By admin | December 4, 2013
By Richard Allen
On Thanksgiving night, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was taking a stroll along the sideline, or actually just off the sideline and onto the playing field, at the very same moment a Baltimore Ravens player was in the process of returning a kick for what appeared to be a certain touchdown. However, the returner had to alter his course when he came upon the coach. That, in turn, allowed his pursuers to catch up and tackle the ball carrier.
As has been reported, Tomlin was fined $100,000 by the NFL and the Steelers could face “a modification or forfeiture of draft choices … after the final order of the 2014 draft has been determined.” The last time the NFL took picks away from a team was when the New Orleans Saints lost second-round picks in 2012 and ‘13 because of the Bounty-gate ruling.
No doubt, the NFL saw the problem in that the outcome of the game between the two teams could have been altered by Tomlin’s actions. Had the Steelers won by less than a touchdown margin, there would have been cries of foul. By the way, the Ravens went on to win that game by a score of 22-20.
Earlier this year, NASCAR faced a situation in which the outcome of one of its Sprint Cup races was tampered with by a race team. During the late laps of the 26th event of the season at the Richmond International Raceway, Clint Bowyer’s car went for a harmless spin coming out of the three-quarter mile track’s fourth turn.
As a result of that spin, a yellow flag came out. The changes in position that occurred during and after the caution along with the sudden and mysterious fading of Brian Vickers allowed Martin Truex, Jr. to earn enough points to receive a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff. Bowyer, Vickers and Truex were all teammates for Michael Waltrip Racing.
That organization was hit hard by the sanctioning body. After points were taken away, Truex was bumped from the Chase in favor of both Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. A fine of $300,000 was also levied against MWR.
Since the fix of the 1919 World Series by the Chicago White Sox, sports leagues have taken the tampering of event outcomes very seriously. It appears as if both the NFL and NASCAR are doing just that with their actions.
The fines for both Tomlin and MWR are relatively inconsequential in terms of the overall health of the respective organizations. The real penalty for the Steelers will be the loss of the draft pick or picks if that occurs. The real damage done to MWR was the removal of their car from the Chase.
In both cases, the lifeblood of the team was affected.
Draft picks are more valued than any other commodity in the NFL, aside from a good quarterback. To demonstrate that, look at the times when established players are traded for draft picks. Often, a player considered to be quite good will only bring a 4th or 5th round pick in exchange for his services. For an organization to lose one is a hard blow as it impacts the team’s ability to replenish itself for the long and grueling grind of a 16 game season.
In NASCAR, the Chase is everything. So much media focus is placed on the ten race playoff and those who qualify for it that to miss it can be detrimental to an organization’s ability to survive in this high cost sport. To make and then be yanked out could prove devastating, as it did for MWR.
As a result of the situation in Richmond and its resulting backlash, longtime Waltrip sponsor NAPA pulled their backing. Ultimately, that led to the closure of the #56 team and the release of Truex as a driver. The punishment proved to be a death penalty for that particular team.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michael Waltrip Racing were hit hard for interfering with the legitimacy of an event. The effect on MWR has already been seen. The impact on the Steelers may never truly be known.
In your opinion, who got hit the hardest? Vote in the poll to the right of the page or offer you comments below.
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