Monthly Archives: September 2013

Rush

In 1973, my older brother lived in Elmira, New York, about 25 miles from the home of the Formula One United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. I didn’t know anything about racing in general or Formula One in particular, but I’ve always had a fascination for international sports, and no racing series is more international than Formula One.

The race that fall was the first of fifteen Grands Prix I’ve attended (two at Watkins Glen, five in Montreal and eight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

In 2012, Ron Howard announced that his next movie would be about two Formula One drivers and the 1976 season. Following closely on the remarkable documentary film, Senna, this was really an embarrassment of riches. So, for a year I followed Ron Howard’s very active Twitter feed, avoided the trailers as they came out and managed my expectations for the film.

Rush opened last weekend in mainstream US theaters (unlike Senna). As I hoped, the story (“A fierce rivalry forces two drivers with seemingly opposite personalities and priorities—Austrian Niki Lauda and Englishman James Hunt—to admire, appreciate and even envy one another”) prevailed over my fascination with the era’s marshmallow-tired cars, crude safety provisions and primitive tracks. After all, life is just a microcosm of racing, isn’t it?

BTW, Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda is as good as Kurt Russell playing Herb Brooks in the hockey movie Miracle, which is as good as portraying a real-life character gets.

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Decency’s Last Stand

In June, 1876, General George Armstrong Custer hunted down a group of Sioux Indians with the intent of forcing them off their land so the gold recently discovered there could be claimed. Instead, he and all 210 of the soldiers in his command were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a slowly winding river known to the Indians as Greasy Grass Creek.

Blame for the defeat has rested mostly upon Custer for exposing his relatively inexperienced company to a much larger group of warriors and failing to coordinate the movements of the other elements of the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry. Others contend that his force was overwhelmed because his officers failed to support him due to resentment (Benteen) or drunken cowardice (Reno).

The battle still prompts endless study and the decisions of the men involved continue to be probed well over a century later, but my lasting impression from James Donovan’s account is the moral stain of a campaign to hunt down a race of human beings and erase their diverse cultures in order to claim the resources found on their homelands. How obscene is it to bicker over the trees of military minutiae when the forest of genocide stands all around?

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