Ashling O’Connor: ‘Sexing up’ F1 by doubling points or golf by offering cash for a hole-in-one on a par four is ridiculous – the sport alone is enough
Blood-pumping pride of victory is motivation enough – and a £250,000 cheque
Saturday 01 February 2014
What’s wrong with simply playing the game as it was originally intended? Isn’t the highest level of sport executed by the best talent in the world enough?
I refer, exasperated, of course to the latest attempts by organisers of top events to tinker with the rules to “make it more exciting”. Despite vehement objections from within Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone is intent on applying his idea of double points for the final grand prix of the 2014 season to the preceding two races in Austin and Sao Paulo.
Sebastian Vettel, the defending champion whose dominance the proposal is designed to curtail, has unsurprisingly described it as “absurd”. (It wouldn’t have stopped him winning last season anyway.)
Most Formula One fans – who, let’s face it, are devotees who understand the nuances of their sport – are also largely opposed to it. They don’t want to see the rest of the season devalued in favour of a finale that amounts to a powerplay on wheels. It’s up there with drivers rotating cars from race to race.
And the teams hate the concept too. Yet they seem resigned to trialling it for the last race in Abu Dhabi. The argument that it will keep TV ratings high to the season’s end and thus keep sponsors, advertisers and rights-holders happy is compelling enough to give it a go.
But it is pretty insulting to suggest that Formula One fans are so fickle as to switch off just because one of the best drivers – perhaps the best – who has ever sat in a cockpit is routinely giving his rivals a masterclass.
The test of Formula One is supposed to be about consistent excellence over a season, not a lucky couple of races at the tail end.
This unnecessary urge to “sex it up” is also on show in golf, where the organisers of the Dubai Desert Classic this week are offering a $2.5m (£1.5m) prize to anyone who can make a hole-in-one on the 17th.
It is all about blind luck as players cannot even see the pin from the tee on the par four, which will be shortened to 325 yards for the final two rounds.
Rory McIlroy, whose victory at the tournament in 2009 was his first as a professional, said he would have to go for it even if it put his lead at risk because it was “an incentive”.
What about old-fashioned winning as an inducement? The blood-pumping pride of victory should be motivation enough but the title already comes with a £250,000 winner’s cheque. And McIlroy is hardly strapped for cash.
Such a gimmick demeans the worth of the title, not enhances it. It cheapens sport, whose purity should be meddled with as little as possible, not bent to the will of a commercial circus.
Both these stunts should be consigned to sport’s Room 101, with the glowing puck, the banning of the dunk in 1960s college basketball, silver and golden goals, aggregate qualifying in Formula One, the Stanford Super Series and Andy Townsend’s Tactics Truck. The sport alone does it for me.
Let’s raise a glass to Lottie
I had half an ear on a BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in this week (I know, why?) and caught a bit of a rant from one listener about the England captain causing consternation with an ill-advised remark about heavy drinking.
What, I wondered, had Steven Gerrard, Chris Robshaw or Alastair Cook said to provoke such ire? But it was none of them taking the flak from “outraged of Tunbridge Wells”. It was Charlotte Edwards, the women’s cricket captain, who apparently should have known better than to say that she would be celebrating her team’s retention of the Ashes in Australia by “getting absolutely smashed”.
Hallelujah, I thought. Finally, some equal billing. You can bet if any of those male captains had said the same thing it would be splashed across the next day’s newspapers about how poor a role model he was being to all those kids who hero-worship him.
It’s a stock reaction: England captain says or does something silly and it is blown out of all proportion, dressed up as “news” and subjected to all manner of analysis about the immorality of modern sport.
This time it just happened to be a woman on the receiving end. So, I know it is totally perverse to be delighted but I think it marks real progress in the coverage of women’s sport.
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