Rivalry in sport is a great ratings draw card. It has always been there and always will. To what extent will a competitor go in order to win and how they conduct themselves with fellow competitors is always up for debate and discussion on what is acceptable and what is not. It raises the question on whether you can be mates with your fiercest competitors?
Talkmotorsport’s Tuesday columnist Ross MacKay this week looked at the role of rivalry in motorsport (see When good drivers go bad) and criticises both Supercars and NASCAR in their attempts to seek out and promote ‘bad-blood.’ With Supercars, MacKay points out Fox Sports’ efforts to try and ‘manufacture’ some sort of old-skool ‘ill-feeling’ between Supercars drivers. With NASCAR, they are trying to actively seek out and broadcast post-race ‘run-in’s between drivers. Both are fundamentally wrong.
Russell Ingall picks up on this in the latest edition of the Enforcer and The Dude and criticises Supercars for what he sees as their trying to fabricate a rivalry between Scott McLaughlin and David Reynolds.
Ingall and Paul Morris discuss rivalry and winning at length (from about the 40min mark).
Ingall verbally supports the rivalry of motorsport but doesn’t think you should have mates on the same grid.
“If I was a team owner, and I found my driver going out training, having coffee and dinner with drivers from other teams then I would sack him on the spot.
Ingall puts forward the argument that ‘mate-ship’ off the track can cloud your judgement on the track. He thinks drivers need to harden up as it is not a social event.
“On the track, if you have an issue with another driver you let them know! You let them know as it is the only way you will get any street cred!”
Which raises the question on whether you can be mates with your fiercest competitors?
Ingall has a point but maybe the reality is something quite different. To get to the top level of competition you start at the bottom and work your way up. For motorsport often it starts at the local kart track at a young age and progresses through ranks of club racing and competing in national and international series. Kids will naturally pick up mates along the way and find themselves fighting each other on the track.
So at what point would Ingall expect any childhood friendships to be dropped? His answer would be ‘What are you prepared to do in order to win?’
This is where I disagree with Ingall and find my reasoning from some of the great All Blacks. Players like the late Sir Brian Lochore who would advocate that you play to win but you have to leave the rivalry on the field and be able to have a beer with your competition. Rugby is not to dissimilar in that it starts at a club and school level with players progressing through the ranks eventually to national representation. You will always pick up mates along the way.
And as MacKay said in his column…….The number one rule? Show respect at all times. Respect to your team, your mates, the game, the court, the coach…. but most of all, to yourself.