Liberty Media has moved into Fawlty Towers dear reader! This being the somewhat European influenced version of Jumping the Shark.
Lord Melbury pulled a fast one on dear misguided Basil, much to the delight of the most un-PC 1970's audience. Most of whom, other than the Director General of the BBC, did not have hereditary titles, 10,000 square miles of prime farm land, including genuine pre-Domesday Book castle, or a modest fifteen bedroom penthouse apartment in old Mayfair for family weekends in the city.
Lord Melbury introducing himself to Basil is one of the comedy highlights of the past fifty years. Pure comic genius, social observation, and upper class slam-dunk all at the same. With it taking the entire episode to get to a punchline so cutting it is in itself a work of inspired genius. Not just a tip of the hat, but a deep, and sincere bow to John Cleese and Connie Booth who managed to pen the episode, have a deeply stressful off-screen relationship and star in the episodes all at the same time. I know who they are as actors, and I think, for the most part, and not without significant pain, they now know who they are for themselves.
Lord Melbury however was an entirely different fish...
Which brings us to the check-in antics of Formula One into Miami Towers for another slap-stick episode of delights, sleight of hand and chuckle worthy, "Do you know who I am?" celebrity moments.
Dear Martin's grid walks! I'm sure he would take a Monty Python fish to the side of the head any day compared to yet another USA grid walk! These are taking on the surreal atmosphere of the most abstract Terry Gilliam inspired Python moments.
Then a beach-house rich, style, and substance poor, beach club in the middle of a car park surrounded by chicken wire... sorry, safety fencing. I'm rather glad I did not push a vast pile of folding stuff to the greasy ticket guy for that experience.
Then all the "world famous" American celebrities drifting around like spindrift on a Texan plain bumping into things in a directionless mass of unknown humanity. Mystified is probably how all those outside the orbit of Planet America felt with all the pre-race antics. Except for dear old David Beckham, of whom this scribe actually knows, and then he more-or-less blanks Martin! Shows just how much F1 David has watched over the last decade.
Michelle Obama visited the Mercedes garage. A lady for whom I have the highest respect and regard. Yet I think it is an uncomfortable truth that Paris Hilton (the humanoid, not the building) has attended more races. Quite what either of them uses an appearance at an F1 race for is rather beyond me.
Finally, one cannot but stop, mouth agape, at the eighth wonder of the world that was the Miami Car Park Marina. All those years ago when Monty Python recorded their glorious Live at the Hollywood Bowl show they delivered a sketch which, as usual, was delightful insight, genius, and joyful entertainment.
It was a swift machine gun rattle of banter which started by posing the question of why is American beer like making love in a canoe? Which, after the traditional, "I don't know... why is American beer..." is met with the cheeky punchline of both being extremely proximate to water, with an ever-flexible Anglo-Saxon word dropped in for artistic impact.
The Car Park Marina embodied the insanity of Monty Python, without any of the genius or entertainment value, while not being the slightest bit close to water, thus causing many that observed it to instantly recall that Anglo-Saxon word of such utility. Or was that the joke?
Oh! Hang on! I nearly forgot. They staged a race too! So dearest Liberty Media, do we know who you are?
From this weekend I'd venture you are more Lord Melbury the rascal, than a true Lord of the realm. More the swift confidence trickster chasing the fast buck than the committed artist performing for the love of it. Oh so very proximate to water in the American beer sense of the joke.
Each of us is a many-paged book. Our chapters vary. Yet key themes emerge over time and like Lord Melbury each of us can reveal a bit more of the cad, the trickster, or a deeper, simpler honour. Over chapters... time... a set of core truths are revealed.
Human spirit and money. Open ocean yacht racing, Golf, Cycling. Each has levels of trite glamour, yet a beating heart of pure competition. Formula One is not a sport that ever pretended to be cheap in the monetary sense. The amateur on the street can cheerfully drop $20,000 on a set of clubs, or the latest carbon cycle, and then promptly replace it 12 months later when the next ‘Great Thing' is released. One need look no further than a few swift refits of the yacht Drum of England to find a dollar-exhausted Simon Le Bon declaring that yacht racing at that level was too expensive even for him to maintain.
Yet at their finest each has raw spirit. The burning of the eternal flame that is the human desire to compete on a level playing field, to give one's heart to the fight and see what becomes of us all. The Sydney-Hobart open ocean yacht race is only for those with an insane passion for the sea, high nautical skills and a spirit that shall not waiver in the face of wind-swept, wave-pounded exhaustion. All cycling, from casual recreation to club level to elite requires an ability to suffer at a sublime level of spiritual torture, to simply get to the top of the next hill, Alpe d'Huez or some local steep knoll. They all hurt.
Finally Golf. So simple! The ball does not move. It sits silently taunting the player into their very own mistakes, time after time. Watch the golfing elite strike fine shot after fine shot, only to crumble at the last and four putt the final green thus plunging from first to eleventh in a matter of seconds after days of accurate play. If that is not a hammering of the soul by Miss Physics I do not know what is.
You can spend a fortune, lose a fortune, in them all. Yes, money plays a part in all sport. Yet within the pure beating heart of each discipline is a race to push the soul to supporting new heights of human achievement on this planet. A framework of rules and method of play is provided, then we each place faith in ourselves, and our machine, and accept the fight. At the elite level competing is to be afforded honour, and to win deserves celebration. Celebration for the win, not a fake beach party in a car park.
Two years ago we did not know what was in the suitcase the Liberty Media Lord Melbury was checking into F1 Towers. Now we not only have a strong suspicion it was the same plain old house brick used by the Fawlty Towers Lord. We also know their outward refined character is just as painted on, less than skin deep. Liberty Lord Melbury is not a complex character, nor one of breeding, nor one with a simple obsession with racing to improve the might of the human spirit. No, more a Frat-House lad, over-excited for the Spring Break party. Hawaiian shirt of the loudest kind, beer keg under one arm, Bluetooth music player under the other. Now they just want the entire USA to join them in the party, for is that not the entire party world that matters, what celebrity exists outside of the USA?
So I say with increasing confidence after each race that we do indeed know who Lord (Liberty Media) Melbury is. Look back, and his deceit was actually minor. If we look in the mirror dear reader, we will each see the person who mistook the American Lord for something he was not. It was never about the race. It has only ever been about the party. Even with sand dumped in a parking lot and minor party boats locked in plywood cells. The hand cut English suit can be pulled back in an instant to reveal the Hawaiian shirt, which in turn can be unbuttoned to reveal... why, to reveal nothing at all. It is an empty suit marching onward with no mind or heart, into the desert sands of future American parties, chasing nothing but American dollars.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here