Today I realized that as well I think I may have assimilated into the Spanish society, I will never be Spanish.
Spain is all abuzz today because of yesterday’s final leg of the Formula 1 racing season. Going into the race there was a chance that national hero, Fernando Alonso, could win it all. And there was a bigger chance that his hated teammate, Englishman Lewis Hamilton, would win. The rivalry between the McLaren teammates has been a constant fixture on Spanish TV since about mid-season when everyone decided the British team was clearly favoring the young Brit. But with this weekend’s final race and with the points so close, hatred for the Englishman was nearing boiling point. Someone even set up a website allowing Alonso’s fans, and by definition, Hamilton’s enemies, to scatter the race track with all manner of shrapnel to flatten the rival’s tire. There were “I hate Hamilton” posters hung in windows and people were just as excited at the prospect of Hamilton losing as they were at Alonso’s winning.
And what happened come race time? The Spanish sportsmanship dropped another few notches. When, shortly after the start of the race Hamilton veered off the course and dropped several positions, the radio commentator’s response was, “Toma, Hamilton!!” “Take that, Hamilton!” And when later in the race the Brit dropped to last place, after reporting a problem with his gears, the TV reporters could barely contain their joy. With his technical problems Hamilton ended up 7th in the race making that a victory for Spain in the Spanish press’ mind. He also ended up second in the season points, behind the long shot, inoffensive Finnish Kimi Räikkönen - leaving poor Alonso in third place. Even this final podium standing was a "victory" because, although he did beat Alonso, Hamilton didn’t actually win anything.
More TV time has been spent celebrating that “loss” than honoring Alonso’s third place finish. And if I thought the commentary during the race was woeful, the media has surpassed even itself with today’s reports. One of the evening humor shows had the entire audience chanting, “Hamilton lost! Hamilton lost!” On another they blamed today’s immense traffic jams in Barcelona on whom? None other than Formula 1’s reining silver-medalist.
Now, I’m all for a cleverly-written joke or a healthy rivalry (Duke-UNC, for example) but I could not be happier that that Formula 1 season is finally over. Perhaps my lack of Spanish blood prevents me from truly commiserating with the entire nation on the unjust travesty that has been Alonso’s season. Maybe, as one classmate suggested, I simply don’t understand Formula 1 since we Americans only watch NASCAR. I personally think that I’m simply an unbiased observer in an overly biased environment. The complete and utter media overload that has been the Formula 1 season served only to transform this ambivalent observer into one who groans whenever someone says Fernando Alonso.