Mike Neff · Thursday February 9, 2006
In case you have been living under a rock for the last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl. At least that is what the record book says, and that is what people outside of Seattle seem to feel. The folks from the Northwest, though, seem to have a different opinion. The Starbucks crowd seems to believe that the Super Bowl was stolen from them with some shoddy officiating. This isn’t the first time this year that people have felt that there was some questionable work by the gentlemen hired to enforce the rules.
In the AFC Divisional game between Indy and Pittsburgh, there was a ridiculous change of a call on an interception by Troy Polamalu. That same weekend, there were a couple of disputed rules interpretations in the Mile High City that supposedly cost the New England Patriots a chance at defending their NFL Championship.
With all the bad officiating calls comes a common thread. Fans of teams are left with a bad taste in their mouth because they have the feeling that the game was decided by someone other than the participants. Let’s hope that the folks in Daytona are taking copious notes so as to avoid having the legions of NASCAR faithful walking away with a similar feeling again this year.
Let us not forget that in 2005 there were a couple of different decisions that left people searching for the Listerine. Dale Jarrett punted Ryan Newman after he felt Newman had been over zealous in his efforts to get past the UPS Ford at Bristol. The powers that be sat Jarrett for a couple of laps while Kevin Harvick, an unwilling bystander who was caught up in the aftermath, lost his chance at making the Chase.
During the Darlington race, Michael Waltrip and Jeff Green seemed to forget the lessons their mothers taught them, and turned the track into their own private demolition derby. No less than three meetings between the cars brought out two cautions and spread untold amounts of debris onto the track that undoubtedly caused at least a couple of tire punctures. The end result was a call to the trailer after the race.
After the Spring race at Las Vegas, two Hendrick cars failed to meet required height restrictions in post race inspection. The Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson teams were docked points, and their crew chiefs were put on probation. However, the initial suspensions of the crew chiefs were overturned on appeal by the National Stock Car Racing Commission. The same cars were found to be too tall after the Fall Dover race, but were given a few seconds to settle and then passed inspection.
The point to this diatribe is that sports fans are getting tired of seeing the people appointed to enforce the rules of their respective sports, waffling or being inconsistent with their enforcement decisions. One of the most important issues for NASCAR this year is for them to develop a consistent approach to rules enforcement. I don’t think anyone in the garage area cares how they choose to enforce the rules, as long as it is consistent for everyone in the garage. There should not be any deference to certain teams or owners based on their prior success in the series or the number of cars they field. There should not be any modification to enforcement against one driver over another because of the years or experience that a given driver has in the series.
NASCAR wants to rival the NFL in popularity. They are already recognized by some statistics as the second most popular sport in the United States. Let’s hope that this is one time where NASCAR chooses to exceed the standard set by the NFL. The fans who pay the money to attend the races and the millions more who loyally follow the sport deserve nothing less.
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