The Muscle Car

What is it to be "high performance"? Does it simply mean to be the best in the field of sports? If so, that is curious, as we do not speak of "high performance musicians" or "high performance actors" or "high performance doctors".

No, the language of late modern sport is the language of the machine, and one would talk of high performance in this context as if describing a particularly well-oiled engine, tweaked and tuned to achieve maximum velocity. Citius, altius, fortius is how one might understand it in translation.

In this sense we may consider the "high performance athlete" the siamese inverse of the "muscle car", with the machinic reading of the former intimately connected to the anthropometric reading of the latter.

With that in mind, one can only note the irony after Michael Waltrip's crew chief was fined and suspended at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race for illegally injecting a substance contained in jet fuel into Waltrip's car.

Citius, altius, fortius, copiosus?

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2 responses to The Muscle Car

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  1. Alison DeLeebeeck says:

    This is a really interesting article. It brings into account how we see athletes differently then we see a lot of other aspects of our society. For many athletes which we call "high performance" this is their job and their livelihood. However, I do find it somewhat of a stretch to say that just because we use "high performance" to describe both athletes and vehicles that does not necessarily make them comparable. I do agree however that the fact that the car driver used a substance in which enhanced his performance much like that of athletic doping, is wrong. However I do believe that if all athletes are available to this advantage and not at stake of being reprimanded for their actions then it would be fair, but then there would be no point to have it. The problem here I believe is a social problem in which we created. Us as individuals within our society go to athletic performances and thrive off of seeing these improvements. So when records are broken or "high performance" athletes have vast improvements for example say a 100m race, that is the excitement that spectators are looking for. So, overall I believe that the person should be suspended for using a performance enhancing substance although through different means then his own body, however I do believe that the problem lies within society and not necessarily our athletes.

  2. Kerrie Nagy says:

    Its true that the term "high performance" does not encompass all levels of greatness within their own respective areas of expertise, yet I can understand why you wouldn't want to dehumanize your physician. Would you want to take away his/her own agency to make split-second, life or death decision about you? No, in most cases you would want them to be able to adapt and react to different situations in an un-mechanistic, relateable way. It can be argued that athletes are people just as much as doctors are and that they should not be related to the functioning of machines. I completely agree, I am in no way trying portray that athletes are anything less than human, it is just the way that we socially construct their function to society that makes a mechanistic reference somewhat appropriate.

    To society, athletes are our means for sports entertainment. Their ability to utilize their fuel to achieve the most extreme level of performance is how we can score them as a 'good' or 'bad' athlete. Very similar to why society fetishizes the muscle car; its blunt expression of mechanized power, the very reason for which they are valued. As discussed in the previous article, it is easy to see how the inverse siameze reference comes into play. However, this reference can go both ways in that the muscle cars are, more often then not, referred to in humanized phrases. This role reversal is a strange quirk in society in that we turn athletes into a construction of efficient metal while we create relationships with our garage occupants.

    In the context of any machine, we want it to run smoothly performing at the highest level of function with the least amount of materials used (in the case of athletes, effort). If we want our computer to run better, we add more RAM, if we want our flashlight to be brighter, we buy better batteries. Throughout all aspects of society we are continually stiving for the betterment of everything. Why should we be so shocked that athletes and pit crews are doing the same, striving to be better at what they do. It is ironic, however, that they are now patrolling NASCAR for the presence of illegal substances just as they are with athletes. These parallels show that there are specific contexts that society accepts performance enhancement and others where they consider it an illegal pratice. Personally I find that defining the contexts in which performance enhancement is appropriate is all subjective to those who hold the power of the institution in question.