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Give Me The Prize!


In the original 1986 Highlander film, a group of immortals seek to gain energy, and ultimately the prize of immense power, by severing each other's heads in time-honoured one-on-one sword fights.

While some segments of it have not aged so well, and was something of a bomb when released, it swiftly it became a cult classic, thus ensuring Sean Connery continued to be viewed as a legend and that Christopher Lambert was briefly a star. We had some fine fight scenes, a bit of mythical pixie dust, sweeping Scottish highlands and a suitably evil villain. Plus a few cracking Queen tracks which is never a bad thing.

The climatic boss-battle as the evil villain does evil things to (mostly) nice people, and immortals while Gimme the Prize! Rang around the cinema was a moment to remember.

So now we have Felipe Massa singing the same tune. Oh dear. And it has taken less time than it does to swing one's claymore off one's back for that 2021 season finale to be thrown into the same song. Universe, Gimme the Prize!

Revisionist history has gone mad. A most uneven-handed application of retrospective disqualification is the erasure of Lance Armstrong's name from all his Tour de France titles. It was subsequently discovered that all but one of the folk that appeared on the podium during his years on the top step were drug cheats. That being around 23 other riders. All of them! Yet they all received just the regular time-scale ban. They didn't have their entire record burned to a cinder. The Tour organisers declined to eliminate all confirmed drug cheats, letting all other results stand while leaving the winner as a blank for all those years, and watching Lance burnt as a Warlock at the stake. It was, depending on your view, either a highly mixed standard of applying the rules, or a clear case of "Destroy Witch-King Armstrong at all costs".

One magazine ruminated at the time that the gentleman who finished around 14th on that year's Tour was the possible winner if all drug cheats were disqualified and removed from the record as was Lance. So from Marco Pantani, first active and winning as a professional in 1994, with a tragic drug induced death at the age of 34 in February 2004, until Lance retired in 2011, it was a tragic time of shadows, doubts, triple standards and a keen understanding of "Glow Time". Which is to say how long after one had a drug dose that the afterglow would be too small to detect. After much grubby washing of soiled linen in public Lance gave a qualified admission of doping in January 2013 on the Oprah Winfrey show.

So where did all this partial correction of wrongs get cycling? Today? More or less nowhere. Blood doping and genetic treatments, and other new methods of getting around drug tests abound, and we are left, as ever, with the rider's honesty to inform us as to their possible clean status. In short, no one has won the prize from nearly thirty years of a sorry mess.

As I write this an Australian entrepreneur is trying to get the "Enhanced Games" up and running. He wants athletes to be free to take whatever they want, and may the best doper win. Australian swimming great Kieren Perkins has already come out strongly against it saying, "Someone will die". Oh dear, the prize at any price, is it worth it?

So Massa feels the prize is worth what could be a torrid, drawn out expensive legal case in which everyone becomes a loser. The FIA looks silly, Bernie looks silly, Liberty Media its Golden Goose dragged backwards through the farmyard by a torch and pitchfork welding mob, and we the fans are once again left out in the cold, as power brokers across the F1 universe do what they do best, gather together off track to argue, fighting like meerkats after too many Vodka Red Bulls, for the prize...

Massa "wins"? Then we can overturn the 2021 race. Then we could possibly look at binning a couple of Michael's wins. Then the flag mess at Canada 2018. Then the Scot on the back straight, and then... It will be an endless list of revisionist finishers. Ferrari burning oil for a season? A black flag when it should have been red? Red when it should have been a safety car? A safety car when it should have been double waved yellows? Official and unofficial team orders? The jack touching the car while a penalty is being served? Ten second time penalties served after the finish line?

Horror on horror. Just as Donald Trump has turned using high-grade lawyers to pull apart the foundations of the rule of law, so any team, driver or official with pockets deep enough can take to litigation with all the glee of a crocodile using a trampoline to jump the fence into a chicken farm.

What price the prize dear people? When is the win at all costs worth the loss of moral and ethical standards? Yet does our instant news universe rate coming third as a clean athlete as better than winning dirty? Or is it, as criminals oft remind us, that the only crime is getting caught?

You cannot cheat physics, you can cheat the rules, but this is a human invention being circumvented at another human.

Prior to World War Two it was all handheld mechanical stop watches, clipboards, paper and pencil. The race was as it happened that day and once the stewards had confirmed all was good. That was it! No endless slow motion reviews. No consideration of the timing of a hay bale falling on to the track. Heck, Fangio even took team mates' cars on occasion to continue the race and score points. Can you imagine that today? Actually as I was writing this it just happened to Logan and you can see how well that was received...

The prize only has worth because we humans give it worth. Yet stewards, referees, umpires all are human and, as God knows, to err is human, to be human is to fail. In the heat of battle errors are made. I've personally experienced the anger of parents of the opposing under-18 soccer team for calling what was clearly an offside play (us parents shared linesman's duties, only the ref was an impartial third party). Well from where I was standing level with the ball on the sideline of the wind swept, bitter pitch with rain lashing me, it was offside. While they all huddled 300 yards away using the modest shelter on offer near the pitch had parallax error to thank for it looking on side.

Walking over to all the shouting I offered the linesman's flag to them and they all said: "It's fine you continue doing it." Not one of them took up the offer. No video umpire to call in, just my moral certainty I had the call correct, and they did not have the angle, so to them their guy looked on side. What to do? I stood my ground. They called the senior ref for that day. He listened to both sides, nodded, and said: "Ok. It is the Linesman's call. Linesman, was it off side?" "Yes," I answer. "There we go," says the senior ref and walks off without another word.

Say now, some eight years later, we could go back in a Time Machine look at it from all angles, and discover the rain in my eyes (and all over my glasses) had blinded me enough that I missed the precise second the player got the ball, and it really was on side? Who wins? How do we unravel it? The entire scoring for every team in this junior league for the year would need adjustment and we might well have different teams making the semis, and the finals. Result? A total mess, and no prizes...

Every sporting referee has moments of self-doubt. Yet in the end you need to trust yourself, and back yourself. Then in the event, especially in professional sport, where a video replay or computer line judge overturns your decision, accept it in good grace. In return sports people, and fans need to accept that once an issue is reviewed and closed... it is closed. The score stands. Accept it and move on!

Yes civil, or criminal charges, or other penalties might apply for wrong doing such as physical assault on the playing field. But on that day with the evidence before them, the stewards awarded the positions as stated. The results stand. Other issues can be dealt with via the relevant channels. 2008 and 2021 are history. They were decided at the time by people with the authority to make those decisions. You don't like it? Well, unless it was criminal, or systemic cheating as per Lance... accept it and move on!

Wanting this prize has eaten at Massa all this time. Just as Lance was once described as a cancer on cycling, so Massa has a black cancer in his heart which yearns for the prize. He is now obsessed with gaining the prize.

The desire for this prize is poisoning Massa, and it is not a force for good. My growing concern is he might well win the prize of the 2008 title, only to make losers of us all.

Max Noble

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here



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1. Posted by kenji, 12/04/2024 15:00

"@ Max Noble....all the other instances noted are relative to illegal enhanced performances. None of them are of the same scale as a conspiracy to actually crash a car during a race. That is another level altogether. IMO."

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2. Posted by Max Noble, 10/04/2024 3:20

"@Tardis40 - ummmm…. Dry ice in sidepods. Lotus “double chassis”, Ferrari burning oil in their engine… Illegal traction control… Possible use of performance enhancing drugs… The list of actions which might warrant investigation is long…"

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3. Posted by Tardis40, 09/04/2024 17:10

"None of the other incidents mentioned approach the level of the deliberate crash that was engineered by Briatore to help his driver Alonso. If there is anything that needs correcting it is that one."

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4. Posted by Max Noble, 02/04/2024 12:36

"@Spindoctor - Portsmouth Boys Grammar, and the entire Pompey footie (soccer, football…) thing! Yea gads. My dear grandfather (long gone God bless him) went on about the 1938/39 FA cup victory for many years. Makes me wonder why we all get so wrapped up in sport… Ah… that would because we care…"

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 02/04/2024 11:12

Snap, but my moments consisted in being an Umpire during my 1st year as a teacher. I was an English specialist and hadn't played or officiated at Sport for about 10 years (odd rugby matches aside).
Our inner-city Secondary Modern school (think Bash St Kids) managed to get to the *final* of the Portsmouth schools' secondary cricket competition. Our opponents were the very posh Boy's Grammar. They all turned-out in proper whites, we were in jeans etc.

I was astonished at the extent to which these 'decent chaps' (& their teachers) attempted various forms of "gamesmanship" & the levels of swearing & abuse from their supporters.
Never again."

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 02/04/2024 1:43

"@ChickenFarmerF1 - Quite… the timing of who did what when, and what BE is really up to are currently all unknowns…

@ClarkwasGod - Yup ASO, and what’s his name at the US Drug Administration all simply hated him. Ah… school sports…! Even worse than F1…!! :-)

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7. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 01/04/2024 20:41

"@ Max

In my final Teaching Practice I was "volunteered" into refereeing a football match between ours and another school (juniors 10/11 y.o.). Now my background was purely rugby - I knew little or nothing about the round ball game, and protested to the Head - to no avail. I've not encountered so much abuse from the touchline before or since. I offered the whistle to one vocal dad, who of course declined abusively. An hour of pure torture."

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8. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 01/04/2024 20:36

"From what I recall, Ecclestone had advised Massa to go the the courts in the UK (I assume rather than in Brazil) as he would get a better verdict. Better for who, is the point here. I have a gut feeling he knew it would be given short shrift in the High Court as opposed to a partisan verdict in Brazil.

As for Armstong's erasure from the TdF results, I'm betting that was more the ASO getting revenge for a foreigner stuffing it to them in "their race" for seven years on the trot, more than the manner in which he treated the peloton."

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9. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 01/04/2024 19:30

"@Max Noble - I agree that the issue Massa has with Singapore is more the fact that he scored no points, while Hamilton scored a "championship deciding amount of points". I have zero doubt that if he had scored even 1 point, all else being equal, resulting in him winning the WDC on tie-breakers, he wouldn't care about it now.

Which tells me, he cares nothing for the "sporting" outcome, and is just a bad loser doing whatever he can to get the coveted WDC crown for 2008.

If it hadn't been for Ferrari stepping on their own wee-wee in that pit stop he *probably* would have been the 2008 WDC. But that's racing. Any words from BE about how they *could* have cancelled the race result but chose not to is, as also mentioned, hearsay at best right now. It could just be BE stirring the pot to try to get attention, or because he's got some angle by which he thinks he can profit. With him I highly doubt it's a pang of conscience causing him to admit to having wronged Massa."

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10. Posted by Spindoctor, 01/04/2024 17:41

"Probably wise to sit back & wait for the legal process. The Mills of the law going slow, but they grind fine...."

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11. Posted by kenji, 01/04/2024 8:52

"@ Xam....that's fine , a typo's a typo."

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12. Posted by Max Noble, 01/04/2024 6:55

"@Kenji - apologies, typo on your user name…"

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13. Posted by Max Noble, 01/04/2024 6:54

"@Kneji - within a court of law, with viable evidence before it, nothing has yet be proven. The arguments are untested, and it is all currently “hearsay” as far as a legal decision is concerned. Lawyers for each side will attempt to provide evidence that supports their version of events that will, within the framework of law, provide them the positive outcome.

The key points Massa wishes to asset now need to be tested, and proven, on the basis of solid evidence placed before the court. Then the court needs to assess how the relevant governing frameworks should apply.

I’m fascinated to see how this unfolds…"

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14. Posted by kenji, 01/04/2024 3:41

"@Ancient 70! Thanks for the reponse. There seems to be a certain level of ambiguity here. I was under the impression that he was seeking both decisions, the title and subsequently compensation. I don't see how they can, if convinced that the race result was rigged, which was proven, and then covered up by the FIA et al, which it was by confession, deny him the WDC as well. Without that recognition what would the basis be for compensation of income denied? Hopefully the outcome will prove that conspiracies will ultimately be dealt way or another. This then again raises a further possible problem. As a hypothetical, what if the pit wall decide that a certain race strategy will be implemented that will favour one specific driver and the drivers are not fully informed of all the possible outcomes of this decision. Team orders are implemented and the driver demoted was not fully unaware of those pre race decisions.? Does this fall into the aegis of race rigging? Food for thought..... Then there is the case of Monaco 2018 when Ocon was told to let Hamilton past without any defence! Wolff, by memory, actually confessed that he'd had words with Fearnley re this matter during the race. The actual number of iffy decisions on race outcomes needs to be cleaned up. The problem is, as i've stated many times. Two WC's , which are in conflict with each other, in the same races is highly debatable"

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15. Posted by ancient70!, 31/03/2024 8:52

"@kenji, My question was if the race had been annulled, Massa would definitely have been world champion, really? As such he regards crash gate as the sole reason it did not happen, which I very much question. From what I understand he is not asking for the race to be annulled, but is asking for compensation for the money he could have made, if he had been champion. A lot of if’s and buts in there as well. Otherwise I agree with your statement about wrongs that should be put right, but how?"

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