It's the fourth quarter. It's quickly approaching the two-minute warning. Pittsburgh, chasing their seventh Super Bowl title, leads 42-17 over the resurgent Redskins who are looking to pick up the Lombardi trophy for the first time since Joe Gibbs was coach. The ball is Washington's, and they've just moved into field goal range with four fresh downs and two timeouts left. Just as the clock ticks to 2:00, the referee cues his mic on the field: "scorekeeper, please adjust the score for Washington to 39 points."
How many football fans would erupt over the notion? How many would chose not to watch if the NFL blatantly evened the score to give the audience a better show?
The answer is that the NFL audience would be incensed and a very large and significant portion of them would easily find something else to do with their Sunday afternoons.
Manipulating competition is what the WWE does. Sure, professional wrestlers use many athletic moves and must be in tip-top shape (and often use performance enhancing drugs to get into that shape), but their events are orchestrated and scripted. Therefore, true sports fans who watch to see who wins and who loses in a true competitive format don't generally watch professional wrestling.
NASCAR might not script races the way WWE does wrestling matches, but they are closer than ever before. In fact, they are manipulating the competition through the nefarious "debris caution".
There are many problems in NASCAR right now, many that will take a generation of new drivers to fix, but the debris caution is something that can be fixed immediately. But it will take a fresh new attitude by the officials in the tower to make it happen.
The thought is they are giving the fans a better show by bunching up the cars. The reality is they are impacting the competition and driving fans away. Do they want the same audience that the WWE has? Or do they want the once fiercely loyal audience that made the sport a powerhouse back in the 1990s?
When the tower calls for a caution, there needs to be an actual reason for it. Jimmie Johnson leading by seven seconds is not a good reason for the caution flag. Sports fans know that sometimes you get a great game from start to finish, sometimes a boring game gets good at the end, and sometimes it's a blowout from the opening kickoff. The same thing should happen in NASCAR - except for the fact that the powers that be insist on trying to manipulate the competition to ensure every race is a classic.
Johnson did hold on to win after a couple of late twists in the Pepsi 500 - not to mention a huge wreck that never would have happened if not for a phantom caution. One has to wonder what officials like David Hoots and John Darby think about the Indy Car race at Homestead, which went green-to-checkered caution free. Dario Franchitti averaged over 200 miles per hour to win, and he did it through pit strategy by savig fuel to make one less stop than Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon. Imagine that! A race where drivers had to adjust they way they drove based upon actual strategy!
Quit with the phantom yellows. Ensure every call an official makes - whether it's a loose lug nut, too many men over the wall, or debris on track - is backed up by actual verifiable proof. Otherwise, all NASCAR is doing is evening the score. We wouldn't accept it from the NFL, NBA, or MLB, so why should we accept it from NASCAR?