Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Actually, I was going to call this post "more on Senna", for it was inspired by Mike Doodson's piece in Motor Sport this month about his relationship with Ayrton Senna. In addition to being a Senna fan, I am also a fan of 'The Dood' - having met him once, but also being aware that he, like me, used to sit in the back of commentary boxes and do lap charts - in his case for Murray and the BBC before the days of electronic timing, when a lap chart was the only way to follow a race.

And also, from reading him, it is clear that he is the type of journalist who gets to know drivers and then writes about what he knows, rather than necessarily always making up 'a story'. Although, it was that inevitable tendency that got him into trouble with Ayrton, to the detriment of his relationship with him.

What seems to have been at the heart of the problem were some remarks made by Doodson about Senna's spirituality. Not simply his religious beliefs, but some specific (alleged) religious experiences. Now I can well understand anyone's sensitivities on this subject, but there was another element to Doodson's article that caught my eye.

As a Christian myself (indeed, as a speaker I once heard put it, a 'praying man'), I often find putting my faith into practice to be a difficult balancing act. But Mike Doodson suggested that Christianity and sport did not mix - I quote: "It is... hypocritical and irreligious to ask Him (God) to favour anyone - especially oneself - in a sporting contest."

Now I do not engage in sporting contests personally, but I don't see anything wrong with those who do. And although it is certainly not my role to judge who is fit in God's eyes and who isn't, I do feel that those who engage in sport are not excluding themselves from heaven's promises and eternal life. No place in sport for God-botherers, Mike? I think not.

I admire the 'Christians in Motorsport' organisation. (How could anyone not be seduced by a Ferrari 430GT?) But I do fear the 'loopy' tag which can easily be associated with such initiatives. Mike Doodson also said in his article that "a man's faith should guide him in his daily life", and with this I wholeheartedly agree. In the 1924 Olympic Games, athlete Eric Liddell famously refused to run in a qualifying event on a Sunday, declaring that it wasn't appropriate to do so. His faith guided his daily life. The villains of the piece were the media, who made headline news out of the incident.

What we need in this world is a little more graciousness, call it 'grace' if you will. That ability to allow others to do what they feel is right without at the same time passing judgement (particularly prejudicial judgement). It is rarely helpful putting individual decisions under the microscope and inviting others to publish their opinions.


  1. A thoughtful post. Apologies my comments are a year late.

    I'm not disparaging Senna or other sportspeople finding comfort and purpose in religion. Do you agree with The Dood that Christianity teaches God loves humans equally?

    If that view is correct, then it is troubling that Senna as your previous post put it, introduced the "win at all costs" attitude: particularly his manoeuvres on other drivers. Christianity places limits on such behaviour.

    Could the Christ at Suzuka 1988 account by Senna be described as a numinous and there was nothing self-regarding about it?

    Many thanks,
    Simon Stiel

  2. Simon - congratulations on finding this post - and thanks for commenting, certainly not late, in the overall scheme of things.

    Without getting too theological (which I am not qualified to be) I am not sure that God's Love can be measured in such a way to enable "equality" to be applied to it - it's a bit like asking whether water is more wet for some people than for others. The fact is, it is simply 'wet'. And God's love simply is.

    Aside from that, Senna undoubtedly did not exhibit 'love for his neighbour' in some of his driving. And his ruthlessness and self-centredness was not (is not) necessarily a good example for others to follow.

    I'm going to see the "Senna" movie on Monday next week, and am looking forward to any additional insights that brings.

    Whether I shall publish my thoughts will depend. Sometimes it is wise to keep quiet, and ponder things in one's heart.

  3. Paul,

    Thank you for replying.

    Simon Stiel