Monday, July 6, 2009

Controversy? You're Kidding!

By Mitchell

You might have thought we could get through the July 4 weekend without politics rearing its ugly head. Much like the Grim Reaper in Death Takes a Holiday, you might have supposed that the politicos would let us get through one weekend - OK, make that three measly days - without barraging us with unsavory headlines.

You might have thought that, and if you had, you would have been wrong.

Politics, served up with an ironic twist, was all over the place over the weekend. We should have known better, should have known that the good times wouldn't last forever. But over the weekend our senses were assaulted by headlines that set tongues wagging, bloggers furiously pounding the keays, and pundits speculating as to what the future holds for one of the most important institutions in the world.

That would, of course, be Formula One.

In our last episode, you may remember that peace appeared to have broken out, as FIA president Max Mosley apparently offered to step down from the governing body at the end of his term this fall, thus causing the Formula One Teams Association to return to the fold, ending the threat of a breakaway championship. Max, as you know, is seen by many as the ultimate survivor, having dodged the bullet last year when that Nazi sex-tape surfaced. Fortunately, we all know that this story was a fluke, an aberration, one that would die down and soon be forgotten.


The man in the headlines now is Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 major domo. In an interview last week with The Guardian, Bernie had a good word for Hitler, stood up for Saddam, and questioned the wisdom of democracy (quotes courtesy F1B):

On Hitler: “In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done. . .In the end he got lost, so he wasn’t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasn’t a dictator.”

On Saddam: “Politicians are too worried about elections,” he said. “We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing but we get involved in things we should leave alone.”

On democracy in general: [Ecclestone] also rounded on democracy, claiming that “it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries — including this one [Britain]”.

Curious, as more than one pundit pointed out, that Bernie would use a Nazi analogy, considering the previous flap with Max.

Of course, Ecclestone has backed off his remarks, somewhat. Today he clarified that what he had meant to say was something along the lines of, "The trouble with politicians and democracy is they all the time have to compromise, they can't do what they want to do because there is somebody in opposition. It certainly takes a lot longer to do something. I regret that it didn't come out like that, upsetting people is the last thing I wanted to do, obviously."

Well, OK. But then he went on to criticize the World Jewish Congress for calling on him to resign. "I think the people who are saying that haven't got the power to say these things," Ecclestone said in a telephone interview, then adding "It's a pity they didn't sort the banks out ... (if) they have a lot of influence everywhere."

Now, I wonder if there will be any pushback from that last remark. After all, it sounds as if Bernie is just feeding into another stereotype, doesn't it? Judie asked me if I thought Bernie realized what he was saying. My response was that if this was an accurate quote, and not taken out of context, I feel fairly certain he knew exactly what he was saying, almost as if he were taunting them. I'll say this for the man, he's got balls. (Problem is, F1 doesn't need them. Baseball, football, basketball, golf. . .)

As if this weren't ironic enough, the next F1 Grand Prix is coming up Sunday in - you guessed it - Germany.

All this goes to show once again why F1 remains my favorite sport. It's just about the only place in the world where you can get sports, politics, soap opera, sex, you name it - all in one place. The competition on the track regularly seems to take a back seat to what goes on in the board room. Go ahead, check out any of the F1 blogs I've listed on the sidebar - you'll read about engine controversies, conflicts of interest, teams making threats, drivers making threats, everyone making threats - you have to page through tons of material to actually find something about the race. Add a healthy does of irony, and I ask you: what more could anyone want?

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