Some tips and tricks for the ultimate of sports-watching marathons
I watch one sporting event each year (OK, two if you count the sportball game between the commercials of the "Superbowl"). This one event takes place in a tiny village in western France. An epic battle of men and machines, of endurance and stamina, of danger and skill, fought against weather, distance, and time.
I of course speak of le mythique, le légendaire, le grand Circuit de la Sarthe et les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans.
There is just something about this race that captivates my interest. Maybe it's multiple somethings: the history, the cars, the speed, the talent, the mixture of track and street. But more than that, as someone who loves long distance drives, it's the sheer, brutal, grind of it.
You see, unlike ever other type of auto race, Le Mans isn't about time, it's about distance. The time is fixed. The race is 3pm to 3pm. The winner is the car that goes farthest.
This is akin to racing from San Diego to somewhere north of Boston, flat out, for an entire day, only stopping every few hours to change divers (there are three per car), tires, and for fuel.
I could waste your time with how awesome this race is, but instead, let's hit up the two pre-game festivities that explain it better than I.
Le Mans (the movie)
It's Steve McQueen, actually driving in the actual damn 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans. If I didn't have you at "Steve McQueen" then I'm not sure I can help you. How about it's Steve McQueen driving in the actual damn 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans. He actually raced cars (second in the Le Mans-similar 12 Hours of Sebring). But perhaps a better intro/pre-game is a documentary:
Truth in 24
This little piece of propagandistic brilliance distills down everything that makes Le Mans so epic. It's the build-up to and actual 2008 Le Mans as told from the "underdog" Audi point of view. It's incredibly entertaining, and quite effective.
Even better, it's free! If you haven't noticed, that's not the trailer I linked there, that's the whole movie. You can also download on iTunes.
There's a sequel too, called Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts (which is also on iTunes) about the 2011 Le Mans and its incredible and unexpected finish. That race, FWIW, was the most incredible sports event I have ever seen. I haven't watched II, yet, and I look forward to doing so before Saturday's start.
East-coasters will have an easier time of it, given the race starts at 9AM EDT. I rarely see that side of 6AM PDT, but we shall see.
Speed Channel broadcasts the Le Mans feed, with their own commentators that rotate in and out during the day.
Given that Speed can't go more than a few hours before pooping out something on NASCAR, you can't even watch this 1-time-a-year even without interruption. There is nothing in the words "NASCAR Spring Cup Qualifying" that makes it seem worthy of airtime during the race of races, but then, this is the network that said WRC didn't get enough ratings after airing it at 2AM on a weekday.
I am not the demo.
Whatever. Look, it's a long race. Die hards will watch it as live as possible. Even I take a break for sleep (maybe next year I'll actually go, and then dammit NO. SLEEP. TILL BROOKLYN, er, SARTH!).
Since the moments of incredible excitement are mixed in with long stretches of long stretches, it's good to have something on hand to do. After all, fast-forwarding through the boring parts kinda defeats the purpose, right? That would be like waiting all year to watch the ice soccer championship competition event, just to fast forward to the final three minutes to see who wins.
I recommend a second television and a PlayStation 3. Yep, I'm hard core. On this second TV, pilfered from a bedroom, basement, unsuspecting friend, you can play Gran Turismo 5, on which you can actually drive the Circuit de la Sarthe.
To do this right, I recommend a steering wheel. I have an old Logitech that works pretty well (this is the new version), with metal pedals and everything. Wheels aren't cheap, but they vastly improve the quality of the gameplay. Speaking of which, check out my E3 coverage for a preview of GT6. My one piece of advice is consider what you're mounting the wheel to. There are some wheels designed to work on your lap, and these are probably a lot better for gaming on the big screen. Or there's something like this, which I think I may need to get and try out when GT6 ships.
And lastly, if you're having trouble convincing the spouse/fam to let you watch 24 hours of continuous car racing, tell them McDreamy is racing (in a HerrDreamy Porsche GT3 RSR):