Sunday, April 12, 2020

Diecast Rally Championship

You don't realize how much color commentary matters, until you view a random event like this and end up "rooting" for a non-existent "driver".

Since I started watching Marty's Matchbox Makeovers (which is a new favorite in the methadone halfway houses, supplanting Teletubbies and even Bob Ross), I get "suggestions" from YouTube for other videos related to model cars.  One was so intriguing, hilarious, and fun, I had to share it with you.

You may remember "Hot Wheels" from the late 1960's and early 1970's.  Growing up in the era of Matchbox cars, I felt, as a kid, that "Hot Wheels" were a betrayal.   I had invested a lot of time and energy (and my parents' money) in collecting Matchbox cars, including the vinyl fold-out carrying case, and the Matchbox "Garage" with lift and ramp.  Now comes along this "Hot Wheels" at an age when I am almost too old for that sort of stuff, and I have to start all over again.  That is, of course, how toys work - they come out with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just as you've collected the last of the He-Man franchise.   Oddly enough, Hotwheels (Mattel) ended up buying Matchbox, and the two sort of combined.

Hotwheels had a gravity fed track (and later, a motor driven one) that allowed you to run the cars down ramps, loop-de-loops (which never seemed to work right) jumps and whatnot.  It was fascinating - for all of ten minutes.  Then my friend Dirk would suggest smashing them with hammers.  Dirk was that way - always smashing his toys - and suggesting you do the same.  Don't be like Dirk.  Don't hang out with Dirk.

Anyway, back to topic, the "Diecast Rally Championship" races Hotwheels-type cars down a ramp that is part of a detailed diorama.  The law of probability as well as physics determines the outcome, of course.  The way they have it laid out, one lane is faster than the other, so they run two "heats" with two cars, each getting a chance to run the "hot" lane.   Of course, the car preparation is also key - proper wheel alignment and axle friction, as well as vehicle weight, affect the outcomes.   But for the most part, it is the law of probability that wins every race.

Nevertheless, the color commentators do a great job of convincing you of the skill of the "drivers" involved, and keep you on the edge of your seat as to who will be the overall winner.  There are thrills and spills and wildly unexpected outcomes - winning the race in reverse, for example, or riding halfway down the track on the roof, and still coming out ahead.

But it got me to thinking, maybe all sports have this aspect to them.   When you watch any sports competition, there is usually one or more announcers giving you the "color commentary" that frames what you are seeing.   Without this, you might not understand what is going on, or be as compelled to watch.  Often, backstories are presented for the players or contestants, in order to generate your interest.  Or they make up various supposed "feuds" between the athletes or teams.  Professional Wrestling amounts to nothing more than this.

In a way, it is like the video "Collateral Murder" which was made by chopping up some gun camera videos from helicopters in Iraq, and then moving the dialog around a bit and then framing the whole thing with captions to "tell" you what is going on.  Without the narrative captions, you might think those helicopter pilots were justified in shooting what appeared to be insurgents (and indeed some were) skulking around at night.   Thank God Wikileaks set us straight!   Or deceived us.

That was what I found fascinating about this series of videos.  Even thought the logical part of my brain said that this "competition" was about as exciting as watching two ball bearings sliding down a channel, I found myself emotionally drawn in to the "competition" and the "competitors" even those the "drivers" of these diminutive cars were nonexistent.

It is brilliantly done.

But it makes me wonder whether at least a part of all organized sports, particularly the televised kind, particularly things like the Olympics, would have crappy ratings, it if weren't for the announcers framing the action.

In other words, we are being conned.