So Lewis Hamilton has won Sports Personality of the year 2014. And deservedly so in my opinion. That is not to say any of the nominated sports men and women didn’t deserve to win it. They have all achieved greatness in their field.
But there are many people moaning and saying he shouldn’t have won it. Why? Firstly, it was a public vote. He received the most votes and therefore won. Which is how a vote works right? Secondly, some are saying he has no personality. I assume these people know him personally. But we all know that although it is called the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, it is really down to sporting achievement. After all, Andy Murray won it last year and in the year Jenson Button, the guy who is seemingly one the nicest guys in the world, won his world championship, Ryan Giggs scooped the award. A bloke who speaks in monotone and sleeps with his Brothers wife!
Lastly though, and perhaps most frustratingly, is the people who say Lewis Hamilton only won because he had the best car. That’s just like saying Kelly Gallagher only won Paralympic gold because she had Charlotte Evans to guide her or that Charlotte Dujardin only had success because she had a good horse. Which we all know isn’t the case. Every successful sportsperson will benefit from the best tools available. But it takes someone special to use those tools to become the best in the world. Yes, we all know Mercedes provided Lewis with a great car and he probably wouldn’t have won a single race if he was in a Caterham. It would be naive to think otherwise. But it is the same in all sports. The British cycling team have people who provide them with some of the best and most technologically advanced bicycles in the world. As great as Sir Chris Hoy is, undoubtedly he wouldn’t have been so successful on a Raleigh Chopper. However, I’m certain he would still beat many of those who think it’s all down to the machine.
It’s not just sports that involve technical equipment though either. A good footballer needs a good team behind him. Gareth Bale has won major trophies with Real Madrid, but he won’t ever win the world cup with Wales. Every sportsman or woman at the top of their game have a plethora of people behind them helping them to achieve their greatness. Coaches, Nutritionists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Medical Personnel, the list goes on. And these people know what they are doing. I’m not just talking about Dad’s giving you encouragement or Mum’s cooking high a protein dinner before a big event. This support network are also amongst the very best in their field too. But what all great sportsmen and women have in common is natural talent. That spark, that raw potential and that natural ability that projects a good sportsperson to world beater.
I heard an argument that Rory McIlroy deserved the award more than Lewis Hamilton because he had achieved more this year. For a start, Lewis Hamilton has been at the top of his sport longer than Rory McIlroy has in his. But what people need to realise is that in a golfing calendar there are tournaments most weeks of the year and amongst that are the four ‘Majors’. There is only one Formula One world championship a year and Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races in that championship to win. Rory McIlroy may have achieved more this year but he has had more opportunity to do so. He had four attempts at a Major win this year and he won twice. Lewis had one attempt this year and won it, even with three retirements in that ‘Best’ car of his. You don’t criticise an Olympic gold medallist for ‘Only’ winning one gold medal in the last four years do you? Even McIlroy benefits from the best equipment, coaching and backroom staff. He has custom made and fitted clubs, he has golf balls design to suit his style of play, his entourage is huge and he has a lot of financial support and backing. Just as Lewis wouldn’t win the world championship in a 1960’s Ferrari, Rory wouldn’t win a major with a set of Hickory shafted golf clubs and a ‘Gutty’ ball.
The trouble is with many sports is that the pro’s make it look easy. We sit and watch on the TV where the margins between victory and defeat can be minimal. We therefore think those who loose are rubbish and think we can do better, not thinking that the margins of defeat would then be vast chasms measured in light years and we would quickly start to look foolish. When you watch golf on TV, it looks a doddle. I used to play golf and had a relatively decent handicap of 10. But I can tell you it is extremely frustrating. Consistency is key, and whilst it’s great to see a 300 yard drive boom down the fairway, I would still stand on the tee not knowing if that was going to happen or if I would hook one into the long rough. Colin Montgomerie once said, ‘There is no difference between a good shot a pro hits and a good shot an amateur hits. The pros just hit them all the time’. And that’s the difference between the Pros who make it look easy and the millions of weekend golfers at golf clubs around the world dreaming of winning a major while the hunt for their ball in the thick stuff. I also had an ex girlfriend who was a very competent cross country and show jumping rider. I would watch as she and her horse Jeffrey would glide over fences with ease. But whilst I have ridden horses on the odd occasion, could I get Jeffrey to even trot over a pole lying on the ground on the ground? Could I heck.
So let me tell you this. Just because you have a driving license and can drive a car, doesn’t mean you can actually drive a car. Let alone try and race one. There is a reason that Formula One is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second and that’s because it is all that can separate a winner from a loser. The difference between pole position and second on the grid. The margin between a great lap time and total disaster. It looks oh so easy on the TV when drivers guide their car round a circuit for lap after lap putting in near identical lap times one after the other. How hard can it be? After all, you’ve driven on a journey that lasted two hours or more right?
People don’t seem to think about the G forces experienced inside the car the driver deals with under braking and acceleration dozens of times each lap, the alertness needed to pick the precise braking point to within the metre at each corner for the fastest possible lap time, or the knowledge needed to adjust that braking point depending on car set up, tyre wear or fuel load. They don’t think about the skill needed to guide a car inch perfectly at high speed to clip the apex or place the car in the exact spot for the perfect racing line. They don’t think about the skill involved in knowing when to defend or attack while doing all of the above. The concentration needed to do this for two hours, the ability to feed back information to the team to enable them to help make adjustments or improvements for that competitive edge, the ability needed to make fine adjustments to brake balance, gear ratio and other car set up options whilst on the move, or the supreme fitness needed and the nerves of steel to be good at it lap after lap after lap.
If you think that is easy, go down to your local outdoor karting track, race for 2 hours and then see how you feel. See how your lap times match up with the best, see how many of your laps were within a tenth of a second of your best lap time and see how tired you are. Then think about doing that at speeds of up to 200mph rather than speeds of up to 40mph. You’ll soon realise it isn’t easy. Very few of us could do it. Very few of us could be half as good as Lewis Hamilton or any of the others at their sports.
So just think about these things before criticising anyone who has achieved something truly great. Especially someone who has spent a lifetime reaching the goal at being the best. Be pleased for them instead of shooting them down. And if you think I’m only writing this because Lewis Hamilton is getting criticised and I love motorsport so much then you are very much mistaken. I admire everyone of those nominees. In fact, I often admire many people who achieve sporting greatness and think about how I wish I was truly good at something like that.
So embrace greatness and success. Applaud it, don’t criticise it, and if you still think Lewis Hamilton didn’t deserve to win it because you don’t like him, Just think about how Ryan Giggs’ brother feels.