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« Isn’t it strange how much NASCAR news came out around Thanksgiving? | Main | The most surprising things about NASCAR in 2013 were… »

Who got hit hardest for tampering: Pittsburgh Steelers or Michael Waltrip Racing?

By admin | December 4, 2013

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin jumps put of the way of the Ravens Jacoby Jones.

 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.

Clint Bowyer’s late race spin in Richmond has sparked controversy.

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.

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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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5 Responses to “Who got hit hardest for tampering: Pittsburgh Steelers or Michael Waltrip Racing?”

  1. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    December 4th, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    The after effects on MWR were far more damaging than a loss of a draft pick would be.

  2. Bill B Says:
    December 5th, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I think NASCAR’s penalty was more harsh and that’s a good thing.
    If you’ve seen the movie “Moneyball” there is a point towards the end of the movie where the owner of a rival team quantifies the cost of a win. The number (perhaps fictional, perhaps not) for the New York Yankees was 1.2 million per win (this was based on the cumulative amount they payed for players and management divided by the number of wins).
    So, how much does a win in the NFL or a chase berth in NASCAR cost? That should be the amount of the fine when someone attempts to manipulate the outcome.

  3. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 5th, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Actually, Rich, there was precendent with Tomlin’s Smooth Move with Sal Alosi 3 Years Ago with the Jets playing the Dolphins. And, Cheatin’ , no matter the race fan, gets folks ranked up and angry, but, Cheating, like Tiger Woods willfully getting away with playing at Augusta, is a Sea World Whale. I think the truth still exists of Rob Kauffman breaking loose of MWR and we would preferably know that if Brian Vickers will ever get better. And this year had to be 300 Thousand on the Emotion-ometer,Rich and I find too many SeaWorld Whales, the fraternalization of Sports and Rick Allen going to NBC as a move by NASCAR to toughen up their legal counsel vs. Fox Sports because there has to be an unprecedented load of contract fraud that Fox Sports did in the rush to put SPEED on Blocks.

  4. RacingFan Says:
    December 6th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    The principle that the seriousness of the cover-up is often worse than the crime is illustrated by this example. If Clint after the race had said, “I made a dumb mistake in the heat of the moment that I regret”, I (and I will bet most others) would forgive and forget - especially if he never did it again. Instead, ill feelings toward and lack of trust in that organization and driver will never fully disappear.
    I would still be willing to adopt a different attitude towards them if they, even at this late date, would just start telling the truth about what happened instead of denying the obvious.

  5. Leto Says:
    December 10th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Let’s see:
    MWR- $300k, a driver kicked out of the Chase (arguably worth over a million bucks in just sponsorship bonuses itself, not including any bonuses for making the Chase), and a nearly $20 million a year sponsor left their team, after how many years of standing behind Mikey? Hell, they didn’t leave him after the jet fuel instance at Daytona in 2007.

    Steelers- Coach got fined $100k (he makes nearly $6 million a year, or almost $375k PER GAME). They lost a draft pick, that probably wouldn’t matter much anyway.

    Let’s see, one team had to cut back significantly, and lost millions of dollars for just 2014 (not counting any time period that NAPA would have re-signed after 2014). Another lost about 1/4 of their coach’s weekly salary, and a draft pick that half the time doesn’t matter.

    I’d say MWR got hit worse. Which is probably a good thing. NASCAR showed they weren’t playing.