Thursday, February 22, 2007
Congratulations NASCAR, you've made it to the big time. You signed a gazillion-dollar deal with ESPN, the mother ship of the sports world. You now have afternoon shows that analyze every detail of the sport on a daily basis. Plus, you've had your touching commercials present during every program break since the very minute your last season ended. Then, only days before your Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, fate set in.
Some racing teams decided even the new amount of face time wasn't enough. Several teams were fined for not passing inspection from NASCAR officials. I'm not sure what the problems were in technical terms, but maybe Christopher Lloyd allowed them to borrow flux capacitors. The best attempt to cheat goes to Michael Waltrip's crew, which tried to slip its car some rocket fuel. And I thought energy drinks were bad.
So now NASCAR has caught up to the pack of pro sports scorned by the ignorance of its athletes. It could actually have been worse. Anybody remember when Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson accepted the NFL's citizenship award the day before he was to play in the Super Bowl? That night he decided to continue his acts of goodwill by offering himself to an undercover cop disguised as a prostitute.
Sometimes the leagues have tough decisions to make. Sending down hard disciplinary action could harm the atmosphere before the event. If key participants are prevented from competing, the event might lose its appeal. This is why the NFL allowed Chicago Bears Defensive Tackle "Tank" Johnson to travel to Miami for the Super Bowl even though he was under house arrest.
On the eve of its biggest stage, NASCAR did give fines and suspensions and subtracted points from several drivers, which I believe would actually put them in the negatives since the season didn't start until Sunday. Was that enough? You be the judge.
Cheating continues to be an issue in every sport, and it seems the instances of athletes getting caught are greater than ever. Maybe it's the continuing growth of technology that has allowed leagues to catch on to the cheaters' tactics. Whether it's performance-enhancing drugs, altering a baseball to give pitchers an edge, or racecars chugging rocket fuel, sports have been plagued with stories of cheaters recently. The problem is that rules will never be so exact that no loopholes can exist. Thus, as fans, we can only pray that those whom we root for don't get the idea that cheating is OK.
The only positive to all of this is that sports will move on and regroup. At least they always have so far. NASCAR prevailed by having the big race practically come to a photo finish with a mess of crashed cars and fire in the background. Is there anything better than that to take the attention off a scandal?