bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: NASCAR’s Chase will start on a very bad note

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I like to think of sports as being pure, at least as far as the integrity of the results. Fakery, result-fixing, and shadiness are for things like professional wrestling. When I see something in a sport I love that smacks of cheating and a less than legitimate outcome, it makes me sad. I know it is foolish of me to believe that a whole lot of this stuff does not go on regularly, but I can’t help it. I need this stuff to be real. This week, I have reason to question NASCAR.

On Saturday night, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series was racing at Richmond, and it was an important race. Their version of “playoffs” is called the Chase for the Sprint Cup, or just the Chase, for short. Basically, the top 12 drivers after 26 races qualify (really the top 10 plus two wildcards), and their point totals are reset for the final ten races of the season. The guy with the highest point total over that stretch, factoring in bonus points they get at the start for having won races during the first 26 contests, wins the championship. This last race before the Chase is always a hotly contested one, with drivers jockeying for those final spots. With less than ten laps to go, it looked like Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon were going to come away happy, while Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano looked at be left out of the mix. Newman was leading the race, while Gordon was running eighth. All of a sudden, Clint Bowyer, a teammate of Truex, spun for no apparent reason. Caution came out, and most of the drivers pitted. This completely changed the race, as the running order changed and Newman had dropped back out of the lead. Bowyer and Brian Vickers, another teammate, then made additional pit stops just as the field was going back to a green flag, causing further changes in the eventual results. Watching the race, I lamented the spin, as I am a fan of Jeff Gordon and I thought he had accomplished his goal before the caution happened. I had no idea that the radio communications between Bowyer, Vickers, and their crews would seem to indicate that the drivers’ actions were intentionally designed to change the results in order to benefit their teammate.

The whole concept of “teammates” in auto racing is an odd one. The only teammates a driver really has are his crew, as they are all working toward the same goal, which is for their car to finish as high as possible. Helping another driver, simply because his team is owned by the same guy, is not particularly natural in this sport. Some owners have teams that really do work well together, while others have teams that don’t seem to like each other at all. In the end, no driver is going to help another driver if it could cost him the win, regardless of who owns the other team. In this case, two of Michael Waltrip Racing’s teams really did seem to be working to assist their brethren, but they did so in a way that I consider to be blatant cheating. The results of a race should be determined by actual racing, not by these kinds of shenanigans. NASCAR is supposedly investigating, but I would be shocked if they actually meted out any punishment. The governing body has never shown the backbone to really come down on a team for something like this, and I don’t expect it to start now.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Two idiots from a town near my own were arrested on Monday after they broke in to Wrigley Field in Chicago and tried to steal some ivy from the outfield wall.

3) Lavonte David, a linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, needs to be cut. His team lost to the New York Jets on Sunday because he committed one of the worst penalties I have ever seen. Up two points after kicking a field goal with about 30 seconds left in the game, the Bucs just needed to keep the Jets out of field goal range. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith, making his first start for the Jets, scrambled for 10 yards and ran out of bounds at the Bucs’ 45-yard-line with seven seconds left. This would have been way too far for any kind of field goal attempt, but David hit Smith after he had gone out of bounds at the end of his run. The 15-yard penalty put the Jets at the 30, and kicker Nick Folk made the 48-yard field goal that won the game.

4) Speaking of idiotic plays, another player managed to pull a DeSean Jackson move, dropping the ball before he actually crossed the goal line for a touchdown. Danny Trevathan, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, managed this one after an interception on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

5) During that same Denver-Baltimore game, Ravens receiver and return man Jacoby Jones was injured when he was flattened trying to receive a punt. The craziest part was he was hit by a teammate, Brynden Trawick, who clearly was not looking where he was going.

6) The UNLV sports department put up a billboard in Las Vegas to try to sell tickets to their basketball and football games. The sign included a picture of the coaches of those teams, or at least that was the idea. Instead of showing Dave Rice, the current head basketball coach, the image of Lon Kruger, who left the school two years ago, was included. Oops.

Good sports:

1) Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos quarterback whose career was in question just a year ago, threw seven touchdown passes during the Broncos’ win over the Ravens on Thursday. This ties an NFL record set back in 1969.

2) Disgraced slugger Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder who was suspended by Major League Baseball for taking performance enhancing drugs, has started the process of trying to rehabilitate his image by personally calling a bunch of season ticket holders to apologize for his actions. It’s hard to not be skeptical about this sort of thing, but the team says this was his idea and that he really didn’t want any publicity about it.

3) The Tennessee Volunteers pulled off a very unlikely feat during the team’s win over Western Kentucky on Saturday. They managed to force a turnover on five out of six plays during a stretch of the first quarter. That’s ridiculous.

Bonus) On Saturday I was watching some of the Michigan-Notre Dame game (don’t ask me why…I hate both of those teams), when I saw a Michigan player whose last name was “Butt.” It said it right across the back of his jersey. That’s awesome.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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