Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The last shall be first

It doesn't matter whether you win or lose -- it's all in the spin.

Imagine tuning in to watch the World Series and finding wall to wall coverage of Japanese minor league games. That's how I feel when trying to watch sports car racing on Speed Channel. Laguna Seca at Monterrey, California held the last race of the 2007 IMSA American LeMans series Saturday. These races, based on the French LeMans 24 hour endurance classic include several categories of cars together on the same track, from look-alike prototypes to production based sports cars compete with passenger seats, windshield wipers and brake lights.

I have stayed awake a day and a half watching the real thing in person, but this endurance race was unendurable for more than an hour. I confess that although I love sports car racing, I love to see the Corvettes win - and for the last few years, they always do. I enjoy it partly because I own one and partly because I love to see the dance of denial done by the stuck in the 80's traditionalists who see foreign manufacture as the prime factor in judging what is and what isn't a sports car. To watch the beautifully televised High Definition coverage, you'd think the race was all about the not-for-sale prototypes and the GT-2 class sports cars; the slower, less competitive vehicles like Porsche and Ferrari. The audio sounded like nothing else but a farrago of Audi-Porsche-Mazda-Lexus-Accura commercials.

Call me a traditionalist curmudgeon, but in most sporting events the name of the winner or the season's champion team gets mentioned at least as often as the runners up and the minor leagues are generally seen as less important than the majors. Not once during the hour I watched, was the GT-1 category; the fastest sports cars which include Aston Martin and Maserati, either mentioned or shown. Not once during the festival of foreign name shouting was it mentioned that the Americans were about to win again.

But Automobile racing is not about cars, it's about global consumerism, unless you're talking about NASCAR and I'm still trying to figure out what that is all about. It's about winning in the magazines and TV commercials. It's about maintaining the profitable illusion that the guys who are 20 years behind are the cutting edge; that the competitors who finish a distant second and third are really winners.

Anyway, another season of America bashing, flag pin wearing, Toyota driving Americans pretending that the Axis powers are unbeatable even after we beat them year after year is over and the point standing is 19 points for Aston Martin, 38 for Maserati and 238 for the technological wonder from Bowling Green Kentucky. Who knows, maybe some day they'll come with heated Latte holders just like the real sports cars.

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