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August 31, 2020
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When Sports Gets It Right

By Adam Turteltaub

This past weekend saw two incidents in professional sports in which the officials were forced to make a tough call and had the courage to do so.

At the US Open Novak Djokovic, the #1 tennis player in the world, hit a ball behind himself in anger.  The ball ended up hitting a line judge.

The rules are clear for incidents like this. Whether intentional or not, the player should be disqualified. The officials met, discussed it, Djokovic’s match was ended, and he was forced to leave the tournament.

Meanwhile over at Formula One racing, the #1 there, Lewis Hamilton, found himself in some hot water.

Hamilton was leading the race handily, as he has done repeatedly through his career and especially this season.  While a disabled car was being moved off the track and into the pits, the pit lane was closed for safety reasons.  In two places there were signs with lit crosses to let the drivers know.  Hamilton didn’t see them but did hear his pit crew telling him to come in for a tire change.  So, he pulled into the pits.

The track marshals issued him, and another driver who made the same mistake, a 10-second stop-go penalty.  Both were forced to return to the pits, stop for 10 second and only then could return to the track.

Before the incident, Hamilton seemed well on his way to yet another win.  After the penalty, he found himself 26 seconds behind the last place driver.  His chances of a win were ruined.

Despite some extraordinary driving he only finished in 7th place.

Hamilton didn’t blame anyone else for what he did.  He told the press, “Honestly, I didn’t see those boards, so I take responsibility for that – it’s something I will learn from.”

In both Formula 1 and tennis a high flier made a mistake.  Hamilton didn’t see the boards.  Djokovic didn’t mean to hit anyone.  But a rule was broken, and a penalty needed to be enforced.  And so, the two top performers in two sports lost their chances to win because those in charge knew that the rules are the rules, no matter who breaks them.

So the next time there’s an incident where you work, and someone says, “We can’t punish him he’s our top sales person” or “She’s our strongest manager” you have an answer:  If Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic can be disciplined, so can they.

Dave Dodge
Dave Dodge
David Dodge, Carlsbad, California, served as a NCAAM D-I basketball official for 30 years, officiated in numerous International tournaments, serves on the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) board, received NASO’s Mel Narol Medallion Award in 2010 for his leadership and contributions to the officiating industry and Association, and was founder, president and chief executive officer of a South Carolina-based healthcare risk-management services company for 25 years.