The eyes have it in sports

Similar to other professional leagues and sanctioning bodies, NASCAR has been the target of criticism on several topics from various sources.

Some critics note the significant differences between today’s NASCAR vehicles and true “stock cars.” Others frequently cite the dominance of the France family in NASCAR’s business structure, policies and decision-making. The sanctioning body’s inability to govern all facets is hurting how fans view the sport.

An eye for regulation and parity for the sport is necessary, but letting officials decide the outcome of a race due to minor-rule infraction is wrong. NASCAR has made moves to improve its appeal with fans – it has begun racing at new tracks and ceased racing at some traditional ones, a sore spot for the traditionalists,

Most recently, NASCAR has been challenged on the types and frequency of caution flags, with some critics suggesting the outcome of races is being manipulated and that the intention is not safety. Let the drivers do their job on the track and settle the outcome the old-fashioned way without intervention from the eyes in the sky.

Officials have their eye on all areas of the track, pit road and garage area ready to levy fines when necessary. Some teams try to take advantage of the “grey area” of the sport, but seldom get away with new or tricky innovations. The governing body has hindered how the future of the sport will be perceived. Time to leave things as is.

One area that has become an issue for NASCAR is the increased number of Sprint Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series. The lower-tier drivers need big names to draw sponsors for teams and races each week, but not to win all of the races. This is becoming a regularity each week and hurting the viability of the sport.

Top teams see all the money, but small teams carry the load. Cup drivers should be omitted from racing in the lower-tier series.

* Major League Baseball has full-scale instant replay this year – well, except for balls and strikes, the “neighborhood” play at second base, foul tips, balks, checked swings and other judgment calls like the infield-fly rule.

Unlike reviewing home runs, which has been done using monitors at the ballpark since August 2008, the new system will use a central command center in New York City, where umpires (and video technicians) will review plays and feed the results back to the umpires on the field, similar to the NHL system for reviewing goals.

The eyes watching the games are not on site, feeling the tension or pressure from fans and players each day. This system will fail in so many ways that the “Grand Ole Game” will not be the same.

* On Sept. 7, 1986, instant replay was used for the first time in an NFL regular-season game. The contest pitted the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chicago Bears, against the Cleveland Browns. Since then, football has seen its share of good calls and buffoon decisions by fill-in referees. NFL officials display their professionalism each week on the field. These men are paid for the ability to make split-second decisions with integrity each week.

The phrase “the eye in the sky” has its place in many realms, but not in the world of sports.

Contact Eddie Thomas at