There is only ONE Oklahoma

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So Its Super Bowl Week

Like it or not, it is that time of year again. Here are a few worthless Super Bowl thoughts and questions.

Who says the NFL is an 'American Sport'?
In this day of age where many feel that the U.S. should be an 'English only' communication country, isn't it odd that the Super Bowl uses Roman Numerals to identify their games? Maybe the 'Super Bowl' of Nascar should take the NFL's lead, and change the name of their crown jewel race to the 'Daytona D'.
Good ole days syndrome?
The other night I caught on the NFL Network a replay of the original broadcast of Super Bowl XIII (that's Super Bowl 13 for us 'Americans)and I couldn't believe some of the things I heard from the broadcast team. To this day, I still hear just 'how much better the old broadcasts were' (sound familiar?) and why the game was my 'pure' back then. Now Super Bowl 13 was in 1978 and broadcast by NBC with Curt Gowdy handling play-by-play and color commentators Merlin Olsen and John Brodie. Dick Enberg served as the host and also helping out for NBC's coverage were Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle.

This was Gowdy's seventh and final Super Bowl telecast and for good reason. Some of his comments about the game were so off the wall, it made Jimmy Spencer sound half way intelligent. But the kicker came from Merlin Olsen when midway in the first quarter Dallas intercepted a Pittsburgh pass deep in the Cowboys territory thwarting a Steeler touchdown. Olsen interjected with this gem. "Had the Steelers scored a TD that would have crushed the Cowboys, and put this game out of reach." 'Out of reach' is 14-0 in the first quarter? I guess it was back then!!!!
May is well throw darts
Like the validity of pre-season testing speeds and how they don't seem to translate to success during the Nascar season. I don't think I saw anyone picking the Bears to make the Super Bowl. In fact, very few even felt that the Bears would make the play-offs.
Yes, it is a circus
Yesterday was 'media day' at the Super bowl and the next time your hear someone complain about the 'circus' that is perceived to be a Nascar pre-race show, remind them of this. Two failed try-outs for the latest American Idol contest were present at media day with full press credentials. Yes, I am speaking of the pair the 'became Friends' in line, and that Simon basically called one of them a 'jungle monkey' and the other over weight kid who didn't seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Why they were there is beyond me, but the fact that they were tells all about the buildup of this game, and the sideshows that now go with it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dale, the Movie?

We have heard the reports and rumours that there would be an 'official' movie made about the life and death of Dale Earnhardt. This past weekend I stumbled across this website promoting this movie. A pretty generic site, but you can see the movie trailer there. My first knee jerk reaction after visiting the site and watching the trailer was, 'are Nascar fans really ready for another movie about the driver of the 3'? After the ESPN's attempt at the Television Movie, "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story" and the criticism from the Nascar purists that followed, sometimes the expectations can grow into something much bigger than the reality or entertainment value of the production.

I guess I was in the 'short line', when it came to the ESPN production and depiction of Dale Sr's life. First off, I realized that it was not a 'true to life' drama or was going to be a 100% truthful biography. Second, I also understood the difficulty for film makers to re-create racing scenes realistic enough to be believable. Third, after all, it is Hollywood. But there were many of the Nascar faithful that for some reason felt this made for TeVee movie was going to be different, and after seeing it, they voiced their displeasure.

Time and time again the flaws in this movie were brought to our attention in some attempt to downplay the entertainment value or story line of this film. What they failed to realize that if this same scrutiny was given to 99% of the 'based on a true story films, their result would be similar.

One very vocal critic that I remember correctly pointed out many inaccuracies ofthe film, however made the mistake of claiming that the film should have been made with the diligence that was achieved in the movie 'Patton'. Now that gave me a chuckle especially considering that 'Patton' was a full length feature film, and '3' was an ESPN made for TeVee movie. (and ESPN's 'docudramas' were not known for the historical accuracy) I always thought it would be interesting to compare some of the criticisms of '3' to similar problems with other 'based on a true story' films, so lets compare a few.

Factual errors in both films:

Time Continuity:
"3": There was a shot of the RV park during a race identified as 1990. There was an orange Tony Stewart flag in that shot. Tony Stewart didn't start driving the #20 Home Depot Car in Winston Cup until 1999.

"Patton": Germany is already divided to East and West Germany in the map of Europe seen in the U.S. headquarters, and all other national borders are post WWII.

"3": Sunoco Gasoline is shown on the fuel tankers in the movie, but Union 76 fuel was used in the era. (Sunoco did not sign with NASCAR until the start of the 2004 season.)

"Patton": Patton is shown having read a book, "The Tank in Battle", by his adversary, Erwin Rommel. Rommel never wrote any book dealing with tanks or armored warfare.

Glaring Factual Errors:
"3": The death of Dale's father Ralph Earnhardt happened in the kitchen and he was found by his wife. In the film he died in the garage and was found by Dale.

"Patton": Early in the movie (after the Battle for the Kasserine Pass), it is mentioned that U.S. tanks used gasoline, the Germans used diesel. In fact all of Germany's World War II tanks used gasoline (petrol) except for some prototypes.

"3": At the end of the movie, where Dale Earnheardt is shown at his last race at Daytona, Bobby Labonte is shown driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Labonte was, in fact, driving a Pontiac Grand Prix in that race, and did not drive the Monte Carlo until after Earnheardt's death. also in Earnhardt's first Daytona 500 start, the movie shows him driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. However, he actually drove a Buick.

"Patton": The 1948 Packard car in front of U.S. headquarters, and the tanks used in the major battle scene in North Africa are post-war tanks. On the German side the M48 tank (1953) was used and on the American side the M47 (1952).

"3": The February 23, 1986 incident at Richmond International Raceway was inaccurately depicted, where Earnhardt spun out Darrell Waltrip with three laps to go. In the film, Earnhardt's now-famous line "I didn't mean to wreck him, I just wanted to rattle his cage a little." was part of the post-race interview. That line, however, was not said at that time. Instead it was said at Bristol on August 29, 1999 after Earnhardt spun out Terry Labonte on the final lap to win the race.

"Patton": The prayer for good weather was actually put on the back of a small Christmas card that was printed for the troops on December 11th, five days before the Battle of the Bulge began and not a direct order from the General to a Chaplin. Also the actual prayer contained the words "these immoderate rains" while the movie version said "this immoderate weather."

Both these films were very good from an entertainment standpoint, although it appears that neither were historically very accurate, and it best a 'loose adaptation' of real life events or people. We can see a plethora of other films that fall unto this genre as well. Films like 'Rudy, 'Hoosiers', 'Friday Night Lights', 'Remember are the Titans', and even 'Miracle' (the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team) all have many glaring historical inaccuracies, however the general public is led to believe that these films are 'true stories'.

From the trailer, this new film seems to be going in the direction of a 'docudrama', using contemporaneous audio and video accompanied by recent interviews and statements from others who had first person interaction with Dale Sr to tell it's story. Maybe a better name for the film might have been, 'Dale, the Docudrama'.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Its Okay to Change Your Mind

Reading the "Southern Gentleman's" quotes from the LMS media tour yesterday I could see that it was more of the same 'pre-season driver speak' as seen in the past 7 seasons. However, towards the end, there was a new twist offered, that we as fans have not seen before. A 'new domesticated Elliott'? Here read the quote for yourself.

"I'm pretty close to becoming domesticated. It's something that hits you like a ton of bricks and it's definitely hit me. I've definitely found someone I want to settle down with and raise a family. I think that has a lot to do with the attitude I have right now. She's shown me the brighter side of life and what life's all about. It's gonna happen pretty quick. I'm definitely off the market."

Now I know for a fact that the Southern Gentleman's support staff and posse read this blog on an almost daily basis, let alone many of his Plaid clad groupies and I have previously made the claim that these blogs actually do some good in terms of making one have a much needed reality check. So if the Southern Gentleman truly is honest (yes, we know that can be a stretch) with his fans about this new revelation, it falls right in line with many of my complaints about his off track life style I sited this past season. Him having a reality check like this can only be a good thing and I applaud him for admitting it.

But first there might be some house cleaning to do.

1) Since the Southern gentleman mentioned specifically about 'raising a family', it might be a good time to edit the Official My-Space site's quote listed under CHILDREN as, "I don't want kids" (after all, we have seen a few edits of this nature with the "don't drink" to an omission)

2) If such a personal comment is acceptable for the official fan club website front page, I am thinking that allowing such a quote on the official message board would not be expunged in less than a few minutes. (just who is driving that bus anyway?) Nice consistency there. But this is not the first time the Southern Gentleman has claimed to be 'off the market' and even announce an engagement, so I guess attempting to squelch any pod people talk of this is prudent until we actually see a see a prenuptial signed by both parties.

3) Clear those temporary Internet files before allowing the mystery woman access to your laptop, and while you are at it, get a new cell phone, and may as well get a new number in order to avoid those late night calls from the 'locals'.

So maybe this is a new chapter in the volatile and controversial career of the Southern Gentleman and his posse. If he truly does want to change many of the things he is claiming, then one can only support his efforts as it can only be a positive influence on the track. The distractions noted in this blog alone from the past could account for at least 5 or 6 positions in the drivers standings. But history has shown that this type of pre-season driver speak is common for the Southern Gentleman, and along with that history, a failure to follow through with much of that speak. This could simply be just another train wreck in the making. I hope history does not repeat itself in this case, as it seems that a 'happy' driver, translates to better performance on the track.

side bar:
I think from now on I'll add a satirical 'motivational' poster to end many blogs, depending on the topic for a giggle. So I present motivational poster #1.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not so Deep Thoughts

Is there another Speedway that has put more effort into improving their product over the years than the Texas Motor Speedway? Last fall there were a few backhanded comments from a couple of a drivers complaining of a 'dip' in turns 1 and 2 of the Speedway. Although surveys showed that the 'dip' was no more significant than that could be seen at other tracks, TMS this off season decided to go ahead and fix the area where the dirt underneath the asphalt had settled over the infield tunnel. It has been 6 years since the track was completely repaved and while that was considered, the Speedway didn't want to jeopardise the 2nd and 3rd grooves that have been seen the past couple of seasons. Another nice move by the Texas Motor Speedway.

The 'big stage' moving to Las Vegas? For the fan, it really doesn't matter where the end of the season banquet is held, but maybe having it in 'Sin City' it might prompt a few drivers to exit the woods and attend this event to honor the top ten finishers. The added plus, might be the easy access to the strip clubs available in the area!
Reading where the North Wilksboro Speedway is to finally be sold to a group of developers and put this track out of it's misery. Ultimately the blame will wrongfully be handed to Bruton Smith but one should look a bit deeper before such a reaction. First, Smith only owns 50% of the shares of the track (Bob Bahre owns the other 50% and also owns the New Hampshere Speedway). Smith did attempt to purchase 100% of the financially troubled track after the death of then owner Enoch Staley in 1995, However the other majority partners turned down Smith's offer. The Smith/Bahre equal split offer was agreed for a reported 14 million dollars, well over the value of the track, considering the renovations needed to make the track 'race day ready' for that time period. While 'racing' may have been great at North Wilks, without the proper financial backing for needed improvements, the track was doomed. But maybe more importantly it sent a wake up call to other 'old' tracks like Martinsville and even Darlington to upgrade their facilities or risk the same fate is North Wilks.
What to do with North Wilks?
Maybe this should have been done a couple of years ago but I wonder what the reaction would be if Smith/Bahre would authorize ripping up the cracked, grass covered asphalt and replace it with dirt. Renovate the needed stands and plumbing and host an ARCA or maybe a CTS race 'on the dirt'. See if this would catch on then petition Nascar for other series race dates. I still think a CUP race on a 3/4 mile or mile mid banked dirt track might get top 5 to top 10 TeVee rating.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chase Changes? You Betcha!

A couple of days ago Nascar announced that there will be some tweaks in the Chase for the Championship. I wanted to take a couple of days to really soak these changes in, and not knee-jerk with a reaction.

Over-all, I would grade these changes as an A-, as once again it appears that Nascar actually is listening to the 'complaints' about the format and at the very least, attempting to make the product better.

Qualifying for the Chase still has the underlying theme of rewarding consistency, but adding 5 extra points for a regular season win, then adding 'bonus points' for Chase qualifiers with previous season wins, can only benefit the drama we have come to know as 'the Chase'.

For the fans that want to see the 'old ways' return, I would say this. I don't ever want to see a final 1/3 of the season that we saw in the 2003 Cup or even this past 2006 Busch season. Talk about a couple of snoozer last dozen or so races!

The only issue that I might have was the elimination of the fail safe 400 point rule and the additional two teams. This exception, while improbable, was the safety valve just in case if a season was top heavy with 15 or so teams very close in the points and insuring that a deserving team would be left out. Going to 12 teams does dilute the Chase, but I guess it could be worse.

Tweaking the format can only be a good thing in the big picture perspective. If not for a bit of change from year to year, Nascar might still be racing on the Beach Course!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Its like Deja Vu all over again

Sometimes you read or hear quotes from drivers and you just have to laugh at what they are saying or attempting to say. It is probably a safe bet that most drivers are guilty of what I call 'generic cliche driver speak', where in two or three sentence quotes, there is mention of the 'hard working team, the sponsor, how great the car was', yada yada yada.

But it is becoming more and more clear that some drivers can get so caught up in their generic driver speak, that they can't keep their stories straight. A few months ago I pointed out the plethora of discrepancies in the "Southern Gentleman's" public quotes concerning him leaving RYR in favor of Evernham Motorsports.

Many of the Sadler apologist or defenders claimed that these discrepancies were needed in order to protect the 'plan' of action. Make all the excuses you like, but the bottom line is that the "Southern Gentleman" has so many different story lines in his driver's speak, that he sometimes confuses them from year to year.

The latest such faux pas came from his one of his Pre-season Thunder quotes from Daytona this past week.

"Sadler said he weighed 211 pounds in 1999 and had not been below that until now. Sadler weighs 210 pounds. He says he's lost 10 pounds since last year's season finale at Homestead and wants to lose another 10 pounds before this season begins."

Translation: 210 pounds is the lightest Sadler has weighed since 1999 and at the end of last season he weighed around 220 pounds.

Now flashback just one year ago to quotes from Pre-season Thunder of 2006.

"My new crew chief made a deal with me that he wanted me at 200 pounds when I came here for the Daytona 500," he said, "and I was 212 pounds when I left Homestead -- and I've already lost 11 pounds."

Translation: at the beginning of the '06 season, Sadler weighed 201 pounds.

It is like Deja Vu all over again! Other than the obvious problem of recycled stories from year to year, some one needs to remind the "Southern Gentleman" of simple math or how to read a bathroom scale. Just how gullible and forgetful does he think Nascar fans are? Or has he fallen into the trap of 'just tell them what they want to hear', instead of the truth.

One can go back 10 to 20 years and see the driver's speak in full force, but I guess some are just better at keeping their stories straight than others.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is it predicting if it has already happened?

Last weekend the 'Great Ice Storm' of 2007 was supposedly going to hit the DFW area and even though that never really developed, I did spend most of the weekend at home, 'waiting it out'.

Through the greatness of Tivo, I was able to re-watch a dozen or so 'key' episodes of LOST in search of any additional clues. While I didn't notice much new that I had not seen when I original saw any of these episodes it was a good way to refresh the brain and get it ready for the return of Season 3 LOST that is set for a couple of weeks.

I also hit a couple of selective LOST forums that will post some 'spoilers', but not ones that could give the future plot or story line away. From one such thread I read this:

"There will be a big reminder this season that on the island, it’s still November of 2004 and only three months have passed, which will help lead to “a major shakeup coming soon.”

We were reminded that the time period was indeed late 2004 when Desmond looked at the 'printouts' that Locke had found at the Pearl Station and brought back to the Swan Hatch. These printouts logged the pressing of the button in the Swan Hatch. In the Season 2 finale, Desmond saw the date of the 'system failure' on Sept 22nd, 2004 for not pressing the button causing Flight 815 to crash . We were reminded again, that it was still roughly that same time period when Ben speaks to Jack about various current events since the plane crash, such as the re-election of George W. Bush to the American presidency, the sudden death of Christopher Reeve and that the Boston Red Sox had won the 2004 World Series.

By the end of Season 3, episode 6 ('I Do') we know (for those who have been counting) that 73 days has passed since the plane crashed on Sept 22nd 2004, making the date and time at the end of episode 6 sometime in the afternoon on Nov 24th 2004. We also know that about 5 days before, the 'others' talk about something significant happening in 'two weeks' (roughly the first few days in Dec.). That event may or may not be related to the 'earth shaking' news though, but it does help us 'track time' on the show.

We know that at the end of Season one, 44 days had passed, at the end of season two 67 days and roughly 6 days have passed so far in Season 3. Who do not really know how many more days might be covered in the remaining episodes of Season 3, but lets just assume that each season will cover around 35 days on average and that Season 3 will end sometime around Jan 1st 2005.

Just what could be the 'real life' event that would remind us of the late 2004 time period?

My first 'knee-jerk' thought that came to mind was the well documented Tsunami that occurred on Dec 26th 2004. That would be most definitely be a 'major shake up'. But there is one huge flaw in that line of thinking. The Dec 26th Tsunami effect the Indian Ocean, not the Pacific Ocean where the survivors are located.

Here are a few other possibilities?

December 1st, 2004
An Indonesian MD-82 from the charter airline Lion Air crashes in Central Java, killing at least 31 people and injuring at least 62 people. (however, Central Java is not a location anywhere near we have been led to believe the plane crashed.)

December 15th, 2004
A US$85 million test of the U.S. National Missile Defense system by the Missile Defense Agency is aborted when an unknown anomaly is detected before the launch of an interceptor missile in the Marshall Islands, 16 minutes after the launch of the target from Kodiak Island, Alaska. It is the first test since a previous failed test in 2002. As in 2002, the Bush administration abandons plans to activate the system by the end of the year, and projects its activation in early 2005.

December 23th, 2004
An earthquake of moment magnitude 8.1 occurs at 14:59 UTC, 305 miles north of Macquarie Island.

I'm going with the 'aborted' missile theory. Wouldn't that be an interesting and unexpected twist?

Okay, enough of that distraction, racing is just a few weeks away!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Random Thoughts

Pre-Season Thunder:
Pre-season Thunder continues this week with group number two and after this week we still will know little concerning which teams have improved and which teams have not. Plate speeds/times simply put, are a crap shoot when it comes to comparing with other teams. 'Catching' the draft at the right time, on a single lap, then 'finding' a hole to drive through, then having a partner continue to push you are all key factors in making that 'top 10 lap'. While after the fact, if we were to compare Pre-season Thunder speeds to the final Daytona 500 race standings, chances are there would be little rhyme or reason to either list.

Stewart wins 2nd Chili Bowl:
At first glance this feat might not look like a big deal for one of the most accomplished drivers in Cup, but this win does mark the first ever win for Stewart driving a car that he was the owner. I have heard that racing in the Chili Bowl is racing at it's 'purist form'. Considering the prize money offered, it is clear that few entries are in this race for the money.

SPEED Adds 50-foot 'Fan Tower' to help fans locate SPEED STAGE:
Like there was really a need or excuse to see more 'middle aged' men and women in the background holding their cellphones to their ears one one hand, beer in the other and looking at the camera and saying. 'Am I on?....How about now?'

Expanding the Chase:
Not sure what is positive about diluting the Chase. As the more teams that are eligible to make the Chase, the less 'important' the regular season races will become. (see the NHL and the NBA)

Sirius Radio:
No I have not broken down and purchased one just yet. While I have been a bit more tempted since the New Year, I still have yet to see any programing that is so exclusive that it doesn't appear on the Internet less than a few hours later. Maybe next season.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Desperate needs require desperate action

Reading this article the other day I see where once again the IROC series is in serious jeopardy of becoming a figment of our imaginations. Sometimes when in desperation, and I believe the IROC Series is in that present state, something off the wall, or out of the box thinking needs to be done in order to save the series. So here is what I would do.

First and foremost, there is no current sponsor for the series, and there is a reason for that. The series has quite frankly lost it's luster, even to the point of being boring at most tracks. Few, if any sponsors are going to fork out the cash needed to back the series in this state.

The driver choices:
It is no secret that the IROC is heavily dependent on Nascar, but that doesn't mean that the other series should be ignored to the point the have been recently. Along with Nascar, drivers from (in no particular order) other that series should submit entries include:
American Le Mans Series, ARCA, Champcar, IRL, National Hot Rod Association (yes, that's racing in a straight line), USAC Silver Crown Series, and the World of Outlaws sprint car racing. I am sure there are a few other series that I am missing, but the point is that the appeal for IROC is to not simply have a 'Nascar All-Star/Legends' race. The goal would be to have a 16 car field for each race.

The Race Venues:
Its pretty obvious some of the race venues need to be changed. Some venues, because of the nature of the tracks can become a follow the leader parade in just a handful of laps after a start or re-start. So if I was to be given any 6 racing venues in the country, here are the ones I would choose.

1) Daytona Road Course: Adding this race last season was a good move for IROC as it accomplished a couple of positive things. It gave the series a road course to run on, and one that is more fan friendly in terms of viewing/site lines then most road courses. Also because of the timing of Daytona, race fans are eager to watch as much racing as possible due to the winter lay-off.

2) Hickory Motor Speedway: This .36 mile flat oval would provide some nice racing action with a 16 car field while also providing exposure to the historic North Carolina race track. IROC has really never raced at such a small race track, and that would also add to the appeal. This race would be held in the middle of the week (probably Tuesday night) in order to ease possible scheduling conflicts.

3) Knoxville Raceway: Talk about a tough ticket! This semi banked 1/2 mile clay oval would be a huge draw, not only live, but on TeVee as well. IROC has previously never raced on dirt but it is time to break that rule. This would also be a mid-week race but depending on the scheduling could be closer to later in the week (Thursday night), bookending it with a regular race weekend in Knoxville.

4) Indianapolis Raceway Park Drag Strip: I told you that desperate action is needed to save this series and this is the premier one. But seeing IROC cars and especially the non NHRA drivers in a bracket elimination drag race(s) would be something worth seeing once a year. Also another mid-week, prime time race.

5) Talladega Superspeedway: A tradition in this series and a tradition because this 2.5 mile high banked tri-oval usually offers two and three racing that should not be discontinued.

6) Richmond International Speedway: A happy balance of speed and handling would cap of a nice finale for the series if schedules allowed. Even if not, this track seems to offer the best actual 'racing' in the series in recent years. Located in a part of the country that is convenient for race teams of most series.

Format of races: This also something that needs to changed a bit with the added venues. While in the past, IROC did have the 'time-outs' in order to not make pitting a factor and that is a good thing, but surely more can be done. Of course at the Drag Racing venue, a double elimination bracket racing format is really the only way to go. The dirt track race could also have a couple of heat races and even have a round or two of transfer races to the Feature. Both would add variety and appeal to the series.

ESPN or SPEED CHANNEL would jump at the chance to program this format as it is a refreshing twist on the age old question of just which series has the most skilled all-around drivers. Is it a tricked up format? Sure it is, but that is what might be needed in order to land that much needed Series Sponsor.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Fine line Between Innovation and Cheating

It is that time of year again, in Nascar where the inevitable will happen. That time honored tradition where Nascar Inspectors will find, confiscate parts, and penalize a handful of teams for what has been commonly called, 'cheating'. But many times, the Nascar faithful and the pundit's opinions they get their wisdom from, have trouble discerning the difference between 'innovation', and 'blatant cheating'. They simply prefer to take the easy route and paint with a broad brush and label the driver/team a bunch of cheaters.

I would hate to lump every team that has ever been fined/penalized by Nascar as simply cheating, as one really needs to look deeper into each individual case in order to pass a fair judgment. But first, lets clear up a few definitions.

'Innovation': Webster's defines it as "something new or different introduced". But lets apply that a bit further not only to Nascar, but to other sports as well. 'Innovation' could also be defined as 'using legal means (or parts or equipment) in a fashion that they were not intended to in order to gain a perceived advantage'.

'Cheating': Webster's defines it is "to violate rules deliberately".

Even by reading the Webster's definitions one can see that there is a distinct difference in the two.

Since 'Cheating' is considered by many as "Baseball's oldest profession", here are a few examples from that sport and apply them to the definitions above. (and I'll omit the obvious such as using a corked bat and such)

1) During the 2002 season, the Colorado Rockies began storing their supply of game balls in a humidor in order to combat a century old problem for 'high altitude' home ballparks. What the humidor accomplished was significant and the effect were noticed almost immediately by the team. Exactly what the Rockies did, was to store their baseballs in a climate-controlled room at 40% humidity to keep the balls from drying out in Denver’s thinner, drier air. The idea wasn’t to make the balls dead, but to make them more like the ones used at lower altitudes. Offensive power number and total runs per game immediately began to drop.

survey says? Innovation, as no current rules have been broken and the team was not directly applying any foreign substance to the baseball. As long as Major League Baseball does not have a specific rule pertaining to the storage of game balls, I'm sure the Rockies will continue this practice.

2) In the early 1980s St Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog began to instruct his grounds crew to 'rake the base paths only in a certain direction'. Herzog instructed his grounds crew to only stand on the 'foul side' of the base path and only apply the rake to the ground in a motion that was towards them. Sculpting the baselines in this manner over time created a slight and subtle incline, sloping towards FAIR territory. By doing this, the result was to aid a bunted ball down the baseline into staying in fair territory. Because the Cardinals of that era were comprised mostly of a 'speed and station to station' team, many bunted balls that may have normally rolled or bounce foul, stayed fair for base hit bunts.

survey says? Innovation, as no current rules were broken (even applies today) and both teams could take advantage of this equally.

3) The 1951 NY Giants placed an assistant coach in the center field stands, stealing the opponent's catcher's signs and relayed them to the Giants' bench, as they made their magnificent comeback to force a playoff for the pennant with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

survey says? Cheating, as even back in 1951 (as today) all coaches must be stationed during play either in the bullpen/dugout area or while the team is at bat, in the first or third base coach's box.

4) Gaylord Perry was caught numerous times using Vaseline, emery boards, and thumbtacks to scuff, cut, scar, and slather, the ball in hopes of making it move erratically on the way to the plate.

survey says? Blatant cheating, applying a foreign substance or defacing a baseball in any way is clearly a violation of the rules.

Applying the same definitions and premises to Nascar, lets take a look at a few examples as well. (again omitting the obvious such is running an illegal carburetor and such)

1) In the early '60s, the Wood Brothers saw the importance of faster pitting and not only started rounding off the wheel studs, so the lug nuts could thread faster and easier. They also began using another legal 'part', or in this case, silicone (use mostly for gasket forming) to stick the lug nuts to the holes on the wheel of the tire going on the car. Gaining a significant time advantage during pit stops.

survey says? Innovation, as the Wood Brothers were not using any illegal parts, nor were they altering any part beyond legal specification.

2) At the Dover race in 2005, the 48 team found a way to trick shocks that raised the rear of the car each time the car rolled over one of the many 'concrete expansion joints' during the race, giving it improved aerodynamics. Other teams were aware of the technique used to make a shock work in this manner, but could not take advantage of it and still make the car handle properly. All the parts and pieces used in the making of these shocks were within the confines of the rulebook.

survey says? Innovation, at least for that weekend. Nascar after the race, confiscated the shocks, examined them, and later determining that manufacturing a shock that responds in this manner (being a
spring assist or a jack to raise the car), that shocks should be a device that absorbs the bumps. Thus if any team attempted this type of shock after this race, then yes, it will be using illegal equipment, and should be considered cheating.

3) In 1983 at Charlotte , Richard Petty was caught using too soft of compound tires (more grip) and also using an engine that was over the cubic inch limit.

survey says? Blatant cheating. (stating the obvious)

4) In 1995 at Talladega, Owner and driver Ricky Rudd was caught using a hydraulic lift in the rear deck lid which improved the aerodynamics on the super speedway. (how did he get that in there in the first place!)

survey says? Cheating, while the innovative thought was there, a hydraulic lift kit is not an approved piece of equipment anywhere on a Nascar race car.

So if one choses to paint with that broad brush, I guess all 8 of these examples could be considered 'cheating'. However if one was ever to take out 'innovation' in just about any sport, football would still be basically 'bad Rugby', Basketball would be a lot of two handed jump shots, baseball would even more boring than it is today, and Nascar would still be getting stuck in the sand in turns 3 and 4 on the beach course.

It is just a fine line.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How a good deed can go sour, the ‘Plaid19’

Before I begin, let me explain that the admirable efforts by this ‘social group’ should be commended and the actual act of giving is something that they can be proud of. However, many aspects of how these unselfish acts came to fruition, simply put, is illegal. This blog is not intended to thwart these efforts in the future, but it is intended to expose issues and even possible legal problems to the people connected behind it (and yes, that includes the SFC)

To start, one must look at just what the ‘Plaid19’ is and how they, in their own words define themselves. The ‘Plaid19’ originated as a ‘joke’ referring to what seemingly was the “Southern Gentleman’s” choice of casual fashion. Simply put, it was noticed by a group of his fans that he often showed up at appearances and such wearing plaid and mismatched clothes. What started as a My-Space group, morphed to the creation of a message board (reason to be seen below) and lastly even a domain name and web site was established.

The ‘leader’ (or ‘driver’ as she calls herself) of the group defined ‘Plaid19’ when questioned ‘just what is Plaid19?’ on the group’s message board as follows:

“It is the name that we do our charity work under”

Then this quote from the SFC Website and article

“We have supported children and others who have had needs throughout the year. The funds, the time, and all the travels does not even come into the minds of the Plaid group.”

It is very clear that this group makes the claim of being a ‘charitable and fundraising organization’. Once again, the efforts are not being questioned here, as the original intent is admirable. However here lies a few problems.

Since the ‘Plaid19’s domain name and website is registered under a Virginia address and publicly solicited funds were directed to a Virginia address, Virginia State Statues and Codes would obviously apply to this organization and their claims.

Code of Virginia defines:

"Charitable organization" means any person which is or holds itself out to be organized or operated for any charitable purpose, or any person which solicits or obtains contributions solicited from the public.”

"Charitable purpose" means any charitable, benevolent, humane, philanthropic, patriotic, or eleemosynary purpose”

"Contribution" means any gift, bequest, devise or other grant of any money, credit, financial assistance or property of any kind or value, including the promise to contribute, except payments by the membership of an organization for membership fees, dues, fines, or assessments, or for services rendered to individual members, and except money, credit, financial assistance or property received from any governmental authority.

"Solicit" and "solicitation" mean the request or appeal, directly or indirectly, for any contribution on the plea or representation that such contribution will be used for a charitable purpose, including, without limitation, the following methods of requesting such contribution:

1. Any oral or written request;

2. Any announcement to the press, over the radio or television, or by telephone or telegraph concerning an appeal or campaign to which the public is requested to make a contribution for any charitable purpose connected therewith;

3. The distribution, circulation, posting or publishing of any handbill, written advertisement or other publication which directly or by implication seeks to obtain public support; or

4. The sale of, offer or attempt to sell, any advertisement, advertising space, subscription, ticket, or any service or tangible item in connection with which any appeal is made for any charitable purpose or where the name of any charitable or civic organization is used or referred to in any such appeal as an inducement or reason for making any such sale, or when or where in connection with any such sale, any statement is made that the whole or any part of the proceeds from any such sale will be donated to any charitable purpose.

"Solicitation" as defined herein, shall be deemed to occur when the request is made, at the place the request is received, whether or not the person making the same actually receives any contribution.

Now I understand that is a lot to take in, but it is also very important to understand when taking up ventures such as what the ‘Plaid19’ is currently participating in and the legal responsibilities that go with that. Of all those Code of Virginia definitions sited above, the Plaid19 has self-admitted to falling under every definition, as well can be seen by their actions. But it is becoming more and more clear that this group didn’t understand (or didn't care about) the legal implications and even the possible criticism of their noble deed(s), as seen by their lack of preparation and attention to detail.

Code of Virginia also states:

Registration of charitable organizations: (only listing applicable code)

Every charitable organization, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, which intends to solicit contributions within the Commonwealth, or have funds solicited on its behalf, shall, prior to any solicitation, file an initial registration statement with the Commissioner upon forms acceptable to him. Each registration statement shall thereafter be refiled on or before the fifteenth day of the fifth calendar month of the next and each following fiscal year in which such charitable organization is engaged in solicitation activities within the Commonwealth. It shall be the duty of the president, chairman or principal officer of such charitable organization to file the statements required under this chapter. A charitable organization's registration statement may alternatively be filed online on a website approved by the Commissioner. Such statement shall contain the following information: 1. The name of the organization and the purpose for which it was organized.

2. The principal address of the organization, the address of any offices in the Commonwealth and its designated agent for process within the Commonwealth. If no such agent is designated, the organization shall be deemed to have designated the Secretary of the Commonwealth. If the organization does not maintain an office, the name and address of the person having custody of its financial records.

4. The place where and the date when the organization was legally established, the form of its organization, and a reference to any determination of its tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code.

5. The names and addresses of the officers, directors, trustees and the principal salaried executive staff officer.

6. A copy of a balance sheet and income and expense statement, with the opinion of any independent public accountant, for the organization's immediately preceding fiscal year; a copy of a financial statement certified by an independent public accountant covering, in a consolidated report, complete information as to all the preceding year's fund-raising activities of the charitable organization, showing kind and amount of funds raised, fund-raising expenses and allocation of disbursement of funds raised; or a copy of Internal Revenue Service Form 990.

8. A statement indicating whether the organization intends to solicit contributions from the public directly or have such done on its behalf by others.

10. The general purpose or purposes for which the contributions to be solicited shall be used.

11. The name or names under which it intends to solicit contributions.

12. The names of the individuals or officers of the organization who will have final responsibility for the custody of the contributions.

13. The names of the individuals or officers of the organization responsible for the final distribution of the contributions.

14. A statement indicating whether the organization, or any officer, professional fund-raiser or professional solicitor thereof, has ever been convicted of a felony and, if so, a description of the pertinent facts.

Now that is a lot to glean, but very important especially if one questions the organization, its purpose, solicitation for funds, and finally how those funds are dispersed. Lastly, the Code of Virginia also identifies ‘non-resident registration’ just in case the group chooses to use the excuse that the organization’s hierarchy not residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Nonresident registration.

(b) Any charitable organization, having no office or place of business within this Commonwealth and soliciting in this Commonwealth from without the Commonwealth solely by telephone or telegraph, direct mail or advertising in national media, and any professional fund-raising counsel or professional solicitor engaged by such an organization, shall file with the Commissioner any report which would otherwise be required of it or request the Commissioner to determine that such organization is exempt under § 57-50 or § 57-60.

Anatomy and chronology of the events and the potential issues and concern:

11/12/06 – This initial solicitation comes directly from the group’s ‘leader’, via their message board (falling under the definitions sited above, ‘Charitable Organization’, ‘Charitable Purpose’, ‘Contribution’, and ‘Solicitation’. Also, this is not the first solicitation by this organization)

“The plaid #19 will donate $50.00 in Bell's name and $50.00 in Elliott's name (These amounts can grow, but we will make sure they are no less.)
To The Commonwealth Autism Society of Virginia (this is the society they donated to a few weeks ago)

The Admin and mods of this board will furnish engraved ornaments to tell Elliott and Bell about the donation. Kim has volunteered to make the plaid christmas cards with all of the team names listed to go with the ornaments.

Donations: Board members may donate whatever they wish. Donations will be turned over to ******. [name omited] Please contact her for details. She will be handling getting the donation secured.”

Once again, I should mention that this is an admirable venture to say the least, but with a blink of an eye, this venture takes a turn, and that turn is one that could cause scrutiny if others lacked trust in the organization and their intentions.

12/10/06 – Now a month after the original solicitation, there is an indication that some contributions could be diverted elsewhere with this announcement.

“The deadline is quickly approaching. If you still want to contribute, I need your money by Thursday December 14th. That way I can get the money to the bank and mail the check off to the society on Friday………… There may be another twist to our giving as soon as I get some details……… What we would like to do, is give any funds that we collect over $300.00 to her fund at the truck stop. Since right now I am at $285.00 and money is still coming in, I think we should be able to give something………. Let me know what you think or if you have any objections.”

Again, this ‘new twist’ is another example of the admirable deeds this group is attempting to wrap it’s arms around, however there are reasons for the lengthy State Codes listed above and this is a prime example. ‘Switching gears’ in the middle of a fund raising drive to divert funds to another event is simply neither ethical nor prudent. As one who donates funds under a specific premise, however said funds are contributed elsewhere at the very basic level could be considered fraudulent by others. Lastly, what is the number of ‘objections’ needed to stop this ‘new twist’, or needed to allow it to continue?

Now we see an example of the need for prudent pre-solicitation steps and the reason for getting one’s ‘ducks in a row’ before embarking on such endeavors. Why do I find myself ‘re-living’ the now infamous ‘fire shirt Ebay auction’? This is how something good can go sour very fast. It only takes a couple of accusations of misappropriations of funds and the whole credibility of an organization can crumble. If that was to happen in this instance, in my humble opinion, that would be a terrible thing, as this group’s intentions are good.

This group has claimed to have raised nearly $2000 in less than a few short weeks of time in late 2006, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Recently SFC posted a feature article concerning this group including pictures and background stories, complete with the Sadler Foundation Treasurer present. I would have thought that a person in such a position would have ‘done their homework’ and made sure that said organization was actually following State Law and had a valid and legal status from within the state, instead of being overcome with the emotion and potential notoriety of the event.

One proud member of ‘Plaid19’ can even be quoted in saying such incorrigible words as:

“Tax records, I dont care about anyones tax records but my own.”

Now this brings up an interesting dilemma, for not only the people who donated, but also the organization itself. Since the proper paperwork was not filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia by the organization in the first place, what are the ramifications when and if, one of the contributors attempts to claim their donation on their annual taxes? Any reasonable and rational person should think that the ‘Plaid19’ is truly a bona fide charitable organization, which is soliciting contributions from the public via the Internet. They have a website, a forum, a my-space page, a plug on the SFC website and even the Sadler Foundation Treasurer's endorsement.

Since the ‘Plaid19’ already has future fund raisers in the works, I hope this blog makes one point very clear and gives a 'wake-up call' to the powers that be from within this 'social group' before some sort of ‘disaster’ strikes. I would hope that before any other funds are collected or disbursed the proper filing with the Commonwealth of Virginia is completed, along with a basic knowledge of what legally is expected of such a charitable organization including record keeping, disclosure and an organization structure. But then again, its ‘parent organization’ that raises far more funds than that to date has failed to do when requested.

I would hate to see any of these good deeds turn sour.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's that time of the year again

Yes, it is 'audit' time in the mad mad world of corporate accounting and thanks to people like Paul Sarbanes and Micheal Oxley, an annual audit is not something to be taken lightly. With a few hundred million dollars passing in and out of this office annually, the accountability process can be tedious to say the least. However, I should have these guys happily on their merry way in time to see the kick off on the College Football National Championship game tonight. (Go Gators!)

If only a certain driver's fan club and their associate groups understood the importance and implications of the Sarbanes/Oxley Act and even the laws pertaining the charitable organizations. (more on that later this week, yes they have 'done it' once again)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Scatter Shooting

* I see the Tony Stewart will once again miss Daytona testing in favor of participating in the 21st annual Chili Bowl. It is not like testing at a plate track is a huge deal from the driver standpoint anyway. I can remember a few years ago, the 'Southern Gentleman' skipped a Dega test when he was with the Wood Brothers in favor of a hunting trip. At least Stewart is missing a test to be behind the wheel of a race car.

* Speaking of the Chili Bowl, some notable drivers on the entry list.
Sammy Swindell, Tim McCreadie, Danny Lasoski, A.J. Foyt IV, P.J. Jones, Jason Leffler, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and J.J. Yeley are a part of the nearly 300 car/driver field.


* When the bowl pairings were announce just a few short weeks ago, I just had trouble getting excited about most the match-ups. But I have to say that this bowl season has given us College Football Fans some of the best drama over-all that has been seen in a long time. From great comebacks (see TTECH and Oregon State), to the never say die Boise State Broncos. We can now look forward to the inevitable imp ending riots, be it a win or a loss coming from tOSU fans in the Columbus area.

* A promising article on the C.O.T, I just find it hard to believe that this car cannot be a good thing in the long term for the sport. Here are some highlights:

The inspection process at the track should be faster with the COT because of nine radio frequency IDs that will be installed on each chassis, allowing inspectors to verify its legitimacy electronically instead of manually.

Restrictor plate as we know it at Daytona and Talladega likely will become obsolete with the design of the COT engine package.

The COT looks more like the car on the street than the one currently on the track because the angles of the windows and headlights aren't nearly as severe, let alone the rear wing instead of spoiler.