Sunday, March 09, 2008

Tech About to Ruin the Last Great Race?

I know that I risk sending C into convulsions with this one, but the addition of GPS devices on 19 sleds in this year's Iditarod signals the final step into corporate whoredom for one of the world's last down-to-earth races. The Iditarod already made the decent into corporate sponsorship years ago, but the addition of GPS devices will give up the secrets of the course and the remaining subtleties of musher strategy during the run. Now techie-racers, backed by the likes of IAMS and Cabelas, will pour over the data and  compute the race rather than figure it out by trial and error. Sleds will begin to look like Nascar shells. Faceless 'atheletes' backed by Nike and loaded with 'data' will make technical runs, pushing aside the quirky characters that made this race an archaic gem of an event. The Bert's of this world are forced even further to the periphery, further marginalized by the uber-competitive junkie with no connection to the land who simply wants to win one more 'extreme' event by any means possible. This is just one more example of capitalism (the competitive desire to attract viewers for revenue raising) ruining the mystique of a great tradition. The privately funded local sleds have already disappeared for the most part; how long will local and intimate knowledge of the trail or the strategic arcana of the mushers remain a crucial element of the race? Oh well, at least these 'promoters' haven't discovered the Yukon Quest - yet! 
Ok, full disclosure: I have to admit it's good fun to watch the live tracking. (At least the Alaskans are still outrunning the Norwegian.)


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