Bowyer appeared to spin his car deliberately to force a late caution flag – a tactic he has steadfastly denied – while Vickers pitted his apparently undamaged machine with just a handful of laps remaining, handing Truex an additional (and undeserved) position on the race track.
Much was made of those tactics, and rightly so.
|Tomlin (R) tiptoes the sideline|
Audio soon surfaced of Bowyer’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, telling his driver, “The 39 (Ryan Newman) is going to win the race. Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it's hot in there. Itch it." NASCAR responded with an unprecedented series of penalties, slapping MWR with a record $300,000 fine and assessing point penalties that cost Truex his place in the Chase. Those sanctions triggered a lengthy debate about ethics, sportsmanship and fair play in NASCAR, with considerable criticism of the sport’s traditional, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not competing” attitude.
Last week, we learned that NASCAR is far from alone when it comes to lapses in sportsmanship.
On Thanksgiving Day, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin incited a storm of controversy when he stepped onto the field during a kickoff return by Baltimore Raven Jacoby Jones, forcing Jones to alter his stride and allowing him to be tackled from behind. Tomlin’s move robbed the Ravens of a potential touchdown, but he was not penalized by game officials.
"I always watch the returns on the JumboTron,” said a smirking Tomlin afterward. “It provides better perspective for me. I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.”
While Tomlin later admitted he was wrong and accepted responsibility, the play stood as called. NFL officials are still debating whether to fine the Steelers coach for his actions.
Tomlin’s misstep was not the only recent example of a coach checking his sportsmanship at the door in an effort to win.
|Kidd's "sweaty palms."|
Out of time outs with just 8.3 seconds remaining in a Thanksgiving Eve loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd also stepped to the dark side, intentionally dumping a cup of Coca-Cola on the court to stop the game and give himself an opportunity to diagram a final play for his team.
Video replays appeared to show Kidd saying, "hit me" to Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor, before bumping into Taylor and dropping a nearly full cup of Coke and ice cubes on the court. "Sweaty palms,” claimed a sheepish Kidd, a 10-time NBA All Star with the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets. “I was never good with the ball.
"In the heat of the battle, you're trying to get guys in and out of the game,” said Kidd. “The cup fell out of my hand."
Taylor denied intentionally colliding with Kidd, saying, “I wasn't paying attention. I just kind of bumped into him. I didn't even know he was holding (anything).” That explanation falls short of Bowyer’s now-infamous “poison oak” excuse, but on the implausibility scale, it comes awfully close.
After a $50,000 fine assessed by the NBA, Kidd eventually elected to come clean, saying he dumped the drink in an effort to put his team in a position to win. "It's about trying to win (for) those guys in that locker room,” said Kidd via Twitter. “I tried to put those guys in position to get a basket or a good look."
Kidd has not apologized for his actions, saying instead, “The league fined me for something I probably shouldn't have done." That is preferable to NASCAR’s now-standard “I did what I had to do” excuse, which translates roughly to, “I did what I wanted to do.”
Interestingly, last week’s splashdown was not the first instance of Kidd stepping outside the rules to create an opportune stoppage in play. During his playing days with the Mavs, Kidd once made intentional contact with Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson while dribbling up the sideline, before pointing at Woodson and accusing the coach of impeding his progress.
Who does this guy think he is, Mike Tomlin?