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Porpoising In The Speed Zone, With Luis Paez-Pumar

The McLaren pit crew gets ready for a driver during the Miami Formula One Grand Prix.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

To the extent that anything having to do with what is arguably the world’s most maximalist and quite possibly also loudest sport can sneak up on a person, my coworkers’ evolution into Formula 1 Perverts snuck up on me. It is not my business or remotely my wish to know what everyone I work with is doing in their spare time—I see only the protruding iceberg tip of their TV-watching habits; I have heard Dan McQuade say the words “Knight Rider rewatch” out loud, and that was honestly more than enough. If they wanted to talk about falling for the semi-documentary reality series Drive To Survive amongst themselves, or in our workplace Slack, or break down their F1 Sweeties and Enemies on this very website, that is fine. But I was also happy to let it be their business.

Eventually, though, like the roar of an engine propelling a loathsome Russian failson into an accident at 200 miles per hour, it became impossible to ignore. Last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix was hilariously Floridian but also objectively a big deal to people I’d never seen giving any indication of caring about this sort of thing before. Even Drew has been showing symptoms. And so it was in both the spirit of scientific inquiry and bowing to the inevitable that we had Luis join us this week to address the cars, the cars with the vroom.

To the extent that I ever had any interest in Formula 1, it was for its gaudiness. The cars and the racing are impressive enough, I guess, but I was in it for the plummy-scuzzy Europudding money guys at the races, the uncanny divorce-collecting billionaire lords of the sport; it is nice, or anyway amusing, to be reminded that every country has a Palm Beach in it. But Drive To Survive got its hooks into people by getting them closer to the drivers and supporting players who do the actual amazing and difficult stuff, and so while we talked about racing it was mostly about that amazing and difficult stuff. During this portion of the podcast, a verb form of the word “porpoise” is used in what is apparently a technical way; I feel like I should warn listeners about this. I made sure that we didn’t talk about it for too long, or too contiguously—I had some stories about driving a loaded-down Ford Escort across the country that cried out to be told—but I enjoyed the conversation more than I would have. Over the course of my life, I have become a mass transit guy, and mostly just find cars kind of grim to talk about. But these are cooler cars than usual, and I got to tell my Ford Escort story and my Ford Festiva story.

And that was before we turned to the sports that I actually follow and enjoy. We addressed Luis’s strange and strangely limp Miami Heat, and the good and bad (or bad and less-bad) reasons to care about the NBA’s MVP voting, and Major League Baseball’s inveterate tinkering issues and the mostly unmourned death of the complete-game loss. The legacy of the NFL’s Karim Abdul-Jabbar was considered, and Scott Mitchell was treated with the appropriate amount of respect. An earnest reader question about how many energy drinks is too many energy drinks was met with some very bad advice from all three of us. If I did not become an avowed speed merchant and Formula 1 Sweetie-haver by the episode’s end, I will at least say that the 48 minutes went by fast.

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