Some sports fans mystify me

The news that Michael Schumacher’s comeback has been cancelled has the F1 blogs buzzing. See links on the left… 140 comments at the moment on the thread on F1-Fanatic, which is a site I visit most days. The guy who writes it, Keith Collantine, comes across as a fairly normal fan, very into the sport but quite rational. While there are a few fairly unpleasant comments in the thread, most of them are interesting. But a lot of them are vehemently anti-Schumacher. Or if you want to read some really crazed anti-Schumacher posts, have a look at the forums on Planet-F1 (I’m not linking to it because I really don’t like the place and I’d hate any of them to follow a trackback here!) or some of the comments on Sidepodcast, which appears to be mainly populated by people who are fanatically against him.

But anyway, the point is this: How is it that so many people appear to really loathe – or unquestioningly adore – sportspeople? Or actors or pop stars for that matter. I can sort of relate to those who have passionate feelings towards politicians, because their role in public life is predicated on their characters, their ethics and beliefs etc. (The classic example would be that ****er Bush 😉 – his character directly affected his job performance and his impact on the world.) But why is it that some people seem to be personally offended by Lewis Hamilton’s success, and take every opportunity to claim that he’s a cheat, or not actually that good at all, and didn’t deserve to get into a good car without serving his time in a bad one?

I just don’t understand this thinking. My position is that I can lke or dislike someone’s behaviour, or politics, or impact on a sport, and so on. But I don’t actually know that person. I don’t actually like or dislike the person themselves! It seems to me that a lot of other people actually feel like they DO know sportspeople, actors, singers or politicians. Am I wrong on this?

For example, I was always awed by Schumacher’s completeness as a driver; his ability to shape and motivate a team, to consistently get every last thousandth of a second out of the car, to keep his family out of the limelight and have a private life. I found some of his actions rather unsportsmanlike, but on the other hand I believe that it takes a certain ruthlessness – a will to win – to dominate a sport as entirely as he did, even in the years 1996-1999 when he was not champion. Even in a car that was only 3rd or 4th best, he was always a potential winner. You couldn’t say that about Mr Nice Guy Jarno Trulli! But there still seem to be people out there who think Schumacher is evil, that he was consistently cheating, that he and Ferrari manipulated results… blah blah blah.

Hamilton has a lot of the same characteristics as Schumacher. He is fast, ruthless, and always a threat given even a sniff of a chance. In a way I find him a little bit more annoying because he tries so hard to be likeable. Schumacher was much more “You don’t like it? TS”. However, Hamilton has sublime car control, and is a more exciting racer to watch than Schumacher. But he has certainly roused the same negative response (and from what I can see, it’s mainly coming from the same people) as Schumacher.

Even when it comes to politics the same holds: for instance, take G.W.Bush. Anyone who has ever met me knows how much I loathed his policies and his presidency. But even then, I don’t actually think the man is evil. He was just never smart enough to rise above the puppet-masters who were pulling his strings. He was a front man, a patsy almost. And I do believe he did his best within his ethical framework. He didn’t deliberately set out to hurt people like, say, Hitler or Stalin who believed that terror was a legitimate way to control a population.

So what is it – is there something wrong with me that I don’t take these people’s actions personally? Or am I mistaken in thinking other people do?

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~ by Lynn Duffy on August 11, 2009.

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