Opinion: All is not fair in sport and business

by James Menzies

I’ve written about my love of motorsports in this space before, and those who know me personally can attest to just how passionate I am about the sport.

The attraction for me, isn’t just the speed, the glamour or the thrills of victory. It’s also about the equipment, the finely polished chassis and the power that sits corked up within the engine, just waiting to be unleashed.

For the most part, it’s the same factors that draw me to racing that have also piqued my interest in trucking.

Lately, however, I’ve found myself questioning the integrity of the sport.

First, it was the Ferarri fiasco in Austria, where a dominant Rubens Barrichello was ordered to pull off line right before the finish line allowing Michael Schumacher to take the victory.

It was the most blatant display of team orders I’ve ever seen, and Schumacher was greeted by a chorus of boos as he sheepishly handed the trophy to his deserving teammate.

Immediately, my phone rang, and editor John Curran was on the other line saying “That is why I don’t watch F1 racing!”

I had played up the sport to him on several occasions, and was embarrassed to have done so following that bogus win by Schumacher. But it’s Ferarri, what more would one expect?

Not long after, I was once again popping open a cold beverage to enjoy with one of my favorite rites of spring – the Indy 500. With the CART invasion of Indy over the past few years, I was looking to Paul Tracy and the other CART representatives to do us CART fans proud once again.

With a poor car that handled like a stone boat in traffic, Tracy managed to drive his way to the front through sheer determination and grit.

On the final lap, he made a daring outside pass on Helio Castroneves, and began cheering wildly into his helmet-mic as a yellow flag came out because of a crash.

But predictably, IRL head honcho Tony George had other ideas, and he and his flock of lemmings declared IRL driver Castroneves the winner insisting the pass wasn’t completed before the yellow was displayed. I’ve seen the video with my own eyes, which proves beyond a doubt that Tracy won the race.

However, it will forever be known as the Indy 498 and despite an appeal launched by Tracy’s team, we all know dirty politics robbed him of the glory.

Despite my disappointments, I didn’t lose much sleep over either event. Life isn’t always fair, you win some, you lose some, yada, yada, yada…

It’s easy as a spectator to let it go. But sadly, these double standards and political games often have a far greater impact on the livelihoods of those involved.

Less than a week after the Indy 498, I met Bill Sinclair, a commercial hay hauler from Drayton Valley, Alta. Sinclair has been fighting a losing battle against the double standards that exist in the ag-hauling business.

While he’s busting his balls day in and day out trying to make an honest living, a growing number of farmers are abusing their farm status to illegally haul agricultural commodities for profit.

In addition to being a trucker, Sinclair is also a farmer, and he is one of the biggest supporters of the Alberta Farm Fuel Benefit.

But while he takes the high road and uses commercial plates and fuel while hauling for others, he’s watched his business diminish to the point of collapse.

Truckers are a pretty resilient group. Unlike other industries they don’t rely on government handouts to survive in the face of adversity.

They are a resourceful bunch, priding themselves in making the best of difficult situations.

That’s why it’s disheartening to see government make things even more difficult on them than it needs to be. Hopefully, with the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA) help, Sinclair and the other members of Trans Ag will be able to convince the provincial Tories to close some of the loopholes that make it too easy for farmers to cut the commercial truckers’ grass (or hay, as the case may be).

Because while Paul Tracy and Rubens Barichello may simply have one less trophy in their rec room, the stakes are far greater for Sinclair and the other commercial truckers who abide by the rules.

Farmers may represent a strong voting voice in Alberta, but let’s not let politics stand in the way of what’s right.

James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.


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