NASCAR has delivered its punishment to Jeff Gordon in the aftermath of him intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer at Phoenix International Raceway last Sunday and it's a doozy.
Well, OK, not really. The sport has fined Gordon $100,000, put him on probation for the remainder of the season (one race) and docked him 25 points in the Sprint Cup standings, according to ESPN's David Newton.
Before you ask, I did not forget anything. That ruler-smack to the wrist is what the sport deemed fair for Gordon endangering the life of a fellow driver.
The reason behind Gordon's essential non-punishment could be construed multiple ways. One could look at it and think the sport is coddling one of its biggest stars. Or you could even think the lack of outrage comes from a "that's racin'" mentality.
However, the true culprit for NASCAR's lack of action is staring us all in the mirror. NASCAR did not act more swiftly with Gordon because starting with the media and working down to the casual fan, there was a complete lack of outrage about Sunday's events.
Think about how outraged the mainstream media would be had this happened in the three major sports leagues not in a lockout. This is the equivalent to throwing a 95 mph fastball at a hitter's head in the MLB, purposely taking someone's knees out on a breakaway drive in the NBA and head-hunting a receiver over the middle in the NFL.
Suspensions would be automatic, fines would be massive and ESPN's First Take would be talking about the situation until January 2014.
And that's just considering Gordon's actions on the track. Imagine if coaches, players and on-field personnel got into a massive brawl in the middle of an NFL game. Commissioner Roger Goodell would have a coronary heart attack and would attempt to contract both franchises to protect the shield.
In short, this entire situation would be a mess that wouldn't be seen as an isolated incident. It would have been looked at by the mainstream as a reputation-confirming damnation, like when J.R. Smith solidified himself as a bad egg in an on-court brawl in 2006.
Even fellow drivers find Gordon's actions appalling. Points leader Brad Keselowski made extremely pointed comments about the situation in a post-race press conference. His anger and frustration, while partially self-centered, should have been what we all felt.
(Warning: Though bleeped, there is strong language used in this video. It is, as the kids like to say, NSFW.)
However, because this is NASCAR, a sport mostly ignored beyond its strong stable of fans, the event has been swept under the rug. Not just by the mainstream media and fans, but by the sport itself.
Yes, $100,000 is a ton of money. But I have a feeling Gordon will somehow, some way make that money back in the near future.
So that leaves Gordon's main punishment for endangering the life of a fellow driver and embarrassing the sport as possibly being unable to attend a banquet. And that only happens if Gordon fails to gain four points on 10th-place driver Martin Truex Jr.
I'm not one to get worked into a tizzy too often, but this is outrageous. We—and I'm speaking both as a "media member" and sports fan—need to stop treating these drivers with different rules than other major athletes.
It isn't fair to those in other major sports leagues, and most importantly, allows potentially dangerous situations like this to occur again. Don't break out your pitchforks and start rioting, but it's time we start treating this situation like the embarrassment that it is instead of sweeping it under the rug because it's "just NASCAR."
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