A great win by Webber, but it sure as hell wasn’t sport
This morning I joined millions of other Australians in accelerating, braking, swearing and spilling coffee on myself all the way down the freeway.
As nice as it would have been, there was no gigantic novelty cheque, no bikini-clad girls or Moet as I rounded the straight and sped past the chequered boom gate into the parking lot.
Hell, there wasn’t even a parking spot. This was an everyday chore, undertaken with great haste but no significant amount of skill. Mark Webber’s overnight victory in the Monaco Grand Prix should be treated with the same level of fanfare, because motor racing is not a sport. Never has been, never will be.
Admittedly Webber’s effort came with a slightly higher degree of difficulty. I didn’t have to worry about maiming film stars and royalty if I jumped the kerb. He also went slightly faster than I did, but then again, he didn’t have to deal with speed cameras and Volvo drivers.
But I still say it’s not sport. Sport is something that makes you sweaty. Sport requires physical exertion. Sport has skill beyond jiggling a steering wheel left and right.
OK, so motor racing drivers do get pretty sweaty inside those fireproof suits. But I’m talking about the kind of sweat you earn when you propel your body under your own steam. Webber should know all about this kind of sweat. He runs an annual fundraising challenge in Tasmania where competitors can perspire to their heart’s content.
Webber is by all accounts a good guy. This is not to bag the bloke. But I just fail to get excited by the “spectacle” of the 35 year-old Queanbeyan product winning on a track where cars can’t even pass each other.
That Monaco circuit is a glorified one-way street, with as much opportunity to overtake as an 8 year-old’s slot car track. Once you’ve hit the lead, all you have to do is keep driving to win. That’s not sport, it’s basic physics.
So what makes a sport a sport?
We’ve already mentioned sweat and physical exertion. But there’s something more. It’s the grimace on competitors’ faces. It’s the fact that you can watch the action unfold from the sidelines and actually appreciate the skill involved. You can’t actually see what’s happening inside the car in motor racing. For that reason, it totally fails as a spectacle.
There is also the case that we never really know if the best driver or the best car is winning, though we usually can be pretty sure it’s the latter.
So really, if a race is a won in the garage, why even bother to take it out to the track?
Well done Mark Webber, for being the first across the line last night, and for becoming the first Australian to win Monaco twice. Yes, it was a great achievement, but that doesn’t mean it was a great sporting achievement.
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