Lone Wolf and the need for some aggro12/07/2011
By Lone Wolf
YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!
Well I am. And I never thought I would be saying this but that four-wheel "sport" known as ..... (I can't bring myself to use the F-word) is serving up more drama and is more entertaining as a television spectacle than any of our two wheel versions currently provide. The possible exception is British Superbikes but more of that later.
Yes, I know it is far too long and there are incredible periods of tedium. And all the stuff about KERS and diffusers are way above the heads of the viewers or, indeed, the experts who are supposed to know about these things and explain them to simpletons like me. And the bloke who leads into the first corner usually wins, unless there's a cock-up in the pits. And, and, and ....
But it has two vital ingredients which we Brits love more than anything else. British winners - young winners who are highly marketable - and controversy. Drivers slagging off other drivers. Drivers slagging off each other, when they are not posing with cracking-looking bits of totty. Team orders being disobeyed. Teams flouting - well, finding loopholes in - the rules. It is a wonderful soap opera.
And does Ringmeister Bernie Ecclestone care about all this? When asked about Lewis Hamilton's utterances and antics and what his advice to the young man might be, the venerable circus owner (aged 80 or thereabouts) said with the air or a man who has seen it all: "Go faster!"
Contrast that with the attitude of MotoGP which has given Simoncelli more than one severe ticking off for upsetting one or two of the established stars by trying to win! He should surely qualify for the entertainer of the year award. Race Director Paul Butler who performed the wrist-slapping must surely have done so with a heavy heart because he lived through the Hailwood, Hunt and Sheene era when bad behaviour was almost a pre-requisite - trashing hire cars being the standard game!
Yes, motor cycle racing has become rather dull. As they wake up every morning, the bosses of MotoGP, WSBK and BSB should say out loud:"We are in the entertainment business." And then ring Simon Cowell.
Racing is gladiatorial. There has to be confrontation. The headline for this article came from John McEnroe,who seemed a pretty nasty piece of work at the time while also being the greatest tennis player on the planet. But he pulled in the crowds.
World Superbikes has, in Max Biaggi, someone who likes to swing the occasional punch or two so he should be valued. Other than that they are a pretty ordinary bunch with nothing much to say and, sadly, hopes of a British world champion have long since disappeared. Either the 40 year old Italian or the 38 year old Spaniard will be the winner it seems.
Perhaps part of the problem is not with the riders themselves but unwritten rules which appear to outlaw the right to freedom of speech. BSB seems to suffer from an element of control freakery in this respect. As most journalists eventually realise, PR people are employed to manipulate - emasculate if you like - the message rather than create it. As the great newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe once said:"News is what someone, somewhere doesn't want you to read!"
It's difficult to believe that the once outspoken Shakey Byrne was being so nice to John Hopkins after being driven off the track by the American. One can only conclude he'd been got at. The media itself is to blame, of course. We're just too nice too - or too compliant?
Bring back Colin Wright or Paul Bird. Nobody constrained them. Tommy Bridewell had a wonderful habit of speaking out of turn. And Guy Martin is loved and hated in equal measure.
More aggro please.
ARE WE VALUABLE - OR JUST CHEAP?
And while on the subject of entertainment, just how much do Sky, Eurosport, the BBC or ITV love us? Not a lot would be the answer if you judge how much they pay. The BBC do pay Dorna for the UK rights to MotoGP but to put it in perspective their payment for the entire series is about the same as what they pay F1 for a single round! And Mugello was on the red button.
Eurosport, owned by French tv company TF 1, is as poor as a church mouse and doesn't pay anybody anything very much. In fact BSB has to pay it in order to get live transmission! It has to play second fiddle to the Beeb for MotoGP, not being allowed to do it live, and while it has World Superbikes exclusively it rarely screens Superpole live and on Sunday the Supersport race had to give way to a women's football match!!
ITV did a great job on the TT but it was on ITV 4, watched by the odd hundred thousand rather than the odd million. Sky have decided that speedway is for them and they seem to have revived a dying sport. The UK final at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff was attended by about 50,000 spectators.
Of course, it is rumoured that the BBC will have to give up it's motorsport coverage as, due to budget cuts it will no longer be able to afford it. Perhaps Charlie and Steve should take a pay cut.
ISLE OF WIGHT TT
I hear some bright spark on that little lump of land just off Portsmouth has suggested having a road race. Well, they do get up to some mad things - like music festivals. Wasn't it where Jimi Hendrix made his penultimate live appearance and set fire to his guitar? They had half a million people there in those heady days when smoking was allowed!
Road races are difficult to stage however. Mainly because in England, Wales and Scotland you need a change in the Road Traffic Act to allow racing on public roads. But if that were to change it sounds like a "reet good idea," as James Whitham might say.