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SBD/February 26, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
An investigation into the crash that injured 28 fans during Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Daytona Int'l Speedway “will be conducted by the track and NASCAR, and not by any outside agency,” according to a front-page piece by Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. NASCAR and DIS officials yesterday said that they would “dedicate significant time and resources into investigating what could be done to prevent a repeat of the crash and determine if any safety improvements are needed to protect fans.” The Speedway and NASCAR said that they have “no timetable for completing the investigation," but added that “no government agency would be called in nor would they be required to file reports with any public agency.” ISC VP & Deputy General Counsel Brett Scharback said that the race was “a private event and would be handled internally like any business handles its affairs” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26). NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said the track will not implement a "short-term fix” in terms of improving track safety. O’Donnell: “We’re going to make sure that anything and everything we can learn will do that. If we can find some things immediately, obviously we’ll put those in play.” He noted NASCAR “has a long history and a great track record as it comes to safety." O'Donnell: "Without our fans, we don’t have a sport. We know that, so we’re going to get this right.” NASCAR has “been in contact with some of the upcoming tracks” on the schedule, and they have been "in contact with Daytona just talking about what we’ve learned so far” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/25).
NEVER 100% SAFE: NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson gave “credit” to DIS for having the most-recent catch-fence system in place, but there are “still advancements to be made.” Johnson: “The way that fence did its job and the fact they put the poles closer together prevented something really catastrophic from happening.” ESPN’s Dale Jarrett noted DIS in '10 was "proactive” in installing new catch fences, but "there’s nothing that’s ever going to make it 100 percent safe” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 2/25). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "You can’t make it completely safe for drivers, even when they try. You probably can’t make it completely safe for fans. Fans want to be as close as possible.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said NASCAR “seems to do better all the time” in terms of improving safety and making "improvements year after year” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/25). Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said, "I’m impressed with the job NASCAR has done over the years in making it safe for the drivers” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/25). Meanwhile, DIS President Joie Chitwood III said that he “watched the first 30 laps of the Daytona 500 from the section of the grandstands that was sprayed by debris." Chitwood: “I felt it was the appropriate thing to do. I run this track, and I'm comfortable sitting in any seat at the track. I wanted fans to see me sitting there with them. I am not aware of any fans requesting for seat changes. The fans I was sitting with were having a really good time. I couldn't see any problems at all” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26).
GOOD FOR THE SPORT? L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said in any other sport, Saturday's wreck “would be, ‘Oh my God, calamity, bad for the sport.'" Plaschke: "In NASCAR, it’s almost good for the sport. I hate to say this: it’s what these fans want.” Plaschke noted most fans refused to be reseated from the area where debris from the crash landed for the Daytona 500. Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the crash is "what the sport’s all about,” and danger "is what the fans want.” Paige: “I don’t think it’s going to have any effect whatsoever on NASCAR” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/25).
I'LL SEE YOU IN COURT: Attorney John Morgan said that three spectators injured by the wreck “have contracted” with his personal injury firm and “four more have made appointments.” In Daytona Beach, Frank Fernandez in a front-page piece noted a DIS attorney “would not comment on possible litigation.” The potential legal fight “will involve the ‘assumption of risk’ when someone attends a sporting event.” Morgan said, "This case here is going to be different, because the fans who were sitting behind that fencing did not really assume a risk like you would think, because they were assured that fence could weather anything coming through it.” He added that NASCAR “probably would ask the fence manufacturer to contribute financially to any payouts the Speedway must make” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26). Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Marty Smith noted NASCAR team owner and driver Tony Stewart on Sunday “visited six NASCAR fans who were injured" during Saturday's race. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson said that Stewart visited the fans at Halifax Health Medical Center after the Daytona 500 "for more than two hours.” He met with each patient “individually, and interacted extensively with five of them.” He gave each “a personalized, autographed Bass Pro Shops No. 14 cap” (ESPN.com, 2/25).
MLB players and owners are “sounding more like partners these days, especially on the issue of performance enhancing drugs,” according to Ken Fidlin of the TORONTO SUN. MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said, “Players at this point have very little patience for players who are trying to cheat the system.” While visiting Blue Jays players yesterday as part of the MLBPA’s training camps tour, Weiner said, “We’ve had a good discussion whether or not 50 games for a first time (penalty) is sufficient, and we’ll discuss that over the course of 2013" (TORONTO SUN, 2/26). He added of potentially increasing penalties for players in violation of the MLB drug testing program, "There are certainly some players who have expressed that. ... If it turns out that we have a different penalty structure because that’s what players are interested in, that’s what the owners are interested in, it will be for 2014.” He added, “More and more players are vocal about the desire to have a clean game. More and more players are vocal about being willing to accept sacrifices in terms of testing in order to make sure we have a clean game” (AP, 2/25). Weiner said that he “plans to talk to all of the 25 players" whose names appear on documents from the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/26).
A BUNCH OF YES MEN? In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes YES Network on Sunday during its first Yankees game telecast of Spring Training “took a more conservative approach" when reporting Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez’ recent link to PEDs, as the TV coverage “took on a buttoned-up approach.” Jack Curry joined Michael Kay and Ken Singleton in the booth “to discuss story lines surrounding the Yankees," including the allegations in the Miami New Times around PED use by several players. Curry said, “Alex Rodriguez’s name was on that list.” He added that both Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman when asked about the allegations “had said the investigation was in MLB’s hands.” Curry: “So this all hovers over them (the Yankees) now. Since the first couple of days everyone has moved forward.” Raissman notes the YES crew “then moved on to other Yankees issues,” but they “should’ve stuck on the A-Rod thing longer to voice opinions” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/26).
The Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche fight at UFC 157 Saturday night was "not just some flight of fancy that they decided to do last minute," as the promotion has "hired and signed on 10 of the best female fighters around the world," according to NBC Sports Network's Michelle Beadle. UFC has the women's division "planned out," and the top fighters are "all in the lineup that Ronda Rousey is going to face as we move forward." Beadle: "The last thing they want as an organization is to have this just have been a novelty. They want this to be progression, and this is where we’re moving” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 2/25). UFC President Dana White said that the women’s bantamweight division “would begin to play out like every other weight class,” with the champion “frequently defending her belt and challengers working their way up the ranks on a variety of cards.” White: “It’s no different than anything we’ve ever done since we built this company. We put their fights on free TV and we put fights on pay-per-view. These women are talented. They belong here.” White added that the Rousey-Carmouche fight “received more media attention than any in UFC history, including heavy coverage" from mainstream outlets like ESPN, HBO, Time magazine and the N.Y. Times. UFC traditionally does not release "official tallies and estimates don’t surface for a few weeks.” But White said that Saturday’s event was “trending to sell more pay-per-views than the company averages” (Case Keefer, LAS VEGAS SUN, 2/26).
CROSSING INTO NEW MEDIA TERRITORY: ESPN.com's Josh Gross noted UFC 157 “appeared to push UFC and MMA into a different dimension in terms of the way it's covered by the press and treated in pop culture circles.” Media outlets that previously covered MMA "were suddenly providing tremendous placement in their publications." White said that the Rousey-Carmouche fight “prompted newly interested media outlets to devote resources they would not have before.” White: "It was a really cool moment for me to see how the media handled the fight.” Gross noted Rousey’s charisma “combines well with her eagerness to fight.” She is a "superstar in the making so long as she continues to win” (ESPN.com, 2/25). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said there might not be any “significance” to Rousey’s win, but there is “attention” being paid to it. Wilbon: “This was a big deal in Southern California, where a lot of different sports matter to a lot of different people.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said he did not know "how long this lasts,” but noted Rousey “has a great chance to do something historic” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/25).
THE POPULAR KIDS: CSNBAYAREA.com’s Nitesh Dutt wrote UFC has "taken a leap of faith by holding its first-ever women’s bout as the main event” on a PPV. But Rousey and Carmouche “delivered efforts that proved the UFC was right in doing so.” UFC “ushered a new era into MMA,” one of a “historic significance for the sport.” In what was a “whirlwind of a week in mixed martial arts, the culmination of it all shined a bright light on the future for a sport that is considered far from mainstream” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 2/25). SPORTING NEWS’ Lisa Olson wrote Rousey’s popularity, “fortified by her chatty personality and those 12-pack abs, will only crest.” She has “lured in casual lookers and captivated the hard-core fight crowd -- that’s liquid gold for a sport still trying to legitimize its rough edges.” Rousey said, “For the next week, I’m probably going to fall totally off the grid as much as I can. If I see anyone, I’m not going to talk about me at all. No more talking about me for a whole weeks" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/25).
LOW BLOWS: YAHOO SPORTS’ Maggie Hendricks reported a bill to create an athletic commission in South Dakota is “going nowhere fast, largely thanks to the ignorance” of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Steve Hickey (R-South Dakota). Their “primary objective is to ban sanctioned mixed martial arts in the state.” Hickey in a blog post wrote, "MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports." Hendricks: “The lack of knowledge and the lack of research both Daugaard and Hickey showed about MMA has to be frightening for persons who live in South Dakota” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/25).
Today is the final day for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but like "lots of things the NFL does, the combine has gone from measured and reasonable to spectacular and ridiculous," according to Paul Daugherty of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. What used to be a way to "get all prospective draftees in one large room with a bunch of medical doctors has metastasized into yet another marketing tool." The combine is "another example of how The League takes itself preposterously seriously" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/24). In Boston, Ron Borges describes the combine under the header, "An Exercise In Stupidity." The event has "become as overblown with self-importance as halftime at the Super Bowl." It has become a "hype machine" for players entering the league. Borges: "The beauty of this non-event from the NFL's point of view is it's no longer known as the scouting combine or even the combine. Now it's the NFL combine 'presented by Under Armour'" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/26). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige noted the NFL "gave out more credentials this year for the combine than ever before," as there were "almost three media people to every player" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/25). ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted combine coverage was "wall-to-wall on this here network” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/25). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay noted what the combine "mostly proves -- once again -- is that the people will watch pretty much anything related to football." This is despite the fact the combine "makes for strange but upbeat television." Gay: "Optimism oozes. Nearly every player has an upside, is a winner, a gamer, a worker." The combine "might not be electrifying entertainment, but what constitutes entertainment anymore?" Nothing is "banal enough to ignore" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/25).
SCHEDULE CHANGES: The NFL is contemplating changing the schedule of the combine, free agency and the Draft to allow for one marquee event a month, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported, "Don't look for it to happen the way they want it.” Mortensen said moving the start of free agency to April would be so the NFL can "layer this out for public relations reasons, for media relations, to increase revenue.” But the NFLPA is "unhappy because the league year is now starting on March 12 when free agency kicks off." Mortensen: "They’re not going to go for April” (“NFL32,” ESPN, 2/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole noted the schedule change "was met with resistance, but also with a mentality that resistance is futile." Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said, "Bottom line, among football people like myself, no one is going to like it because we're creatures of routine. If it changes, we'll adjust." ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said that the push to an 18-game schedule by the league may "necessitate some change." Cole reported the league additionally may be "angling to create more dedicated programming for the struggling NFL Network by moving events like the combine and draft away from times when ESPN would want to show them." But the idea of having the start of free agency move from March to April and the draft from April to May to have them "so close together creates tremendous stress on teams" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/24). ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote, "I see no downside to the NFL seeking a more evenly paced and structured offseason." The time between the Super Bowl and combine would "expand, but the NFL would promote regional combines in the interim." The league "thinks a more structured offseason would allow for greater promotion of each event and greater profits." NFL players would have to "sign off on the changes." Moving back the start of free agency could "affect the window for players to maximize their value" (ESPN.com, 2/22).
LATEST PUSH TO 18 GAMES? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser noted the "speculation" around all the potential changes is that by "moving everything two weeks, you pave the way for two more regular-season games.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said an 18-game season “is on the table” and noted it is "just completely hypocritical as they talk about player safety and try to add more games, more pounding, more hits and I’m presuming more carnage." Wilbon: "We know what the NFL’s agenda is. They want more money. ... They want world domination. They’re not happy with national domination." Kornheiser noted the NFL ultimately "would love to have" an 18-game schedule, but the league “can’t sell it to the players now if you offer the players the same amount of money they’re getting now and ask them to be exposed to two more games of hitting” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/22). CBS Sports Network’s Allie La Force added, “It’s so funny that in the same year that player safety has been such an issue that we’re going to add some more games” ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 2/22).