In Defense Of Kimi.

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Once upon a time, I willingly entered a confusing period in my F1 life, when I–a Michael Schumacher fan–got charmed by the fresh-faced Finnish rookie hired by Sauber named Kimi Raikkonen.

That was back in 2001, and 17 years later, I am still a Kimi Raikkonen supporter.

You know you’ve truly made it in your chosen profession when your first name is enough to get you recognized. Whether you’re a hardcore or a casual motorsport fan, when someone mentions “Kimi”, do you ever really think of anyone else besides the Kimi Raikkonen?

Having said that, I’ve had enough of people talking shit about him just for the sake of it.

Quick recap: Kimi is leaving Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the 2018 season, but hang on, he is not retiring but rather moving to another team, Alfa Romeo Sauber (aka his 1st-ever F1 team), on a 2-year contract.

This development of course opened the floodgates and got the F1 community talking/debating/seething/celebrating/flailing. Everyone and their dog is having their say.

Kimi incites such widespread attention (and frustration) perhaps because half of the fans irrationally dislike him for their own personal reasons, while the other half hold on to the Ideal Kimi they know is capable of so much more.

While Kimi is portrayed as the epitome of not giving a damn, let’s get this straight: Kimi does give a damn–about family, friends, racing. The rest, can all go to hell for all he cares.

Beyond the cold, two-dimensional, ‘I was having a shit’/’Leave me alone, I know what to do’-spouting figure painted by the media, what many fail to see is that Kimi is actually not just a racing driver’s driver, but also a rather shrewd businessman.

Kimi is not an Enigma, he is actually as transparent as they come. A lot of people just refuse to see him for what he is.

This Sauber move does not seem like an emotional decision, not a ‘screw you’ to Ferrari, but rather a result of a carefully thought-out long game. It’s a tour de force, in my point of view. There are talks of Kimi acquiring shares in the team, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that turned out to be true. Besides, shouldn’t we be pleased for Sauber if it came to fruition, considering the number of financial hiccups they’ve had to overcome throughout the years? Kimi’s presence assures the team of financial security, something that’s not easy in F1. Moreover, Kimi’s experience and wealth of racing knowledge can only help Sauber maintain or improve their positive performance this season. It puzzles me how some people think Sauber is a step backwards and that Kimi should have quit while he’s ahead, rather than risk becoming a midfielder. Sauber may be a small team, but they will take good care of him. As strange as it may sound, it is an opportunity for him to have a fresh start, to shrug off the sky-high expectations from the past few years, to rebuild, to renew ties, and to enjoy racing–in its purest definition–yet again.

While it is unfortunate that a few young drivers will be left without seats next year, I don’t see why Kimi should be vilified for wanting to stay. Here are the facts: Sauber could have easily said no, but they didn’t. They wanted him. The sport’s infrastructure itself needs improvement (it badly has, for a lot of years), if talented drivers keep losing their seats or could not find seats. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Kimi has one of the biggest fanbases in the sport, and keeping Kimi in F1 will keep those fans watching and spending. F1 is also a business: Kimi Raikkonen is a brand and he sells his brand damn well.

I’ve seen some fellow Kimi fans lament about the situation, not knowing how to feel about the developments. It’s natural to have doubts. I get their points. We want the best for him. We want him to win. While I am sad that the Vettel-Raikkonen Ferrari partnership–something I’ve loved and enjoyed throughout the years–is coming to a close, I am personally happy and grateful that Kimi will be in F1 for at least one more year. That’s what truly matters to me. The desire is there, so may the unmotivated cliché so often attached to him soon be laid to rest.

Let’s just let him have fun and be himself. It is far too early to talk of mistakes and regrets. The best thing we can do is to accept and respect his decision.

You may not understand or like his popularity–and in some ways, notoriety–but do not diminish what he means to the fans, and what he has achieved in F1. He is a Champion. He is not going away easily. He doesn’t have to prove anything. The rest is just gravy.

He’s had enough of others controlling the narrative. Time for him to tell his own story, his way.

Both my heart and mind say we will see a Renewed Raikkonen next year. And the mere thought sends shivers down my spine.

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Onwards and upwards.

Sports Ruin My Life/Keep Me Sane.

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(N.B. I originally wrote this piece around the same time last year, but for some reason, it languished unfinished on my drafts, until I found it again this year. While I am doing much better now, the general sentiment remains the same.)

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“When someone talks about something/someone they love, let them. You have no idea how much that love has saved them.”

I posted that thought as a tweet many months ago, and it got a lot of interactions and positive replies.

I sit here right now in front of the TV, watching a Wimbledon match, and I was ramdomly struck by the thought: “How many years have I been doing this?”

The truth is that I am struggling right now. I shall not bore or burden you with the minutest details, but I am in that place where I am aware of how I am still fortunate and blessed in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time, I am deeply dissatisfied with myself and my current situation. Not somewhere you’ll want to be, I assure you.

Anyway, the sound of tennis balls rhythmically getting whacked got me into thinking how several sports have managed to not only entertain me, but also kept me (relatively) sane and cocooned (both positively and negatively) from real life throughout the years. Watching sports has become one of my self-care/self-preservation mechanisms, and here’s a (not-quite-so) brief rundown of my history.

I used to feel kind of…alone back then, when I realized just how unusual my coping mechanism of watching and following multiple sports was. Surely there were more people like me? Nobody I knew in real life could relate to this side of myself, and it was partly frustrating and at the same time, strangely satisfying.

Enter the Internet.

However, I am getting a little ahead of myself…

Tennis

A local government TV channel used to broadcast old Wimbledon matches at odd hours, and I remember watching them as a kid, when I refused to take afternoon naps and there wasn’t anything interesting/good on TV. Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi became my instant favorites, and when my family finally got cable TV installed, Wimbledon became my favorite Tennis Grand Slam. All throughout high school, I would stay up late watching the matches, and it continued until my university years and beyond. There is something soothing about the sound of tennis balls being whacked. The level of competition and fitness required to succeed and dominate is just insane. Of course now my absolute favorites are the inimitable Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, and yes, I dedicated a whole blog post to explain why.

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Snooker

I’ve struggled with insomnia for a huge part of my life, and I suppose my schedule and workload in university exacerbated it. I’ve often seen Snooker matches on TV when I channel-surfed, but ignored them because I was more of a 9 Ball pool fan back then, aside from the fact that I had no clue how the game was played. A good friend from university managed to convince me to give it a watch, and when I researched and understood the rules, I could not stop watching it. Hooked was an understatement! There was something about the sound of the snooker balls colliding that calmed me, and I loved mentally calculating the points and anticipating the tactics/snookers (yes, I am such a geek at times). Coincidentally, back then most Snooker matches were televised after midnight, so my parents often found me sitting in front of the TV during the wee hours of the morning, watching men in bow ties with long sticks skillfully hiding balls. Every now and then, my Dad used to join me, and I had to explain to him all the rules, after which I often found him asleep after around half an hour of watching. Turns out Snooker was too soothing for him.

P.S. I was beyond heartbroken when my then-favorite snooker player Paul Hunter passed away. A few years after that, my sports cable channels ceased televising snooker matches altogether. I still miss it.

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9 Ball Pool

Filipino players are extremely good at it. Efren Bata Reyes is a legend of the sport. My father and brother plays it recreationally, and that’s why I gravitated towards watching it. Cable TV enabled me to watch many international matches, albeit at strange hours. I loved the technicalities and the trick shots and watching Physics in action. I even became a bit invested in the Mosconi Cup, 9 Ball Pool’s version of the Ryder Cup, as well as the World Cup of Pool. I’m not sure why but my cable sports channel somehow stopped televising pool competitions.

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Golf

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, I had a Golf Phase. I think it was partly because I chat with a lot of British Football fans at that time, which influenced me to check out the Ryder Cup. Of course I was firmly Team Europe. I despised those “In the hole!” screams from American fans every time their player hits the ball. I had (/have) a soft spot for Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, and I was so pleased when Garcia finally got the Masters he deserves.

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Rugby

It was the year 2003. I couldn’t escape the coverage of the Rugby World Cup, so I thought, if you can’t beat them, join them. Even before I watched my first match, I’ve already chosen England to support, to match my Football Team, and for consistency’s sake. Being a newbie, I had no idea back then that England wasn’t highly-fancied to go far, let alone win the World Cup. But I didn’t care, the more matches I watched, the more I enjoyed the sport. Fast forward to the Final and I couldn’t be more pleased that England made it. By then, I was already far too emotionally-involved. I prayed to the Rugby gods to let England take the cup. And that amazing Jonny Wilkinson tournament-winning drop goal? It still gives me the chills. Post-WC, I went full-geek and learned about the sport, the history, the Rugby Union vs Rugby League thing/rivalry. I managed to maintain being up-to-date on it for several years, but the decline in coverage of it in my country gradually lessened my passion for it, too. I still faithfully watch the Six Nations and the World Cups, and yes, despite not being able to sustain their level or even equal their 2003 campaign, I still have a very soft spot for the England Rugby Team.

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Basketball

I became a basketball fan at the age of two, mainly because my Dad used to watch it a lot. We supported different local teams, and had a “friendly but heated” rivalry. Basketball was, and is, still quite huge in my country. I remember rushing home after school just so I can watch the local league matches on TV, and buying stacks of local basketball magazines just to get to know my favorite players and to further understand the sport. My moods sometime were influenced by how my teams fared. As I grew older, my interest expanded to the NBA, and Michael Jordan became the Ultimate Basketball Player/Demigod in my book. Basketball was IT for me back then, until, one day, serendipity made a certain sport permanently dislodge it from my heart. Which brings us to…

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Football

Where do I even begin? I suppose I can (partly) blame Michael Owen for igniting my interest. I randomly chanced upon the highlights of the Liverpool vs Wimbledon match where he scored his first-ever goal for Liverpool FC, and for some reason (other than overactive teenage hormones), I had the feeling that that fresh-faced boy–just a few years older than I am–will become a worldwide superstar. A few months and some heavy-duty research later, I was a bona fide Liverpool FC fan, and the World Cup 1998 started. That World Cup changed my life. It was the first World Cup I’ve seen on free TV thanks to the official Philippine government channel. It was the first time I watched match reruns over and over again. Owen’s Spectacular Goal vs Argentina cemented my prediction that he will become Football’s Golden Boy. I literally cried when the England players shed tears after their penalty shootout loss. It was the first time I foregone sleep to watch the France vs Brazil Final, and finally understood why it is the most popular sport in the world. I used to save my allowance to buy the ridiculously expensive magazines. When my parents decided to get cable TV, I had my fill of highlights shows and the UEFA Champions League. When I finally got coverage of the English Premier League, I felt as if Life had finally begun (insert singing cherubs here). I joined Football forums, Football chat rooms, Football groups, the whole nine yards. I learned about formations, tactics, player backgrounds, club histories and rivalries. I wrote to players (cringe) to get autograph cards. I attempted to stream cup finals on dial-up internet. I made friends from all over the world because of Football. I’d be so engrossed discussing Football with fellow fans that I’d go to sleep at 9AM and then wake up at 1PM to go to university. I’d stay up to do my architectural drawings with the Spanish Primera Liga matches in the background. I learned the jargon and the songs and the inside jokes and got the latest transfer news and gossip straight from the most unlikely sources. I could probably write a dissertation on all the ridiculous, silly, hilarious, and juicy things I have done/found out all for the love of Football. But, perhaps those should be discussed in another blog post altogether.

P.S. Here is a sample, if you’re interested.

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MotoGP

MotoGP and I didn’t start off so well. While I’ve already loved F1 for many years, back then, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would choose to watch motorcycle racing over car racing. Oh, and MotoGP schedules at times interfered with my Football matches back then, which annoyed me. But then one day I watched an ESPN Sports Center special where they talked about this up and coming Spanish racer called Dani Pedrosa, and I got curious enough to check out one of his 250cc races. The rest, is history. I was converted. I finally got what the fuss was all about. I knew Valentino Rossi was the main man but I didn’t care. Dani Pedrosa became THE rider for me. He had that intangible something that spoke to me. The lean angles, the engine debates, the constant tussling, the tire wars, the rider rivalries–I relished them all. There’s hardly any boring or unremarkable MotoGP races, and that says something about the quality of its talents. There’s a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald that goes, ‘There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice’. I’m so glad I opened my mind enough for me to realize that my heart is capable of loving more than one racing series.

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Formula 1

If you’re not new to this blog and/or you follow me on Twitter, then you most probably already know that it’s Michael Schumacher and the scaled model of his 1994 Benetton car that got me into F1. F1 is THE racing series for me. My love for it is at times beyond explanation. I’m fascinated with the cars and the science and the technology and the ingenuity and the characters and the history and the glamor and the grit involved. It is the sport that made me throw caution into the wind and got me to travel alone. I drained my bank account when I was new to the workforce just to see my first F1 race back in 2009. I had to hold back tears the moment I first heard the roar of an F1 engine in person. I have often waxed poetic about F1 in this blog, and briefly touched on how it has helped me cope throughout the years. Not a day goes by without me thinking about returning to the race track so I can add more items and anecdotes to my list of ridiculous/hilarious/awesome experiences during a race weekend. I am not blind to its faults and shortcomings, there have been plenty of times where it has disappointed me and pissed me off beyond belief, and yet I keep coming back to it. I will defend Michael Schumacher until my dying breath. He is my all-time favorite and always will be. One of the best memories of my fangirl life is finally getting to meet Schumi in person. I bleed the red of Ferrari and legitimately shed tears when I saw a Ferrari double podium in the flesh during the 2015 F1 Night Race. I know far too much about F1 for my own good and yet I still feel as if I have barely scratched its surface. F1 has enabled me to meet many wonderful people and has given me opportunities and experiences that I will always hold dear to my heart. Is it any wonder that twenty-four years later, I still love it with the intensity of a hundred suns?

The car and the driver that started it all…

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I can honestly go on and on for much longer.

I don’t necessarily want to be the people I watch; I just find pleasure, escape, and I suppose a form of therapy and catharsis in being a spectator. For a certain period of time, “real life” is suspended and you get to be in a world within another world where you don’t have to be or do anything but watch, and yet, you are somehow included in an extraordinary communal experience that sometimes defies explanation.

All the times I have cried due to sports–whether out of agony or euphoria–I can still very clearly remember. The times I have bargained and prayed to the universe and all entities that will listen–hilarious in retrospect but no doubt will happen again. And again. It’s astounding to find out the spectrum of emotions you can go through in such a short amount of time. My empathy and sympathy levels have been vastly improved because of sports. Sports teach you how to win, how to lose, and how to be…human.

I could have had a different life had I not fallen in love with sports. I could have been…something. I could have become someone else.

But, sports have given me far, far more than it has taken away. And for that, I am grateful.

Regrets? None. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now, excuse me while I go find a sport to watch on TV…

An Open Letter To Sebastian Vettel, Post-2017 Season.

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Dear Sebastian,

You’re unbelievable, you know that?

Honestly, I don’t think I like you very much right now.

Where do I even begin? So you started the season with a win in Australia, and officially broke Ferrari’s drought. That made me hope, so much. The kind of hope that is beautiful, yet dangerous; because while it can move mountains, it can also lead to monumental heartbreak.

Was this the year, finally? Part of me was scared, but you looked so sure, so confident. Gina, your car, was in her element. You took another win in Bahrain and steadily racked up points and podium finishes.

Monaco was weird. I was happy you won but also felt uncomfortable because Kimi somehow felt played by the team. My heart was so confused. But then again, judging from your behavior, It was clear that you had nothing to do with what happened, so I gave you a pass and moved on.

Let’s get it out of the way and talk about Baku and THAT incident. What on earth went through that brain of yours to make you pull that move? I was bemused, and aghast, and so deeply disappointed. It was an opportunity to win that blew up in smoke because of a lapse of judgment in your part. You lost your cool, and things got ugly. I couldn’t even defend you on social media after that. You were in the wrong, and there was no way for me to rationalize that. If I could turn back time, I’d do everything in my power to stop that moment of madness from happening. Sigh.

We all make mistakes, and thankfully, you were not punished harshly, but of course it became a giant blot of stain in your title charge. As early as that point, critics were already questioning whether you deserve the title at all after that…infamous nudge.

Then there was that minor disaster in Silverstone. The Mercs slaughtered the Ferraris in qualifying. And of course you and Kimi just had to get nearly identical tire punctures in the last lap. I wanted to kick things and flip tables but miraculously, you both managed to pit and get back to the track to take the checquered flag. Sure, finishing 7th wasn’t ideal, but every single point counted now that Lewis was making a charge of his own.

History was on your side. Records show that you have not yet lost a title battle that you’ve led. I wanted that record to stand, and although you snatched that win in Hungaroring again from Kimi, I held on to the thought that so far, only the Michael Schumacher has managed to win the Hungarian GP and the Driver’s Title in the same year, and if any other driver can duplicate that rather strange record, then it’s you.

Things seemed to be going smoothly, until Monza, when you first lost the WDC lead. You couldn’t fight for the win that weekend but I couldn’t take it against you. Strangely enough, I wasn’t that worried yet then, I was pretty sure you’d snatch back the lead soon enough. And when you preached to the Tifosi on the podium in Italian, no less? My heart melted in a puddle of emotions. You are truly one of us. You are the driver Ferrari deserves.

But then, the Asian leg happened. So much potential, so much promise. But only heartaches ensued. That Singapore pole was spectacular, I yelled so loudly when you snatched it. You said on team radio that you wanted that one badly, and it showed. You went all in, and it paid off.

It still pains me to think about that Night Race weekend, the weekend where what happened on that track forced me to feel and face all the pain from real life. I was so sad but could not even cry. It was the type of sadness that was beyond tears. Tears could not properly express the desolation that washed over me. It got so bad that I took a break from social media, I could not bear to look at anything F1-related.

Things marginally got better in my life enough for me to regain some calmness and catch the Malaysian GP, but of course there was another disaster in Qualifying that sent you to the back of the grid. The wolves were already salivating at the thought of your title charge starting to crumble, but in my heart, I knew that you’re up to the challenge. And we did indeed see Sebastian The Road Runner that raceday. A charge from the back all the way to P4 that was a sight to behold. It was clear you were not going down without a proper fight, like the Champion that you are.

I had to miss the Japanese GP due to an appointment, but when I checked my phone a few hours after the race and was greeted with various iterations of “Nooooo!!” and expletives, I knew another disaster had befallen on you.

By the end of the Suzuka weekend, my (external and internal) tears have run out. A strange calm took over me and I decided to let fate be. Que sera, sera.

It pained me so much to see how sad you were after Austin. For the first time this season, I sensed your despair. The title was slipping away, and staying in contention was proving to be a Herculean task.

However, you weren’t quite ready to throw in the towel. You pulled an astonishing pole position in Mexico. That fightback in the race? It was so worth staying up until 4:41am for. Unfortunately, finishing P4 was not enough and the Driver’s Championship was decided there. Still, I was so proud of you for the effort you put in. Seeing you so dejected after the race was difficult, but you had enough grace and class to congratulate your opponent and to focus on the positives.

And then you gave us that Interlagos win. Ferrari’s first win there since 2008. I was imploring all gods that will listen for them to let you hang on to the win. You need it. I need it. The Tifosi need it. My stomach was churning, my legs were doing the jiggles, but I could not take my eyes off from the tv. And you did it.

Abu Dhabi was, for lack of a better term, an anticlimax. Both Championships have been decided and the Mercs dominated a nondescript race yet again. I stayed mainly to see you on the podium, and to see the new logo of F1 unveiled.

After all of that, came the…emptiness. the realization that it is finally over.

I had to say goodbye to the 2017 season. I had to say goodbye to Gina, the loveliest and feistiest Ferrari I’ve seen in ages.
I had to say goodbye to your title charge.

I had to look at you and assess just how I really feel.

So yes, I don’t like you very much right now because “like” is not the appropriate term to describe how I feel about you. I don’t like you as a racing driver–I love you, actually. I love you as a racing driver. And I mean that in the most platonic, respectful way possible. It’s a kind of love fueled by gratitude, and admiration, not just for your talent but for you as a whole, as a person.

I love that you’re passionate about what you do, that you put in 100% of yourself, criticisms be damned.
I love that you respect and protect the team. I love that you foster a family atmosphere.
I love that you don’t blame anybody else when the car fails.
I love that you stay away from mind games and unnecessary politicking.
I even love how you’re still such a big kid and that you are, by and large, a monumental dork.
I love that you’re imperfect and that you both own and own up to your flaws.
I love that while you remind me of Schumi, you are very much your own person, too.

Throughout the year, your title challenge with Ferrari was a bright spot in my oftentimes dismal and challenging life. You represented a form of escape, something to look forward to when things aren’t going right. Every emotion–good or bad–was heightened because I wanted it so much for you. We wanted it so much for you.

Let me be clear: I’m in no way, shape, or form, angry at you. How could I be when I know in my heart that you did your absolute best? I never expected you to be perfect or be some kind of Ferrari Messiah, I wanted you to be yourself. You are enough.

You may not have a tangible trophy to hold aloft this season, but there’s plenty of invaluable lessons learned. Setbacks are only prologues to bouncebacks. And you’re pretty damn good at that.

As I’ve said on Twitter: Sometimes in life, you have to go through the 1996-1999 Schumi in order to get to the 2000-2004 Schumi. You will get to it, and soon. I trust you to not give up, because we, your supporters, will never give up on you.

Just be you, Sebastian. We wouldn’t change you for the world. I know I wouldn’t.

Rest up and recharge. We will go again next year. And you know what? I have all the faith in the world that you will win that title with Ferrari. Get ready for it.

Sincerely,

Marj.

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Grazie, Seb.

Forza Billy.

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It’s strange how racers and racing fans alike are all well aware of the dangers and risks involved in motorsport, and yet during the actual race day, all of that are shoved to the back of our minds. It’s all going be to okay. Let’s hope the race is exciting.

This past weekend was pretty much just like any other normal race weekend–until it wasn’t. F4 as a series is not televised in my shores, but as majority of my Twitter following are fans of multiple racing series, I get to be updated whenever I check my timeline during race weekends. And when something major happens, it’s impossible to miss. As soon as I read that a big shunt has occurred in Donington Park, which involved young British racing driver Billy Monger, my mind went into automatic, “Oh dear, I hope he’s 100% okay”. I refused to watch any footage of the crash, as my timeline was still fretting over the length of time it was taking for the youngster to be extracted from his vehicle. Some hours have passed, and finally Billy was taken to the hospital, and for a while, Twitter finally got to breathe a sigh of relief.

But then the awful news broke that Billy Monger sustained such serious injuries from the crash which resulted in both of his lower legs being amputated. I am barely familiar with this kid prior to that fateful moment but I felt my heart shatter in a million pieces when I read that update. Imagine having your dream taken away from you in a blink of an eye. How do you recover from that…?

In a matter of hours, a crowdfunding page was set up to help Billy and his family cope with the impending financial stress brought about by the accident. It was at 16% of the total goal when I donated. I immediately shared the link to my Twitter timeline and asked my followers to help out if they can. It saddened me a little that I couldn’t donate more, but I crossed my fingers and hoped that the motorsport world and beyond will come through and reach the target.

(Link to the crowdfunding page:
 https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/billymonger23 )

And reach the target we all did–and beyond! As of writing, the crowdfunding page is at 245% and has nearly 16,000 supporters. That’s with 117 days to go until the deadline. Numerous motorsport personalities have donated and expressed their support, and the massive outpouring of love and concern from all over the world is just amazing.

However, what got me into writing this was this tweet:

I never anticipated just how much those three simple words could have such an effect on me.

Here was a kid, all but 17, who got thrown a massive curveball by Life, but he is already dusting himself off without missing a beat.

And then there’s this little girl named Millie Davis who stood out among the sea of support on his crowdfunding page:

Photo grabbed from Twitter.

Do you ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months, or years, or lives) when you feel lost and overwhelmed and you feel like the universe won’t ever give you a break and you have no idea how to be yourself again?

And then you read about people like Billy Monger and Millie Davis and you realize just how inconsequential some of your worries are, and how you’re wasting your energies on the wrong things.

They may still be children but boy, have they schooled me on Life well and proper.

I am humbled by Billy’s fortitude. His bravery is no less than inspirational. He is a complete stranger to me but I am already invested in his story–a story of triumph, hope, and optimism.

It is far from over yet, there will be more challenges in the chapters ahead but I am not worried about him. Do not, in any way, feel sorry for Billy. Underestimate him at your own peril. He will pull through. He will teach us how to find the strength within us when all seems lost. He has already scored a massive victory and he’ll only score more along the way.

Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

Survival is an art and we should all be so lucky to have an ounce of Billy’s character in us.

I cannot wait for the day when Billy Whizz takes the checquered flag yet again. 

Bounce back soon, Billy. We are all behind you.
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Serendipitweet.

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Twitter is my favorite social media platform, just so you know.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, but I made my public, once-anonymous account only five years ago, mainly for the purpose of promoting my blog posts and preventing myself from spamming my real-life friends and acquaintances with my constant Football/F1/MotoGP/Tennis commentaries, ramblings, and observations.

My point, anyway, is that this is a story of how Twitter surprised me in the best way possible.

I love F1, that much should be obvious by now; and when I feel strongly about something related to it, I immediately let my thoughts be known, first via Twitter, and then on a subsequent, oftentimes lengthy, blog post.

Recap: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the 2016 World Driver’s Championship (hooray). However, five–yes, five–days later, he announced his retirement from the sport. What the heck, right?

My mind went into overdrive (pardon the pun). I poured my heart out on an open letter to him. Usually, my open letters have been reserved for my favorite drivers, but I have grown rather fond of Mr. Rosberg over the years and I felt it was only right that I should say (nearly) everything I wanted to say to him in a farewell letter. If for anything, at least I can attempt to encapsulate how a lot of F1 fans around the world feels about Rosberg and his rather interesting F1 career.

I published it on the 3rd of December. I posted the link on my Twitter page the same day. I got some compliments and several blog views over the next few weeks. And then the interest seemed to dwindle. That was fine. That should have been the end of the story.

However, for some reason, I left the blog post link as my Pinned Tweet. I thought, maybe more fans will somehow find this. I’ll just change it once the new season starts.

Then, on the 3rd of February, I interacted with the account Parc Ferme F1 (@PFF1) and asked him something about Sebastian Vettel’s supposedly revolutionary new visor during testing. For some reason, whoever runs that account must have looked at my profile and saw my Pinned Tweet. That account then retweeted the link to more than 8,000 followers. Another account, MSportXtra (@MSportExtra), must have seen the retweet and in turn, retweeted it again to more than 3,000 followers. I started getting lots of Likes and Retweets and Replies. I thanked everyone as best as I could and then went to bed, thinking, “Oh it’s nice how that Open Letter is getting attention again. I hope Rosberg fans like it.”

The next day, I went out to run errands, and while I was having a waffle snack break, I checked my Twitter and found that my Nico Rosberg Open Letter Tweet was still spreading its way through the F1 community. I got tweets from lots of fellow fans all over the world, but two tweets stood out for me: One was from the F1 producer of the NBC Sports Network, who gave me a kind review and tagged Mercedes AMG F1 on his tweet saying that the letter should be passed on to Nico Rosberg. The other was a tweet from Georg Nolte, one of the members of Nico Rosberg’s management team, who called my post a, “fantastic & emotional letter.”

My mouth dropped open (thankfully, I’ve finished my waffle). The letter was literally one person away from Nico Rosberg himself. I thanked Mr. Nolte for taking the time to read it and then cheekily added that I hoped Nico Rosberg would be able to see it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? I thanked the rest of the Twitter people (tweeps?) who took the time to tweet me about the letter and then closed the app, ready to go about the rest of my Saturday.

When I got home, I flicked through my new interactions and saw a “Nico Rosberg” among them. To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh look, a fake account pretending to be Rosberg read my blog post.” But then, I quickly scanned the rest of my mentions and saw all the extreme reactions and OMGs. Wait, could it be that THAT was the real, actual Nico Rosberg? I rechecked the tweet and stared at it for a full minute. Yes, yes, it was the Nico Rosberg with the blue tick.

I put my phone down for a moment and took deep breaths.

The 2016 Formula One World Champion actually took the time to read my open letter to him. Nico Rosberg actually laid eyes on my blog. Holy cow. Holy guacamole. How cool is that?!

While of course I was unbelievably pleased that the letter somehow reached its intended recipient (only 2 months after it’s been published!), a part of me got quite embarrassed at the thought of Nico Rosberg actually reading about my F1 ramblings and real feelings about him. I mean, this isn’t exactly a mainstream racing blog; who would’ve thought a legit racing driver, let alone THE reigning World Champion, would deign to even lay eyes on it? I remember covering my face with my hands and groaning out loud, wishing I took more time to polish it and make it…better. Yes, that’s me, always the overthinker. After a while though, I decided to let it be and just let go of my doubts. Shake it off, shake it off.

When at last I regained a semblance of composure, I finally replied to his tweet, thanked him for reading it and asked him to come visit my country, anytime he wants.

As soon as Rosberg sent that tweet, my blog hits and views have risen steadily. I’ve gotten lots of kind comments on Twitter, especially from the legit Rosberg fans who seem to be genuinely happy for me (they’re a good bunch). Though a part of me expected to get some trolling comments, none have been made so far (whew).

While it’s not exactly a huge, life-changing moment, that incident became quite a bright spot in my recent life and I still smile whenever I think about it.

So for the nth time, I would like to thank the random strangers who decided that my open letter was worth reading and sharing. I still can’t fathom what made Nico Rosberg check it out but I will always be grateful for that act of graciousness. Even if he never got to see my letter, my sentiments remain the same and I mean every single word I wrote. I am honestly humbled and overwhelmed by the response I got and the replies that I’m still getting. I suppose the best way for me to truly express my gratitude is to remain as authentic as I can be, which means that my F1 rants, raves and snark will continue to grace my Twitter timeline and this blog will be kept alive as long as I still watch sports.

For anyone else out there who wants to write and share what they feel–whether it’s F1-related or not–my advice is to go for it. Do not underestimate the power and magic of your thoughts and feelings. Go for it with all the humor, optimism, and enthusiasm that you can possibly give.

Serendipity is everywhere and sooner or later, it’s bound to find you.
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(P.S. Just in case you’re lurking Nico, let me know when you’re coming to Manila!)

  

I Want To Be Like Nolerena.

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(I’ve been thinking of slowly incorporating my Tennis thoughts in this blog, so I chose to publish this here. Also, my short-lived tennis blog have since died a natural death.)

Nolerena simply means Nole (or Novak Djokovic) + Serena (Williams), two of my current favorite tennis players and possibly my top male and female tennis players of all time.

2017 is strange because they will both begin Grand Slam season as Number 2s in the world. I’m still not used to it. I’m determined not to get used to it. They’ve been Number 1s in my heart for so long that it’s difficult to think of them as anything less in actual, real world rankings.

This is not meant to diss or diminish their fellow players; it is human nature to simply prefer someone over the other. Fact of the matter is, I just like them better. Their stories resonate with me more.

So what makes them so darn special, at least for me?
They’re different. Once upon a time, they tried to fit in, to blend in with the others. But one day, they decided that they’re not cut out for conformity, after all. They’re not afraid to be themselves.

They’re fascinating. Never one-note or two-dimensional. They are not the typical, polished, micromanaged sporting stars. They can be rough around the edges but still be adorably wholesome and relatable.

They are not perfect. Far from it. Tempers? Yep, they sure have them. Tons of clips are available online where they have exhibited less-than-rolemodel behavior. Countless memes have been made over their infamous on-court outbursts. But, to their defense, they were never out of malice and most of the time, brought about by the heat-of-the-moment. They are passionate for what they do, that much is obvious.

Media darlings? Nope. Sure, they get served their accolades whenever they’re victorious, but not without a sprinkling of backhanded compliments or long-winded references to the records of their rivals that they need to equal or surpass. They’re not desperate for good press. They tell it like it is and stand up for what they believe in. They create their own narratives when the media can’t decipher or just refuse to disseminate their truths.

They’re human. They’re not invincible. I’ve seen them cry. I’ve seen them crumble. I’ve seen them fail. But all that just makes them all the more admirable. They never let a setback keep them down.

They constantly defy expectations. They’ve put up with loads of bullshit on their way up and now they work to shatter antiquated systems.

They succeeded because, and in spite of, their backgrounds. They know where they come from and they own their history.

They know their worth. And not the measurable financial sense. Because what is money compared to the fulfillment of being able to live their dreams day in and day out?

They give back. They care about relevant issues and they want others to rise above hardship and have better lives, too.

They’re brave. They’re smart. They’re humble, but sassy when need be. They’re funny. They know how to laugh at themselves. It’s evident that they love themselves, not in a vain way, but in the most essential way. They’re nutty, at times, but then again, what’s genius without madness? And yes, they’re very much tennis geniuses. Their methods are different but nonetheless spectacular.

Their mental strength? Astounding. It’s as if they use the doubts and taunts of critics as fuel. They set their own limits. They are their own worst enemies, not a current rival or a figure from the past. They hate losing, but they learn from it. They’re Winners. And even when they come up short, you just know their bounce back is nigh.

And their tennis? A bevy of adjectives apply, depending on their opponent and mood that match: Clinical. Majestic. Mind-boggling. Astonishing. Powerful. Sometimes their level of skill and play defies description. When they hold that racket, magic happens.

I have lost years off my life watching some of their matches, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I look at them and I think, “Wow. Amazing.”

I can go on and on longer, but you must have gotten my point by now. These two are not just extraordinary players but more important, they are extraordinary human beings that need to be celebrated more. Why is that so? Must we wait until they both retire to appreciate them? It’s an appalling injustice.

The movies can keep their superheroes. Nolerena’s the closest thing to sporting superheroes there are in reality.

In a world where they’re constantly being undervalued and underestimated, Novak and Serena embrace who they truly are and will never apologize for sharing their unique brand of light (and fight) to the rest of the world.

And that, is the best achievement that needs no medal or trophy.
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Nolerena enjoying being Nolerena.

An Open Letter to Nico Rosberg.

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(I’ve been procrastinating writing this. But then of course everything changed in a blink of an eye last December 2, so it got fast-tracked. Here goes nothing…)

Dear Nico,

Let me begin by saying that you are not one of my absolute favorites in Formula One. I’m just keeping it real.

But allow me to explain myself, if I may:

I liked you well enough when you burst into the F1 scene in 2006, but by that time my heart was already starting to invest in a certain “Baby Schumi” named Sebastian Vettel, and for some reason, I found you too polished, too privileged, too…slick for my liking. I prefer drivers with an “edge” to them, and you looked straight out of the perfect, pretty, prep school boys’ catalog.

You had the blessing and the curse of being a son of a Formula One World Champion. Will you ever live up to his name or are you all hype? I expected you to do well in F1, to cause a stir just enough and get a few wins here and there; but I didn’t really peg you to be The Next Best Thing. It’s weird because I knew from your racing CV that you’re talented; I just never saw enough spark and hunger in you back then.

Or maybe I should have looked at you more closely.

You spent years as one of the midfield racers, occasionally showing moments of brilliance but never really bothering the top dogs. Vettel and Hamilton easily shoved you aside to grab and share the spotlight that was supposed to be yours. You had podiums and fastest laps, and made exciting moves every now and then, but it wasn’t until you moved to Mercedes to partner the returning Michael Schumacher when I started to really “see” you. I fully expected Schumi to trounce you, but surprisingly, you came out ahead of the matchup, even giving Mercedes their first win of their “new” era. It’s not an easy task to regularly beat a driver of Schumacher’s caliber, but instead of being annoyed, I found myself getting fascinated by your progress. Who is this Rosberg I’m seeing that I was all but oblivious to during his Williams years?

As fate would have it, you were the first ever F1 driver I met in person. You exceeded my expectations, by the way. I was just curious to see you at first but I ended up staying at the event to try to get an autograph. You were nice, and kind, and sweet to us waiting fans. And yes, I have to admit that I was shocked at how good-looking you are in the flesh. But mostly, what I remember is how you treated us fans and how you made us feel. You even apologized to all the other fans who didn’t get to have your signature because you quickly got whisked away by security to your car. Not necessary, but appreciated, nevertheless. All the other fans who’ve met you only have good words to say about you, and that speaks volumes. No wonder your fans are extremely loyal and overprotective of you. I met you again in 2015 and you were as nice and pleasant as ever, you even joked and laughed with me about my bracelet that you mistook for something else. That is why from that 2012 moment on, you jumped from relative obscurity to become my “favorite non-favorite”. Does that even make sense? What the heck, you’re smart, I know you’ll get what I mean.

I am not a Hamilton fan, so when he moved to Mercedes to take over the seat Schumi vacated, I had hoped you’ll continue your good form and show him who’s the boss at Silver Arrows. But fate had other ideas, and although Mercedes skyrocketed to ruthless dominance, Lewis got the better of you. I went, “Where is the Nico that turned me around? Why is he getting sucked into the drama and the mindgames?” I vividly remember getting confused by all the frustration I feel on your behalf.

2014 and 2015 were awful. I wanted you to win the Championship so badly even I surprised myself. That electrical issue during Singapore 2014? I internally wilted. That infamous gust of wind in Austin 2015? I chanelled my inner Tyra Banks and yelled, “I was rooting for you! How dare you?!” at my TV. Do your critics have a point when they say you lack the psychological strength to become F1 Champion? I refused to believe it, despite your snafus and the injustices you suffered. I knew you had it in you. Somewhere in that blonde, polished mien, I knew there’s grit and hardiness that’s waiting to be unleashed.

And you turned it all around. Quietly. Masterfully. I believed yet I still greatly underestimated your bouncebackability and you proved me wrong. Tenacity? Check. Patience? Check. Consistency? Check. Grace under pressure? Check.

You fought back and never gave up on yourself. Amidst a barrage of criticism and blatant bias from fans and media, you revealed what you’re truly made of. When practically most expected you to wither and choke, you stepped up and delivered. The moment you crossed that finish line in Abu Dhabi was the moment you slayed all doubts and slaughtered your own demons in one fell swoop.

I was so proud of you then. So ridiculously proud of you.

And then of course you dropped that certain retirement bombshell–5 days after you won your 1st F1 title. What. The. Heck?!

I was suffering an almighty migraine that night and I remember looking at my mobile phone screen, staring at the words, “Nico Rosberg announces his retirement” and willing them to go away or be some kind of a twisted joke. But alas, it was the cold, hard truth. A myriad of questions from my brain demanded immediate answers: Is he ill? Was this predetermined? Who knew about this? But the biggest question was, “WHY?”

To be honest, I was half-astonished and half-annoyed. The annoyance stemmed from my selfish part: Who would challenge Lewis now? Why didn’t you want the honor and privilege of defending your title? Why did you not give your fans a chance to bid you a proper goodbye?!

Finally, your official statement was released, and although it was expectedly eloquent and heartfelt, it lacked the answers the selfish part of me needed. However, I was truly touched by your words and I legitimately wanted to shed tears by the end of it.

You’re truly something else, Mr. Nico Erik Rosberg. Just when I think I have you all figured out, you come out with ways to surprise me further.

How can I fault you when you say that you are retiring to prioritize your family? How can I stay mad at someone who listened to what their heart is saying and followed the path they wanted, and not just what others expected? There is immense bravery in realizing that at times, quitting is necessary in order to truly win.

What a way to distinguish yourself from other F1 Champions. Chapeau.

I still can’t wrap my head around it, but one day, I will wake up and accept that you won’t be in F1 starting next season. And that for the first time in 23 years, F1 won’t have a defending Champion on the grid. It sucks to lose one of the good guys, but that’s the reality me and millions of other fans just have to deal with.

On behalf of my 2006 Self, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize to you, Nico. I’m so sorry. I was wrong. So wrong to judge you and to stereotype you back then.

You had one hell of a rollercoaster ride in F1. You chased your ultimate dream to the edge of madness and succeeded. In a circus-like world where the narratives were almost always not to your advantage, you took control of your own storyline. Nobody can take away what you have achieved. Ever.

You may not be one of my absolute favorites, but know that you are one of the F1 personalities I truly admire and respect. You’ve made me a fan. I AM a fan. I will truly miss you in F1.

Any chance you can do a World Tour any time soon so your fans can give you a proper farewell, by the way? Please consider. You are always welcome to visit the Philippines.

Now go on and enjoy life outside of Formula One. Cherish your amazing parents and your incredible wife and daughter. Spend time with your wonderful friends. There’s still so much ahead for you and I can’t wait to find out what you have up your sleeves in the future. 

You are a fighter, a gentleman, and a class act. You are and always will be a worthy Champion, not just in racing, but in Life.

Danke, Nico.

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What A Champion: The mic drop that shook the F1 World.