THE MOLE

On the Red Line

"What a extraordinary story," said The Mole out loud, as he sat in Dunkin' Donuts, looking out over Boston Common. He was reading The Boston Globe and had just discovered some rather unsavoury details about the sex life of the hyena which had nearly put him off his second Cinnamon Frosted Apple Cider Cake Donut.

"Imagine putting such things in newspapers that are read at the breakfast table!" he added, speaking to no-one in particular. A passing bum looked at him strangely through the window of the donut shop and then hustled on, busying himself with his plastic bags.

"Still," added The Mole. "I suppose you learn something every day."

Boston, he thought, is a great centre of learning; a place where knowledge comes in all shapes and sizes. Across the Charles River is Cambridge, home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and to the south, in the suburb of Quincy, is Dunkin' Donuts University, where they learn skills of a very different nature.

The Mole finished off his donut, wondering why it is that, in a place of such erudition, they cannot correctly spell the word doughnut.

Despite this flaw, The Mole has always like Boston, ever since he was a student at Harvard in the 1960s, hanging out with the likes of Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. He remembered the city with a certain affection.

A month or two ago a letter arrived at Mole Manor from the John F Kennedy School of Government, inviting The Mole to give a lecture on "Why governments dance to the Formula 1 tune". It came from the Dean of the JFK School, an old pal who had been Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs before being seduced back into the open arms of the academic world.

The Dean was of the opinion that The Mole's insight would fit in neatly in a series of lectures about the uses and abuses of power, which included an in-depth analysis of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli's famous dissertation on power and an analysis of the use of Machiavellian principles in Henry Ford's fights with the automobile unions. The Dean wanted The Mole to explain how it is that a sport has grown to such an extent that it can now bully governments. This, he felt, would help his students to achieve their Masters degrees in Public Administration. The Mole agreed to the visit on the understanding that he would be billed only as "a senior British official". He had concluded that it would provide a good opportunity for him to do his Christmas shopping.

He instructed Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) to book him a room at the Ritz Carlton on Arlington Street. This is the most discreet of all hotels, where, it is said, the original owner once refused to allow the police to search his hotel in pursuit of a murderer because he argued that he knew the pedigree of all of his guests and would vouch for every one of them.

The day before his lecture The Mole arrived to be greeted by Norman the famous doorman. He nestled down for a hour in the warmth of the wood-burning fireplace in his room and then decided to forego the pleasures of the Ritz Carlton and go out and wrestle with a lobster.

The Mole won.

And now, twelve hours later, here he was in a Dunkin' Donut store. He considered heading out across the Public Garden to the Common to see people skating on Frog Pond and then wander a little in the quaint streets of Beacon Hill but Newbury Street was easier and so he set off to do his shopping.

At about 11 The Mole returned to the Ritz Carlton, unloaded his presents and walked the T (Boston's underground railway) and took the Red Line to Harvard. He lunched with the Dean and was amused to discover that Massachusetts is almost as quirky as California. There was even a health warning on his caesar salad.

"No," said The Dean. "They are definitely weirder over there. They've just elected Arnie Schwarzenegger as governor."

The Mole nodded.

"Proof perhaps that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," he said.

Then it was on to the John F Kennedy Jr Forum for the lecture. With such colourful characters as Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis and Jean Todt, The Mole had no trouble in weaving a fascinating tale about power in Formula 1, although the graduates of Harvard were perplexed to discover that there was a sport involving so much money about which they knew next to nothing at all.

As an illustration, The Mole used the current battle over the 18th race as an illustration of how Formula 1 has developed enough power to push governments around.

"A few days ago," he concluded, "Canadian politicians got up and were able to say, with some relief, that they had saved their motor race. In fact all they had done was find a way to pay out more money for the same event, as a punishment for having the nerve to enact anti-tobacco legislation. Formula 1 has maintained its anti-tobacco stance and at the same time created a precedent for future races where tobacco is banned. One can have a race without tobacco if one is willing to pay more. I am sure the matter is not over yet. Canada appears to have won back its race without having to raise the extra $20m needed to keep the teams happy. But is the paperwork completed? There is another promoter for the French GP ready to leap into the game. Will they have to find the extra $20m? We do not know the answer to this question but what we do know is that the issue involved will be used to ensure that Formula 1 squeezes every available cent out of the governments in question.

"Surely, a perfect illustration of how theories of power have transcended the political arena and how sport can be more powerful than governments."

There was a decent level of applause.

"What an extraordinary story," said The Dean.

Not as extraordinary as the sex life of the hyena, thought The Mole as he waited to field questions.

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

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