I was only a young lad when James Hunt and Barry Sheene won their respective world championships, I didn’t really understand and know what they were about, but they are two names that I grew up very familiar with.
Watching the documentary last night showed just how far removed sports stars have become from the average man on the street these days. It also showed a stark difference in the way sports stars behave and the change in attitude towards the press (mainly the newspapers).
The site of both Hunt and Sheene having someone place and light a fag in their mouths and swigging from a bottle of Champagne just after crossing the finish line is a complete throw back to how it used to be, if not the most professional, it was eye opening to see how they used to behave.
These days modern sports stars would indulge in a game of cat and mouse with the paparazzi to avoid being pictured like that in a bar or a private party, let alone do it at the end of a race or match. It was basically the equivalent of Wayne Rooney walking off the Old Trafford pitch at full time drinking and smoking, it was amazing.
They were a total case of what you see is what you get. There was no advisors, no bullshit media men and no straight batting any press questions – a spade was well and truely a spade.
Even with their lack of professionalism it was refreshing to see them. I got the impression watching the programme that entertaining the public and being themselves meant more to them than being winners – and if you could combine the two, then even better.
It is a shame that they both died so young though. The one big difference between the two seemed to be that Sheene planned for life after racing, apparently he looked after his money and his Australian lifestyle looked comfortable when he departed. Whereas Hunt was supposed to have died skint and with nothing to his name.
To end on a happier note, I had to laugh at the bit of the programme when a former collegue of Hunt was describing what he said about the crash that nearly killed Niki Lauda, Hunt apparently said that ‘Lauda was the only man who could have half of his face burnt off and still come out better looking’.