Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Smart jocks and festering ordeals at NASCAR

Five quick thoughts after watching NASCAR on a Monday:

n Denny Hamlin's winning on intermediate tracks now? Look out.

n The contact and radio sniping between teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon was LONG overdue.

n Somehow, Gordon must have ticked off the racing gods. Should have won at Martinsville. Could have won at Phoenix. And Monday, he had the best car before wrecking with 17 laps to go. Still, his team's been great. Look for him to be a major factor for the season title.

n Kudos to KFC for contributing to breast cancer research, but there's got to be a better name for this endeavor than 'Buckets for the Cure."

n The racing media constantly debate what NASCAR should do to increase its popularity. But all you need to do is watch the stands -- from Martinsville to California -- erupt when Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the lead to find the real answer.

n n n

Hey, Steelers and NFL: Act already. Get it over with. Make a decision on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger so we can all move on.

For a league that's so worried about its image, commissioner Roger Goodell sure is letting this nasty ordeal fester.

A suspension seems likely. Anyone who's read the police report from the alleged incident in Georgia last month can't help but come away wanting to take a shower, but suspending athletes on allegations alone is a slippery slope.

Convictions? Absolutely. Charges? In some cases, sure. But neither applies here. All this talk about him being "found guilty of poor judgment" or "breaking the laws of common sense" makes for good talk radio but doesn't warrant a four-game punishment without criminal charges.

If the Steelers don't like the way Roethlisberger is making them look -- and they shouldn't -- then they need to get rid of him. That sends a better message than a suspension anyway.

n n n

As Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward continues to deliver one huge hit after another this month, Braves fans might want to consider sending a thank-you note to a certain Martinsville native.

Heyward's father, Eugene, is quoted in the current issue of Sports Illustrated as crediting former Martinsville High School and Ferrum College baseball star Roy Clark -- then the scouting director for Atlanta -- for helping curtail the interest other clubs had in Jason as a prospect. As a result, Heyward fell to the No. 14 pick in the 2007 draft, where his favorite team pounced.

"Roy Clark was a very shrewd man," Eugene Heyward said in the piece. "They wouldn't update his size information. I believe Jason went to a [showcase event] and was listed at 6'1," 198. Jason was 6'1," 198 maybe two months in his life. The Braves did an excellent job. They lowballed his size."

Only one problem for Clark: He took a job in the Washington Nationals front office last fall. His club will face the Braves -- and their newest star -- 18 times this season.

n n n

Brian Correll had planned to take in a show and perhaps do some small-stakes gambling on his first trip to Las Vegas last weekend, but he didn't get the chance.

He was too busy tearing up the lanes.

The Roanoke resident finished second in his division at AMF's inaugural $500,000 In-League Tournament, pocketing $25,000.

"I guess if you can lose early you can do some of that other stuff," Correll said Monday.

He's certainly not complaining. Correll bowled 15 games over three days and qualified fourth for Saturday's step-ladder finals. He beat two opponents there before falling in the championship match, where the winner claimed $50,000.

Considering Pete Weber is ninth on the PBA tour money list with a shade over $78,000 in earnings in 16 events, Correll's haul ranks as some serious kegler cash.

"I'll mainly just pay off some bills and put it in the bank," said Correll, a 40-year-old sales and service rep for Foot Levelers. "Nothing special. You don't want to be spending a lot of money with the economy the way it is."

Ah, bowlers. Smarter than your average jock.

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