Monday, July 05, 2010
In normal Macro Man tradition, we will use a public holiday to step back from markets and take a lighter-hearted look at the world. The last few weeks have seen a rash of sporting events dominate the world's interests and our own social diaries. As a meringue is just a vehicle for cream, many of these events are just a vehicle for grand socialising. Ascot apparently has horses racing, Wimbledon has some tennis matches and we gather that at Henley there is a river with boats racing on it. But these are mere sideshows compared to the real job of dressing up, eating too much and then drinking FAR too much in the sun with old friends, whilst basking in the timelessness of these bastions of tradition, forgetting the woes of the real world. Escapism indeed.
But whilst discussing the fortunes of English sport at one of the grand picnics at the Henley Royal Regatta last weekend, the conversation turned to what we should expect from our sporting heroes. Nowadays, they appear to have to fulfill many roles, no longer just having to be good at their sport. They also have to be good looking, entertaining, nice people, who reflect our own views on the world and behave in ways we respect. Unfortunately, most of the England football team fail those criteria on every count. Unless sleeping with most of your in-laws, or your team-mates' in-laws, fighting over it, being useless in your chosen sport and getting paid 120k a week for it is what you feel everyone should aspire to.
So why can't we strip out all the different functions we expect of a sportsman and not be allowed to judge them on anything apart from their ability to perform at said sport? Perhaps, if that was the case, even we may end up supporting Andy Murray? He has never been a favourite, but he lost all our respect over the debate of whether or not he would bow to the Queen, but, to be fair, once we heard that he had never suggested he wouldn't, we restored him back to the level of respect we had held him in before the incident. That of Grade "A" Tw@t.
And as for the sports themselves, there are some great events out there but most of them appear to have been neutered from their original forms by their overly-powerful governing bodies. For example, Formula 1 motor racing is now pretty tedious weekend afternoon TV. And downhill skiing is just background cowbell noise for post-hangover winter Sunday evenings. It's just not exciting to watch anymore. What happened to the verve and thrill-seeking of the pioneer days of motor sport, or the recklessness of the first English madmen who started racing down mountains on planks?
We suggest we shake things up and take them back to their roots. A clue to where we are coming from was obviously apparent in the enjoyment and excitement we all felt towards the best new sport at the winter Olympics. The Ski Cross. None of this "one at a time", timed tedious nonsense. Four or six competitors set off from the top and the first to the bottom was the winner. Just like the sort of race you'd arrange with your friends. Now, we know that the TV companies would not have as much material to fill the hours and the self-aggrandising sports officials wouldn't have as much to do to justify their existence, but we strongly feel that the men's and women's Downhill, Super G and Slalom should all run on the same basis. Each is just one race with everyone starting at the top together at the same time, and the first one down wins. The only rules being "first to the bottom wins" and "no weapons".
And the same for Formula One. Let's bring it back to its roots. You close a large stretch of motorway, say London to wherever "oop norf", line up all the cars and say "Go". You can have whatever car you fancy with the only rule being that you can only fill up at existing petrol/service stations using the regular pumps. We will let the drivers off from having to queue to pay as they may get distracted by the pig-nostril pies in the hot cabinet or stand there wondering if the extra 2 pounds for the under-body wax included in the 5* option car wash is really worth it. But you get the drift. A sort of legalised turbo-charged Gumball rally. THAT would be worth turning the TV on for.
And while we are at it, let's look at the Olympics. A good friend of ours has had a brilliant idea over how they should be reorganised. And it makes total sense. At the moment, we have an enormous bias towards countries with the largest populations as they have a greater sample size from which to pick their best performers. We also have the resulting TV coverage of a load of people doing what they chose and trained to do (Yaawn...). So instead, the selection process should change completely. From now on it will be done by BALLOT. A whole country's population is eligible aged between say, 16 and 60, and so 4 years before an Olympics, names will be drawn AT RANDOM to select who will represent their country for each discipline... Yes, think about that for a moment... You may well get a letter through your letter box saying "Dear Sir/Madam, We are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen to represent your country in the 100 metres hurdles at the 20xx Olympics".
This form of selection will get rid of the bias that high population countries have and gives a much fairer representation of a country's overall fitness and sporting ability. It would mean that each competitor would have 4 years to train in whichever field they have been randomly selected for and there would be no shirking or sick notes from your Mother. You would HAVE to attend. It would give communities such a boost and focus to suddenly realise that Mabel in the Cake Shop was going to have to do the synchronised diving, or Jim the taxi driver was going to be in the 100 metres. The TV companies wouldn't complain either. Four years of "following your local through the build up" programmes would result in top quality reality TV, NOT governed by Simon Cowell or that musical-writing man with his face on inside out. Brilliant.
And while we are at it, here's another idea associated with the Olympics, or in fact any sport, that would instantly solve the problems associated with drugs, stimulants and other such performance-enhancing practices. You don't ban them, you ALLOW THEM ALL. Yes, you can take what you like. It's your life and it really isn't up to us to tell you what you can't do to reach your dreams. And yes, we hear on reality shows all the times how much the contestants "really, really, really want it". Well there you go, your choice, and if you really, really want it enough to kill yourself then we are not stopping you. And the money coming in from pharmaceutical sponsorship could be huge... "In Lane one we have Ben Johnson sponsored by Novartis, in Lane two sponsored by Hoffman-LaRoche we have...".
This weekend saw another event kick off that could really benefit from an overhaul on the above lines. The Tour de France. It has always been plagued by drug controversy and has been broken into so many stupid sub-stages/sprints and jerseys etc. That from now on, we propose that all the cyclists start together in Paris and, simply, the first one to cycle around the country and get back to Paris is the winner. Easy...
So, can we be in charge of sports please?