Don't discriminate or help the aged

November 2012

Out of the many things in this crazy, messed up world that makes me cross, equal rights activists are certainly in the top 10. Possibly even the top 5. Only the stupid and ill-informed will blithely go through their whole lives trying to convince people that everyone is equal when, quite clearly, that isn’t true. There are some fundamental differences between people that are based on race, sex, age, religion and even class.

Whilst I agree discrimination and intolerance is generally stupid as well, I think the term “discrimination” is overused and misused. For instance, would it be discrimination to suggest a gay man is unsuitable to judge a female beauty pageant on the grounds that he doesn’t find women attractive and would rather put another man’s willy in his mouth? Probably, but it’s certainly a valid point.

Is it discrimination to prevent a white man from becoming a member of the Black Police Association? No it’s not because having a white member of a group dedicated to black people is as stupid as allowing a black person to become a member of the Ku Klux Klan. What is stupid is having a Black Police Association in the first place. It’s racist and pointless.

The arguments could go on forever. It isn’t discrimination to turn someone in a wheelchair down for a job as a bouncer in a nightclub. It’s not discrimination to turn a female actor (formerly known as an actress) down for a male role in a film. But you can guarantee some ill-informed, snotty-nosed twerp somewhere will claim it is.

It’s the same with age. There are certain jobs where age becomes a limiting and often deciding factor in whether or not to employ someone. Nowhere is this more evident than the world of sport. Age is a very important factor in competitive sports, whether at professional or amateur level. Look at the majority of top level sports and you’ll find that the average age is around the mid-twenties mark. The average retirement age is mid-to-late thirties. Anyone competing past that age is on borrowed time.

This is because sport requires physical conditioning and it’s a well known fact that the older you get, the less your body can physically do and the more senile you become. Conditioning is important even in “non athletic” sports like snooker. I used to play snooker on a regular basis and after 3 frames, my performance used to ebb dramatically. Not because I was physically tired but because I’d been concentrating for so long on trying to knock stupid coloured balls into stupid little holes, that my concentration level dropped and my brain became less efficient than David Beckham’s.

Football is a case in point. You can’t expect a middle-aged man to run up and down a pitch for 90 minutes with a bunch of teenagers because they’d have a heart attack. When you look at a lot of track and field sports, it’s easy to see why fitness is important. However, motor racing is both physically and mentally tiring and that is something the majority of people don’t realise. Most people assume that, because a Formula 1 driver is just sitting down in a car, it requires little to no physical exertion. Well, these guys have to wear 3 layer Nomex overalls over fireproof underwear. They have to stick on a 1kg crash helmet. They have to race in extremely high ambient temperatures. They have to squash their bodies into a cramped and rather hot cockpit, sat in front of an extremely hot engine and a tank full of fuel. They have to experience pressures of up to 5-G in corners, under braking and acceleration. That means that their neck has to support the combined weight of a head and crash helmet at 5 times the force of gravity – so about 25kg. Their arms and shoulders have to handle a car that generates enough grip to be able to take corners at well over 100mph. They have to maintain a high level of concentration while the world flies past at over 200mph and the forces of nature basically try to rip their body apart and dehydrate them of over 2 litres of fluid. They have to keep this constant physical exertion and mental focus up for a couple of hours and then go and pretend to be nice to the press for several hours.

So it stands to reason that they are all highly tuned athletes in their late teens and early twenties. Once a driver his 30, they are considered middle-aged. Once they are mid thirties, they are considered pensioners and are being pushed aside for the next generation. This is why Michael Schumacher was pushed out of F1 twice and almost certainly why he was rubbish on his return. It’s why Nigel Mansell couldn’t fit into his McLaren on his ill-fated return back in 1995. It’s possibly why Rubens Barrichello became such an embarrassment.

While I appreciated and admired his passion for racing and understood his desire to stay in the top flight of the sport, I think there should have been a point where he realised he’d past his best and should step aside. Barrichello had more than his fair share of chances to shine and constantly failed to deliver. Admittedly the first few years of his career was spent driving cars that spontaneously combusted and his time at Ferrari was spent being Schumacher’s bitch. Still, he should have retired when they ditched him for a younger Brazilian. Instead he decided to move to Honda where he went on to embarrass himself before, as good fortune would have it, Brawn bought them and they suddenly became a championship winning team. He still failed to make the most of it and should have retired when he was shown the door. Instead he decided to join Williams and went on to embarrass himself before, yet again, being shown the door.

This still didn’t faze him and he continued to look for another drive. In the nicest possible way (because I do like the guy) I am glad no one wanted him because it would have been sad to see a former race winner and championship contender running around at the back of the grid in an HRT. Trying to stay in Formula 1 just for the sake of it is stupid in my opinion.

He’s since gone on to achieve very little in one season of Indycar, proving that he really should stop because, quite frankly, any driver who can’t win an Indycar race should be ashamed of themselves.