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How Do The Other Side Live? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Colin Brassington (aka Brash)   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 19:36

Let's imagine for a moment that this blog was about footy. In whatever alternate reality this is, I'm doing a reasonable job in whatever ametuer league I'm involved in after a few years off. I'm not playing A's but I've got a good mate who is; he even trained with a SANFL team when we were teenagers but didn't continue with them for reasons that I don't remember.

Pic of me driving my car stolen from Anygivenreason.com

I bet that I would complain about the fact that Aussie Rules footy is about the only major sport in the world where rules change just about every season, and how changes made to top level competition don't always filter down to our level, and I'd discuss the merits of said rule changes. I’d make a big deal about how good it is to see the Bulldogs take the Premiership this year, despite the fact that this is professional level sport and that we should be well beyond the ‘everybody gets a turn’ part of our lives.

And no doubt I'd spend time complaining about how a few miss-behaving pros make life exceptionally difficult for guys like us at the level we play at. Guys like Fev and Cousins who are the exception rather than the rule, but we all get judged on their behaviour and it's not fair. I'd talk about how the ruckman offering up a doobie after the game was a bigger problem than the club thinks, but the end of season team trip has been cancelled anyway because somebody in club management saw a team in our district on the news after they had a few too many in Bali and assaulted a local.

What about if I was into swimming? After 20 years of being in the pool at 4am I took a break at just the right point in my life that I would never be good enough for the Olympics, never mind that I might not have been good enough anyway. But similarly I'd make comment about how the Russian teams inclusion at the recent Rio Games is a joke and how the anti-doping policy specifically outlaws their competition.

I'd probably comment on how the Chinese team has allegedly been running a similar level of state sanctioned doping to the Russians, but nobody is talking about it. I'd talk about...well...at least link to reputable sources discussing different theories on how spare lanes in the pool effect hydrodynamic performance of those in the pool, and the differences between the various wet suits that some of the teams are using and whether they make a swimmer faster. (Or even if they can make difference, and how you would ever build a fair test)

And of course I'd laud Michael Phelps and point out that he has more Olympic medals than some countries; even if those countries don't necessarily have swimming pools.

Image from the wonderful Simpsons screenshot archive Frinkiac

Sound interesting doesn’t it?

Maybe, just not to me. But while I'm not saying any of these things aren't problems - the rowdy behaviour of professional level footballers and other athletes does need to be brought back a few pegs so that we can simply dismiss it as 'boys will be boys', and the Olympic athletes must be clean and performance enhancer free, or they need to allow everything because what's the point otherwise.

While many people follow these sports, for a significant part of the population they don't actively participate. Sure they have a kick during half time on Grand Final day, or they hop into a pool and splash their mates during a barbecue because they can, but their participation doesn't really go beyond that.

Where I'm going with this though, is that because most of the population isn’t necessarily involved in these sports, when they do hear about issues like I've described they are able to dismiss them as mostly isolated incidents. Ben Cousins and his mates were the only ones their behaviour effected so they were made examples of in an attempt to deter others from behaving in a similar way. He has been dealt with and now we don't hear about it anymore. Job done. **wipes hands**

Now driving and competitive motorsport is a completely different situation because a significant portion of the population does drive, and therefore think that they are qualified to judge other drivers. Most people believe they are good drivers, even if they can't give you a qualified reason why. On road collisions and incidents are similarly never their fault, regardless of previous driving behaviour, attitudes or whatever. Like my mum says, she's a good, safe driver because she doesn't speed or run red lights, doesn't drive while drunk and has been doing it for forty years. And it's the last point there that causes so much angst, the old 'I've been doing it this way for X number of years and never caused an incident so therefore I didn't cause this one' type of mentality.

Picking on my mum for the purpose of the example, she doesn't speed, yet is just as likely to be the one travelling at 70km/h in the outside lane of an 80 zone as she as to be complaining about being stuck behind someone travelling at 70 in the outside lane of an 80 zone. She doesn't text while driving but finds ways to get distracted playing with the radio, HVAC controls, or grabbing a couple chewies out of the centre console. She's a courteous driver mostly, who always errs to the passive side (not that this is a problem in itself). But on top of all this, if she's ever in a position where the car is aquaplaning she will have no idea how to deal with that situation, and simply stand on the brake pedal and hope she doesn't hit anything, which is far from ideal in most situations. However conventional wisdom is that a passive and careful driver such as this won’t necessarily find themselves in a dangerous situation but that’s not correct either.

Now I consider myself a good driver; mostly because I treat driving as a serious task. I like driving, and know that because of my chosen vehicle society will be quick to judge me on any transgressions, so I try really hard to not give them anything to judge me on. I drive a car with a manual gearbox so am always instinctively aware of what the car is doing, I am aware of where it sits in the lane and I have a reasonable awareness of what is happening around me. I certainly view many speed limits as merely ill-advised suggestions, but most definitely not in the city or suburbs. And because it makes me far angrier than it probably should, you'll rarely see me in the outside lane without there being a good reason for it. I'm courteous - until either you give me a reason not to be, or I decide that you're an imbecile (Porsche Cayenne owners I'm looking at you), and I leave a decent gap ahead of me because I know that I'm low to the ground and people might not see me if I'm too close.

This is opposed to a couple of people I know, where actually driving the car is the least important thing that they're doing while in the car.

And that's my point. While society at large is very quick to come down on car enthusiasts like a tonne of feathers any time somebody does something stupid on the road, the truth is that it's more likely the person driving the Camry who is a bigger problem than the one driving the modified sports car. The car holding up traffic in the outside lane is probably a responsible person driving a turn of the century-era mid size sedan. The car tailgating you in the morning is more likely to be a late model Lexus or SUV type thing. The car swapping lanes and racing away from the lights is probably a $300 bomb while the car that just ran the red light could well have been a taxi or the aforementioned bomb. Hell maybe even it was a cyclist. And the car driving up the road with no headlights on after dark? That's a well-educated parent driving their new SUV with its fancy backlit instruments on the dash.

But anyway, therein lies my issue. We as a society in general do not judge all footballers by the actions of the few because we know better. We know that these guys are bad apples and that they don't represent the majority, and we know that regardless of whether we're talking about pro level or my mate playing the divisional leagues. So why does society quickly jump on the bandwagon and label any car person a hoon, even when that label doesn't apply? Hell we were at a properly organised professional level motorsport event the other week and we're getting heckled about why the local government was allowing us hoons to behave that way. For fuck sake!

I'm the first to admit that there are a small portion of car enthusiasts who do the wrong thing, but these are generally shunned by the majority, as the rest of us understand that this behaviour is not to be tolerated. And just throwing it out there – the 20-year-old Commodore (not to type cast, but let’s be honest, that’s what it normally is) running on steel rims and cut springs is a problem - I’m not in any way condoning or excusing that behaviour.

Motorsport groups often go as far as organising their own facilities with little or no government help, relying only on what the organisation and those involved can come up with, yet when complete they bring huge economic benefit to the region. To use an overused analogy, the major event brings competitors from all over the country. If you have 100 competitors from interstate (and that’s easily done depending on the event), and they all bring 4 crew (again, not out of the question speaking from my own experience) then that’s 400 people from out of town buying beer from your pubs, eating in your fast food joints, buying petrol from your servos and pissing in your public toilets. But again, the anti-hoon crowd are so busy lumping us all in the same boat too blind to see this.

My point is that as car enthusiasts, we look after our cars. The cars are often better maintained and in better condition than the average, and many enthusiasts pride themselves on being good drivers, much like I mentioned above. I spend too much time and money working on my junk to risk destroying it doing something stupid on the road, and that’s the way many of us think.

I guess I’m just sick on tired of being labelled a menace when me and the people I associate with aren’t the biggest problem on our roads.



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