Back in the day, maybe two months ago, Answer Man could watch a race on television and the first horse, or car, to cross the finish line won.
What a simplistic fool I was in those unenlightened times.
Thankfully, my naivete has been cured by observing the tinkering with the results of the Kentucky Derby and the Canadian Grand Prix.
First, consider the horse race. Maximum Security apparently won the Kentucky Derby, the crown jewel for young horses. But a foul was claimed and a lengthy rehash of videos ensued, with live look-ins showing a largely bewildered looking group of people who were going to make the call. One account timed it as a 14-minute navel-gazing exercise
Notably, some of the “experts” on the NBC broadcast seemed to think the veering outward by Maximum Security heading into the home stretch was not so egregious as to merit disqualification.
Finally a decision was rendered. There would be no roses for Maximum Security, only some thorns.
The horse probably wasn’t outraged as long as he got his post-race hay and oats. But his owners appealed and now want to take the matter to court.
Since then, pundits in the horse-racing field have weighed in on both sides, some celebrating the decision and others calling it a mistake. President Trump, as is his wont, took to Twitter to pronounce the decision yet another case of political correctness run amok.
It did seem to the casual observer that this sort of after-the-fact micro managing is bad enough in everyday life and should be a no-show in sports.
Yet just the past Sunday, Answer Man was watching the Canadian Grand Prix to see if, for a change, a car other than a Mercedes could win one of these Formula One races.
Sure enough, Sebastian Vettel was leading in a Ferrari and seemed destined for victory when he made a bobble, got off the track into the grass and made a brilliant save. But coming back on the track, Vettel veered in front of second-place Lewis Hamilton.
There was an inquiry and the stewards socked Vettel with a 5-second penalty, which was added to his finishing time and dropped him to second, behind Hamilton.
Again, the announcers were shocked that a penalty was called. Notably, earlier in the race one of the other drivers had knocked another to the side to make a pass, a dangerous move in open-wheeled racing.
There was an inquiry, but no penalty was handed down.
Vettel was outraged by his penalty, saying over the team radio, “They’re stealing this race from us.”
One of the broadcasters, former Formula One world driving champion Jenson Button, was equally perturbed by the call.
“It’s sad,” said Button. “It’s disappointing.”
Fans at the horse race and the auto race booed the officiating interventions with great gusto.
In both cases these fans seemed to know instinctively what the stewards did not, that stuff happens in athletic competitions and there’s no need to change outcomes due to that.
There’s a lot of bad officiating going on in sports these days. Answer Man is dreading the day, which surely is coming, when leagues don’t just apologize to the aggrieved team, or issue after-the-fact suspensions, but rather change outcomes in the sort of do-overs usually reserved for backyard competitions.
When that day arrives, it’s time to turn your back on competitive sports and stop buying tickets, or wasting time watching on TV.
An exasperated Answer Man now reaches into his mail bag, the one he’s filled with questions needing answers.
Q: Can you believe a Canada-based team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, but a Canada team has won the NBA championship? Sign me, I.M.A. Hoser from Saskatoon.
A: Agreed, it was great to see Golden State finally had the biscuit, eh. And those series-losing Warriors won’t need to turn down a White House invitation this year. But now, I.M.A., we must wait to see if Toronto’s Raptors visit the White House, or just meet Justin Trudeau in a Tim Hortons.
Q: What do you think about the big increase in TV ratings for the Stanley Cup Final Game 7? Sign me, Hi Daffynition from Tube City.
A: It’s a mixed bag, Hi. Yes, NBC drew 8.72 million viewers for Game 7, the most since the network resumed broadcasting the Finals in 2006. But the most recent Super Bowl, tagged a ratings disappointment, drew an average of 98.2 million viewers for CBS.
Q: What’s your take on that Washington Nationals broadcaster blaming global warming for the surge in baseball home runs?” Sign me, Ruth Aaron from Bleacherville.
A: To be fair, Ruth, F.P. Santangelo listed bats, balls, launch angles and hard-throwing pitchers before mentioning global warming as a possible explanation. And Santangelo did back off later, saying it was just his sarcastic sense of humor. Fittingly for a guy based in D.C., this makes him the sports equivalent of AOC, who claimed sarcasm and dry humor to explain her prediction the world will end in 12 years due to global warming AKA climate change. She hasn’t weighed in on home runs. Yet.