Photo: Brands Hatch
Photo: Brands Hatch

Reading the club car racing reports in the back of Autosport recently led me to reminisce about the halcyon days of my youth. I remembered numerous occasions on which I sat in the stands at Brands Hatch, watching smaller races in anticipation of the main event, be it British GT, A1GP, or the DTM. Reading these short articles summarising the prior weekend’s proceedings really captivated my attention, and I was not quite sure why. I regularly buy the magazine, and these articles often go unread.

So, why was this edition different? Perhaps it was because I really enjoyed those races as a child, and that memory became intertwined with a strange sense of excitement related to going home for Independent Learning Week. However, that explanation did not seem quite right, as it wasn’t the full reason for my enthusiasm. I began to theorise why these articles had appealed to me so much. It definitely wasn’t the quality of the writing, good though it was, nor some peculiar fascination with Formula Ford events in Anglesey. Struggling to articulate what drew me to those articles in 2016 made me look back at why I appreciated races when I was younger. They were often incredibly competitive, with packed grids full of drivers I didn’t recognise. All the cars looked similar and drove at similar speeds, which led to intense and competitive racing. The attraction of competitive sport in the modern age was definitely something that appealed to 2016 me, but that was still not the full story.

I later put the magazine away and boarded the coach home. I realised the reason for my fascination somewhere between Newcastle and Sheffield, and it was a damning indictment of the current age we live in. My attraction to the articles had been for the simple reason we are normally drawn to articles: they tell us about something we don’t already know or have never seen before. As a fan of most sports, I consume an often ridiculous amount of sporting content, be it TV coverage, highlights, review programmes, articles, podcasts or magazines. This proves true for mainstream sports such as football and rugby, but boxing, cricket, motor racing, and MMA are among my many more obscure sporting loves.

We now live in an age where we have access to as much content as we want. The BBC, for example, has upped its Premier League football coverage to four specific programmes a week. This season saw the first year of the new Premier League television rights deal, which cost £5.14 billion. With that much investment comes increased coverage of the games themselves. People now have the ability to consume more live action, and this has created a greater market for analysis. You only need to look at the opening section of Monday Night Football to see how much the analysis has progressed in detail and specificity.

That’s not just true of football. Think about the hours of content poured into Formula One and boxing by Sky to see just how much analysis we now consume. In my mind, it has gotten to the point where the market is saturated. In fact, I would argue that most sports now, especially the ones I follow (I know the NFL and other American sports are subject to it as well), are over-analysed. This doesn’t always happen, but it can often affect my mindset before I watch something. If I see the lunchtime game on Sky and it doesn’t involve Arsenal, I would usually be neutral. That said, I go into the game thinking about the things I have read and seen during the build-up, as well as potential permutations of incidents, the tactics on show and what Gary Neville and company are going to say afterwards. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s something we are all guilty of, and it can obscure our objectivity towards sport.

It can mean that we don’t enjoy sporting action for what it is, instead falling into the trap of over-analysing what unfolds in front of us. And that was what attracted me, deep down, to the club car racing reports. It was not some rose-tinted reminiscence about my youth or the lure of competitive sport. It was the fact that it was obscure and unblemished by the over-analysis that’s now all too prevalent. It was a pure and innocent sport in which I could immerse myself in limited coverage. I was blissfully unaware of specifics or backstage politics and that was fine. In fact, it was absolutely marvellous.

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