Opinion often leaves a distorted view of class

As youngsters, we surely all had a few little model racing cars. Which, when raced around the table or wherever it was, had us all believing we were Ayrton Senna or Nigel Mansell or Damon Hill or Eddie Irvine. All sports have their devotees, of course, but, in the case of Formula One, for many of us that’s where the fascination ended.

Aficionados will nonetheless get up at all hours of the day and night to watch practice and qualifying sessions and races from far flung corners of the world. More luck to them. Each to their own, and all that. However, a growing degree of difficulty exists in taking too seriously a sport that relies so much on externally built technology to facilitate its basic functionality.

Formula One cars now seem more akin to space capsules than what they are supposed to be – racing cars. Yes, drivers of course require a certain level of aptitude and skill, but surely reliance on same has been negated to a large extent from the times when some of the older drivers recalled above were in the pit lanes. A situation accentuated still further by the fact that they are now bedecked in communications equipment which leaves them in constant contact with engineers and mechanics.

All of which, for me at least, diminishes the amount achievement there is in being successful in the sphere. Not to mention the increasing instances of murky business which appear to have permeated that whole scene. Still, for what it’s worth, Lewis Hamilton recently clocked up another World Championship in his chosen arena.

Now, end of year awards – or indeed gongs at any time – are always going to divide opinion. And in some cases be contentious and controversial. They’re often that even within the realms of one sport, so, trying to pick one outstanding individual – or team of them – from a diverse array of activities is bound to be mine filled territory.

Whatever sport a person is into is going to dominate the majority – or entirety – of their interactions with sport. It’s all opinion, and opinion can often leave a distorted view of class.  Granted, I would nearly, short of baseball, watch anything. Realistically, though, GAA and horse racing would always win priority above all else. Maybe in no particular order either.

It’s reality, also, that certain sports regularly attain better coverage than others. Whether that’s right or wrong is not today’s topic for discussion. The point in the relevant case here is that in terms of something like the BBC Sports Awards, it surely takes something special for somebody or a group of bodies from outside the mainstream to secure top billing. Remember the concerted effort it took to ensure AP McCoy was deservedly and belatedly rewarded a few years ago?

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton being the beneficiary of such and groundswell of public support seems, or at least seemed, unlikely. Not least because his seemingly continuous spats with teammate Nico Rosberg didn’t exactly portray him as a very nice bloke. But win the Sports Person of the Year he duly did. At the expense of Rory McIlroy.

Notwithstanding the fact that annexation of a World Championship in most arenas is obviously a commendable achievement, it seems most probable that the driver had mitigating circumstances in his favour when it came to acquiring accreditations that other times might appear unlikely.

One could with confidence offer any of England’s latest failure to conform to unrealistic expectations in a major football tournament or Andy Murray failing to maintain the peaks of 2013 or Jess Ennis-Hill being out of the equation as valid reasoning as to why the exponent of motorsport find himself in a more prominent polling position than might otherwise be the case.

Patriotic inclinations would, mind you, lead one to wonder – at the very least – was there a bit of jealousy and/or bitterness at play, attached in no small way to McIlroy’s declaration of intent to represent Ireland in the forthcoming Olympic Games. Such has been the fairly widespread surprise and dissatisfaction that the eventual award winner was who it was that feelings the more deserving man was shunned are difficult to suppress.

Acceptance that golf is globally a more popular sport than its main opposition in the case in point should surely have been enough to ensure McIlroy receive accreditation as the outstanding exhibitor of sporting excellence across any field in 2014. Especially in a head to head against an albeit talented individual from a highly fringe pursuit.

Accumulation of prestigious prizes in golf is such an intrepid expedition that, were he never to win another tournament, the already gathered glories of Tiger Woods mark him close to the forefront of the greatest ever to swing a club. His standing as the game’s flagship figure has, however, been comprehensively usurped by McIlroy.

The Hollywood star has just enjoyed the most bountiful year to date in an already glorious career. One which saw him add to his Major haul, win tournaments three weeks in a row and form an intrinsic part of another Ryder Cup success. Good enough to guarantee every golfing gong going. Most like innumerable other awards as well. Yet not this one. Go figure.

No matter, he assuredly won’t take long to remind people just how good he really is. Next year, and in Brazil in particular.


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