those whirring, exploding, gas-sucking, and piston-pumping motors as a symbolic extension of the male genitals (except for Danica Patrick, may be). I stand behind you (with a little caution). Call it as motor-circus. I am totally with you. Call it a motor-driver-exhibition. I agree. Call it as a motor-competition. There is a bling of disagreement. Still, I nod. But, Calling it a sport - No, Sir ! Circus is not sport! Yes, it is entertainment. But not a sport.

I know what is coming next. You are, probably, going to throw me the definition of sport. OK. Lets get this over with. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Sport (in the sense of, ah, well, sports) is defined as

An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.

Technically, of course, any competition involving skill is a sport. ESPN thinks that Poker is a sport (Oh, Well, the argument that shuffling chips and picking cards as a "physical exertion" is not really, you know, getting through). Again, I have no problems with Poker being a recreational activity. But, a sport ? The problem actually is not the definition or classification of motor-what-ever as a sport - technically.

So you tell me, it may just be a matter of personal preference. Probably, I don't like motor-blah-blah as much as, say, baseball. I compared my comparison with another comparison. (Is this a record - three comparisons in a line ?). I do like baseball more than cricket, both of these I admire as sports. One of the many reasons for liking baseball is what I perceive as a difference between hitting and batting. Hey, I am just a fan. I may be completely wrong here.

Most of Indians who like cricket (that's a given), tend to dislike baseball, because they think there is absolutely no intelligence in hitting. But I wonder - If it is true that hitting is a dumb thing like pinning the donkey's tail, Why every hitter in baseball doesn't hit with the same average ? So, here is the comparison. In cricket, a batting is a mini-gymnastic exercise. The batsman has to look the swing on the ball, see where it pitches, and orchestrate the movement of the foot (the foot movement is like an Irish dance) in sync with the movement of hand.( with a perfect timing of course). The batsman spends more time understanding the ball, than the bowler. In cricket, batting is all about concentration and choosing the perfect stroke - and the stroke, as a result, is as brilliant and creative as a chess move.

In baseball, hitting is not really that complicated. There is already a stance, all you have to worry about is your shoulders, your waist and your swing. (There is a little foot-work,but you really don't have to dance) This makes hitting simple, but more mental. It is all about judgement, and getting into the head of the pitcher - Ah, there lies its emotional rub. So, as I see, the swing of a successful hitting is as beautiful as the free-kick in soccer that ends up as a goal. Finally, in a seven game series between beauty of baseball and brilliance of cricket - Beauty - 4, Brilliance - 3. (This is how I see these two sports. Of course, it is entirely possible to see this the other way) But I really couldn't do this comparison with motor-boink-boink against any of the sport I admire. I really don't think it is relative liking or relative hatred. There is something more...

My problem is the meaning of motor-boo-boo as a sport. I see the motor as a machine, and the driver as an operator. I see no difference between twenty drivers racing their machines, and twenty lathe operators on a shop floor, in a pump manufacturing company, working up their productivity charts for a TPM showcase. Only difference is that the question on the shop floor is - Who drives the tool tip faster ? Would we call that a sport ?

I would like to relate to any sport just by watching it or playing it. In the exhibition of motor"sport", I see nothing of the driver's skills. I only get to see the effects of the skills. So the driver managed to keep himself ahead, while negotiating the curve. What did he do, really ? What were his movements ? Did he flinch ? Did he have fit ? or Did he fart ? I don't see nothing. (OK. Technically, you can't see a fart. That aside. Personally, I think, driving is a boring activity with its only use of transporting a person) I can't even play that game in my yard or in a park. Is there anyway to relate to this "sport" ? In this sense, I think, even Dodgeball or Rock-Paper-Scissors are agreeable as sports. Or Competitive eating, for that matter. (A clip from the movie Dodgeball explaining the rules. For those who haven't heard of Dodgeball before, there is no such thing as ADAA. Its just a parody of naming sports associations of America.)

Finally you say, what you have to see is the power of machines. Its the technology, baby. runs a long list technical details to look for in a F1 racing. If its about technology, why don't they have an Auto expo or something like that? At least then, you can have the technology without the noise and heat. The claim that its an exhibition of technology doesn't really make motor-pee-pee a sport.

And finally, the reason why I even started writing this. Some time ago, Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorite writers on American pop culture, was writing about Barry Bonds, (the Sachin Tendulkar of Baseball) under the suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs, surpassing Babe Ruth's (the Don Bradman of Baseball) record of home runs (the sixer of a baseball game. Yeah, they do have record for sixers!!!). He wrote

It's a problem for anyone who considers sports to be a meaningful prism through which to understand life and culture.

Yeah, that is it. I wanted to use this line, and I don't understand life or culture with motorsport. But... Wait! If motorsport is a prism to understand culture or life that is - just noise, pollution and exploitation of fossil fuels - well then, may be, motorsport is the sport of our generation. Probably, the last generation that uses fossil fuels.

No comments: