Sport is a wonderful thing. For me, very little draws as much passion and care. It can break your heart, your spirit and your soul, and make you feel as high as many mountains at times. That’s the nature of sport, and the way we play the game. And how emotionally invested we get sucked into these things, can so often taint the way we view said experience.
Nothing to me, described that more, than this weekend in Motorsport. Sunday morning, and the clash heard all over the sporting world, as MotoGP had it’s most controversial moment in a decade, with Valentino Rossi taking matters into his own hands when it came to dealing with Marc Marc Marquez. I’ve already gone into detail with this one, but needless to say, it blew up.
Then, after one of the best F1 races in recent times in America, the headlines were dominated with not anything to do with the action, but with a hat throw heard around the world, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg decided to play handbags with each other. What was amazing, was that the same Hamilton fanbase took more time to throw salt at Nico Rosberg’s bad day, then their own favourite driver WHO JUST WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
I happened to run this website, and a Twitter account with over 2,000 followers, most of whom are directly invested in F1, MotoGP and other sports, and it’s always irritating to often see entire fanbases so often at war with themselves over actions their favourite driver, rider, or hero get themselves involved with.
If anything, I drew a lot in common with Valentino Rossi and Lewis Hamilton. Both at the top of their game. One’s the reigning World Champion, the other has a chance of reaching the summit again after six years. Both are by some margin, the most popular sportsmen in their respective disciplines. And both have incredibly defensive and insecure fanbases.
I’ve already seen hashtags doing the rounds for Vale after yesterday’s grid drop penalty of #DontRaceForValentino, in an attempt to get other riders to move over for Vale to try and see him win the title at Valencia from the back, something similar to the gamesmanship I saw in the British Touring Car Championship finale, where barely anyone defended against Gordon Shedden’s climb to beat Jason Plato. Marc Marquez got death threats and tarnished as an “aggressive rider” for the exact same actions that made Valentino Rossi the star he is today.
I get why a lot of Lewis Hamilton fans are insecure. For one of the greatest drivers F1 has ever seen, he gets a lot of stick. From his fashion sense, to some things he actually deserved to be called out on, like him making a dog’s dinner of Justin Wilson’s minute of silence, to the sheer handbags of last night’s cap throwing. When your hero’s on top, you don’t want to see anything that sees them taken down a peg, including the term “Bottleberg” flying around, even when Lewis was in the middle of celebrating his third World Championship.
Here’s what many people fail to realize or just choose to ignore when it comes to their favourite driver/rider – Almost everyone has some form of sin. And criticism is a massive part of life that many people just have to accept. And if anything, that’s easily demonstrated on the Internet, where you can say almost whatever you like with near zero-chance of repercussion.
All I ask is one question – Why are we so defensive about our heroes?
It’s amazing how many people just have this tendency, in all forms of life, where they can’t take when they’re faced with criticism. There’s a good reason terms like “Rose-tinted spectacles” exist, and Valentino Rossi is one of the biggest examples of this.
Rossi has said a lot of newsworthy things since the Malaysia MotoGP weekend started on Thursday. He was critical of his own fanbase when talking about Andrea Iannone’s magnificent podium at Phillip Island a week prior, while criticizing Marc Marquez for “playing with him” and “helping Lorenzo win the Championship”… in a race where he passed Lorenzo for the win.
He’s often claimed of a divine right where riders who can’t win the title shouldn’t interfere… Where he himself deliberately got in a fight with Jorge Lorenzo at Motegi 2010, where Rossi was ineligible for the Championship, and even forced contact with him on two occasions. Dani Pedrosa was unafraid to call Jorge out on this one – “Vale always said it’s racing and now he’s changing his mind.” That right there, summed up Rossi in a nutshell. He doesn’t like it when someone dares play the same cards he dared to lay in the earlier parts of his career. If you can’t see Rossi as a hellacious hypocrite, then you’re probably wearing a yellow T-Shirt with “The Doctor” written on it.
Rossi is just one example of a Motorsport world where we’re very quick to selectively forget certain aspects of people’s careers, if it suits their needs.
For example, Ayrton Senna. I’ve never looked at him in the same many others do. Senna has one of the most passionate, and strong fanbases in all of sports. For many, the greatest, an embodiment of what a racing driver is. But many choose to forget that he deliberately crashed into Turn 1 of Suzuka to take Alain Prost out of the race – A race he knew that if he did it, he’d be World Champion. Can you even begin to imagine now, in this Internet age what would have happened if Rosberg or Hamilton did the same? We got a taste of that at Belgium last season, but it was quickly quashed. But it opened doors for a nuclear winter of discontent and mud throwing.
Believe it when I tell you this – I’ll respect you a lot more as a fan of someone, if you’re honest about them. You CAN criticise the people you love, and still be a fan of them. It’s okay, trust me.
I’m a huge Sebastian Vettel fan, have been for seven years now. Last season, when Daniel Ricciardo shocked everyone at how he kicked the four-time World Champion to the kerb, I could have been bitter, and resentful that the guy who had an untouchable career to that point, had been humbled. But I embraced Daniel for the great talent he is, and appreciated him as the breath of fresh air at the top that he is. Even made him my 2014 Driver of the Year, above World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.
It made me a better fan in the long run. The ignorant thing to do would be to dismiss his talent. call it a fluke, shrug it off and pretend it didn’t happen. Lying to myself like that just isn’t a healthy, ro the right thing to do. Sometimes, a bad season, is simply that. It brought me down to earth a tad, after the years of runaway success. Sometimes in life, I feel you learn a heck of a lot more in a loss, than you do with a win.
I can run more examples until the cows come home, but you get my point. I respect just about everyone in F1 and MotoGP for what they do. They are incredible athletes, some of the finest in the world, and indirectly do this for our own entertainment. But sometimes, they fuck up. And that’s okay. More often than not, how we deal with these mistakes we make in human nature, makes us the people we are. And like them, they come back stronger and better for it. There’s no reason, why we as fans, can’t do the same.
So next time your favourite has a bad day at the office, suck it up. Success shouldn’t breed resentment. Mud shouldn’t have to be flung at the wall. Sometimes, we just need to play the game a little better.