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NOVEMBER 28, 2002

A thought for Thanksgiving


You may not know the story of Thanksgiving. This great American tradition - held on the last Thursday in November each year - is when families and friends gather to celebrate the good things in life. They eat turkey and cranberry sauce and follow it up with pumpkin pie.

The tradition dates back 381 years to the autumn of 1621, 10 months after the Pilgrim Fathers first landed from the Mayflower at Plymouth (which is in modern day Massachusetts). They arrived in December and faced a tough winter and by Spring nearly half of the settlers were dead. The crops they had brought with them from Europe (although English they actually came from Holland rather than England) failed and there were left to survive on seafood and whatever wildlife they could find close to the settlement. They were frightened to venture further afield because of the local Indians.

What they did not know was that the Indians were in little better shape. A plague has swept through the region a couple of years before the Pilgrims arrived and most of the Indians had died. There were not enough people to tend the fields and to hunt. They too were living precariously, worried about the new settlement and the coming of the white man.

But then an Indian named Samoset did a remarkable thing. He walked into the Pilgrim settlement and, in English, welcomed them. Later he took a second English-speaking brave with him and Squanto stayed with the Pilgrims and taught them how to grow Indian corn, which fruits were safe to eat and he helped them to trade with the local Wampanoag tribe. Things began to improve.

When Harvest was completed the Pilgrim governor declared that there should be "a Thanksgiving" for them all to rejoice together. Four pilgrims were sent out to hunt and 90 of the local Indians, led by Chief Massasoit, arrived for the feasting. In fact there were more Indians than there were pilgrims. They brought with them venison and wild duck and to this was added seafood, corn bread and wild fruits. There may have been turkey - no-one is quite sure - but there was no cranberry sauce and no pumpkin pie.

The feasting went on for three days and afterwards they lived in peace for 50 years while other colonies suffered at the hands of the Indians. It was not until Chief Massasoit was dead that his son went to war with the settlers.

The lesson to be drawn from all this is that united we stand, divided we fall. And that is something which at the moment the people who run Formula 1 do not seem to understand, despite the example of the CART-IRL battle to act as a warning to them. Everybody still wants more but they don't seem willing to discuss it seriously and one is led to the belief that the problem is really one of egotism on both sides.

Instead of further weakening the sport by continuing the charade of two rival championships in 2008, those who claim to have the best interests of the sport in mind should stop and think about what is happening and what they are doing.

What Formula 1 needs now is a Samoset...