Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blinding Lights

There are roughly 7 billion people on this little planet of ours. We each like to think we are unique, blazing a path for others to follow, but mostly, we fit into the cogs of society. However, there does come a time when someone comes along and changes the game. They make the extraordinary look mundane, and they do it with such class, we the lucky witnesses, are left breathless. And just as they are going to revolutionize everything, they are taken from us, leaving the world to wonder what could have been. After all, a light that shines twice as bright lasts half as long. 

One person of genius was Ayrton Senna. I recently watched the brilliant 2010 documentary (Senna) based on his Formula 1 career. Full disclosure, I'm a F1 fan. My favorite team is McLaren. The greatest driver I've ever witnessed is Michael Schumacher. I passionately believe that Lewis Hamilton has the worst luck of any driver I've ever seen. But I came into F1 in 1996. I never saw Senna, and wouldn't really pay the name much attention if it weren't for sports documentaries. 

The film that sparked my interest in documentaries was ‘Fire in Babylon’. The movie follows the rise of the West Indies cricket team from forgettable fodder to unbeatable giants. It’s such a well crafted film, showing not just the individual players desires, but how a nation, and eventually nations, rallied around a group of 11 men as they took on the world, not just in competitive sports, but political drama. And it is in that vein that Senna comes to life. The movie could have focused on just how good a driver he was, but it shows the inadequacy of a governing body that clearly has its bias’ towards other established drivers, to the point where Senna is robbed of not only one of his world titles thanks to parlor tricks, but eventually his life because of slow, inadequate safety action.

Senna could have let the dark side of his sport drag him down and corrupt him. The 11 men, led by Clive Lloyd, of the West Indies could have played game as usual only to be a footnote in history. But they didn’t, much like James Dean stealing our hearts with his subtle, yet demanding performances, or Janis Joplin’s throaty, erotic even, voice whispering sweet nothings into our ears. They stood out; making everything that came before them redundant, and left their mark on everything that has come since (a line stolen from Dave Chappelle). Lucky for us, the players of the West Indies team did not die young, having unbeaten runs lasting up to 15 years. It leaves us wondering what we missed out form the others.

People come, people go, and sometimes the world notices. After all, we still talk of Alexander the Great, Joan d’Arc, Evariste Galois, Christopher Marlowe, and many others. It’s a shame our time with them was so short, but who knows, maybe that’s all we could have handled. So who will be next to come along, challenge everything that we hold as true, show us just how wrong we have been, and leave as quickly as they came? Who’s to know, and will we even let them survive our cynicism? Like my favorite author ‘Christopher Moore’ once wrote “Nobody’s perfect. Well there was this one guy, but we killed him”.