ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Do Cheaters Prosper?
by Brian North
2/14/07

The NASCAR powers cracked down on several teams at the Daytona 500 for trying to cheat during qualifying. Fines were levied, points were docked, and crew chiefs were suspended all in an effort to curtail the devious behavior.

But will it keep teams from bending the rules? There is an old saying in racing, "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't trying." One of stock car racing's supposed charms has been those who try and find extra speed with a wink and a smile while pulling one over on the inspectors.

But if NASCAR really wants to get rid of the shenanigans and have everyone follow the rules, they are going to have to make the punishments stronger. Jimmie Johnson's crew chief was suspended for four races last year, but JJ won the Daytona 500 without him, and then went on to win the championship. That message didn't seem to scare this year's crop of crew chiefs. If NASCAR really wants to stop the cheating, then start suspending drivers. The fans and sponsers will get upset, but that will in turn put pressure on the teams to think twice before illegally duct taping those air vents and inventing ways to get an aerodynamic advantage.

The same can be said for all sports. If you want to curtail cheating, up the penalties. If a baseball player uses a corked bat, ban him for a year. If an NFL player uses steroids, ban him from the league. If a hockey player injures another player with a cheap shot, he should sit out as long as the injured player needs to recover. Rules are made for a reason; to ensure fair play. If the players aren't scared of the consequences, then they will continue to cheat the game and the fans.

The question is, do the powers who govern the sports want to really stop the underhandedness? It is entertainment, and those in charge want to make money; that means putting fans in the seats and getting great television ratings. I am sure owners and college presidents have looked the other way at times to help their own interest, and they should be just as culpable. But the only way that will happen is if they get hit in the pocketbook by fans disgusted with their behavior.

It used to be sports were a great teacher of the lessons of life. Now we look at athletes and their games with skepticism, which is too bad. Most people do follow the rules, but it's those that break them, get away with it and prosper, that sends all the wrong messages.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com