Friday, September 29, 2006

Qualifying vs. guarantees and don't expect too much from Chase 'tweaks'

A few thoughts from a slacker missing a second straight Chase weekend. (Why am I missing Kansas? My daughter’s about to have her first child and I am on standby alert):

  • It sounds like a good plan to let the fastest 43 drivers make each week’s race, doing away with any kind of provisionals.
    But that’s a really, really bad idea.
    If the No. 8 car blows a tire in Turn 2 of its qualifying lap and doesn’t post a speed, how do you tell the ticket buyers who show up on Sunday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won’t be racing? Or Jeff Gordon, or whoever your favorite driver is?
    Tracks sell tickets weeks and months in advance. There’s an implied promise that the sport’s top stars are going to be competing. That’s one of NASCAR’s selling points, that all of the "best of the best" are going to be there at one time.
    Now a driver could get hurt and miss a race or something, but there’s no control over that. Otherwise, your stars have to race and there needs to be a reasonable way to make that happen. It’s reasonable to ask a team to be in the top 35 (it’d be 30 if I ran things) to have that protection, but the protection has to be there.

  • I am afraid that a lot of people have unreasonably high expectations about changes that NASCAR might make to the Chase for the Nextel Cup format after this year.
    I’ll be stunned if sweeping alterations are made. Remember, the word Brian France used in July when he changes would be considered was "tweaks."
    I’ve proposed my own revamping of the system and so have many others, but that’s not what is being looked at. It’s not going to be a wholesale alteration.
    There seems to be a consensus that winning a race should be worth more points. But it’s not going to 50 more, it’s going to be more like 10 additional points for a win.
    The window to make the Chase might grow from 400 points behind first after 26 races to 500 points, but that’s not that big of a change either and even that might not happen.
    I will be less surprised, but still surprised, if the number of automatic qualifiers grows beyond 10. As for any kind of "wild card" to let in a driver who’s won races and yet isn’t in the top 10 at the Chase cutoff, I think that idea intrigues NASCAR. But I also think they’re worried about how to write a rule that doesn’t wind up biting them in some kind of unforeseen, quirky way.
  • I keep coming back to the idea of double-file restarts for lead-lap cars and wondering why NASCAR doesn’t do it.
    Keep the free pass for a lapped car on each yellow, but all lap-down cars start behind the cars on the lead lap. The leader can choose whether to start on the inside or the outside. Second chooses whether to start alongside the leader or right behind him. Third then chooses and so on. With 25 (maybe even 50) laps to go, all restarts are single-file.
  • As discussed earlier, anybody who believes the test of Indy Racing League cars at Daytona this week was just at test to see if the IRL could test there is beyond na├»ve.
    Some of the speculation was that the IRL might be looking at a Labor Day weekend date for a race there next year or, more likely, in 2008. There’s also the weekend between the Rolex 24 and the start of Speedweeks for NASCAR, but that’s also Super Bowl weekend and I think the Sunday afternoon of Labor Day weekend is a better idea.
    One reason that might not happen? An IRL race at Daytona that afternoon might be a lot more interesting to watch than that night’s Nextel Cup race from California.
  • I don’t know A.J. Allmendinger at all, but you had to be impressed by what he did in his Truck Series debut at New Hampshire.
    With him and Juan Montoya both in the field for Friday’s Automobile Racing Club of America race at Talladega, there will be a lot more media hanging around for that event than there otherwise would be.
    I could be completely wrong about this, but I just believe Allmendinger is pulling a "Danica" with this whole flirtation with NASCAR. By every indication, he’s an incredibly talented driver and I don’t doubt that he might make it in stock cars given time and the right team. But he doesn’t have a contract with anybody in ChampCar, and using NASCAR as a lever certainly helped Danica Patrick maximize her earning potential.
    We’ll see.
  • Monday, September 25, 2006

    Don't care how often they say them, the TV guys have got these wrong

    Four terms used on NASCAR broadcasts that are either wrong, misleading or just plain stupid:
    1. Mulligan – A golf term misused to describe the concept that a driver in the Chase for the Nextel Cup can afford one bad race and still contend for the title.
    When you use a mulligan in golf, you do is hit a second shot because you didn’t like the first one. If the second shot is better, you play it as if the first one never happened.
    You can’t do that in NASCAR. You don’t get to run that bad race over again and take the better of the two finishes. What happens in the Chase is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE of a mulligan.
    If you have a bad race, you’re stuck with those results and you have to make sure you do everything better in the other races.
    In golf, the equivalent would be accepting the bad first shot and trying to salvage a good score with the rest of your shots.
    In other words, it would be NOT hitting a mulligan.
    2. Happy Hour – The outdated nickname for the final practice.
    When the term was first coined, it made sense. On Saturday in a normal week with a Sunday afternoon race, you’d have second-round qualifying on Saturday morning. Then, as the Busch race or whatever was happening in the midday, teams would change their cars over to race trim.
    The final practice would then be held in the late afternoon. When it was over, it’d usually be about 4 or 5 p.m. and time for sportswriters to end work for the day and head to the bar for “happy hour,” back in the day before some sportswriters realized you eventually have to graduate from college at some point in your life.
    Now, the race practices are almost always held Saturday morning and are over with before noon.
    If you’re drinking before noon on a Saturday and you’re not at a college football tailgate party, you might want to think about how “happy” you really are.
    3. “There’s a $1 million bonus for finishing 11th in the final Nextel Cup standings.” – No. No. No. No. No!
    That’s wrong. No matter how many times somebody says it, it’s wrong.
    The 11th-place finisher in the standings is assured of making a minimum of $1 million from the Nextel Cup points fund.
    The “bonus” for 11th is the difference between what 11th would normally pay and $1 million, and it usually comes out to around $200,000-$250,000. That’s a nice piece of change, but $1 million is not added to the amount that driver would have won anyway, which is what would have to happen if it actually was a $1 million bonus.
    4. Silly season – Another term coined by a sportswriter or 12 that has outlived its accuracy.
    Years ago, the season would end just after Halloween and nobody would give much of a dang about racing until at least late January when things started gearing up for Speedweeks at Daytona.
    Some of the guys who covered racing got most of that time off work, and spent it doing as little as they could get by with. (God love them for that, because it’d be great if things still worked that way.)
    Whenever a driver or a team had any kind of announcement to make about his future, if it was a big enough deal these writers had to come out of the duck blind or off the golf course long enough to write about it. And they thought that was pretty silly.
    There’s nothing “silly” about teams losing sponsors and potentially having to shut its doors, putting people out of jobs.
    There’s nothing “silly” about drivers making decisions that could ultimately make or break their careers.
    What is “silly” about it is that some of us who cover the sport act like when we’re chasing down the speculation and rumors about what might be going on. But that doesn’t make the term “silly season” any less ridiculous.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Key pieces still missing in the Speed Channel report-NASCAR denial puzzle

    I really don’t have anything new to add to the earlier posting about the Speed report on the purported wheel issue with the 29 and/or 31 cars from Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.
    I met with Hunter Nickell, executive vice president and general manager of Speed, and David Harris, its manager of media relations, as we had previously planned.
    We talked about a lot of things, but first we talked about Bob Dilner’s report Sunday night and the reaction to it since.
    Nickell and I go way back. When I was still working on the copy desk at The Observer and writing about TV/Radio sports on the side, he was at SportSouth and we dealt with each other regularly. He’s a straight-up guy, based on everything I know, and after talking to him I believe he’s backing his reporter and his story because he believes it was based on solid information that was professionally checked before being reported.
    At the same time, I cannot sit here and say I believe that NASCAR and Richard Childress Racing and the people who carry the team’s wheels to the track and the tire guys at Goodyear who mount tires on those wheels are all part of some grand conspiracy to cover up something the 29 and/or 31 teams might be doing.
    The denials that you’ve all heard, too, from NASCAR and from RCR, could not be stronger and more definitive.
    So what we have here is a puzzle, and I think we’re still missing some key pieces.
    The truth is we may never find them. I seriously doubt that Dilner is going to tell anybody exactly who his sources were – I wouldn’t.
    I will bet you a bunch of money that Dilner has gone back to those sources since all of this blew up Monday and said, “OK, did I get it right?” And if they had said no, you’d know it by now.
    The folks at Speed like Bob’s work and they want to keep developing his talents and on-air skills, and he knows that if he’s wrong on this and doesn’t fess up he’s in for a world of professional hurt.
    Friday will be a busy day at Dover. I won’t be there, but Jim Utter and David Scott will be for The Observer and ThatsRacin.com to find out if any of missing pieces to this thing show up.
    I’ll be as eager to hear what’s said and done up there Friday as all of you guys will.

    Dilner's report, NASCAR's denial could come up in visit at Speed Channel

    I am going over to Charlotte later today to see the folks at the Speed Channel, and I imagine there will be lots of conversation about what happened after Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.
    My visit doesn’t stem from that incident – in fact, I had to cancel it a couple of weeks ago after my trip from hell to California and back and we’ve just now found a time to reschedule it. But the timing winds up being pretty good.
    Just to review, several hours after the Sylvania 300 on Sunday, Speed’s Bob Dilner went on the air with a report that NASCAR had taking a close look at the wheels off race-winner Kevin Harvick’s car and those from his teammate Jeff Burton’s car.
    Dilner reported that the wheels had been milled in a manner that would allow air to bleed from the tires as air pressure built up in them. He was very specific in his report, saying that a 0.003-inch slot had been laser-cut into the rim. Dilner also reported that NASCAR would take no punitive action against the Richard Childress Racing teams, but that the teams had been told not to bring wheels with that modification back to the track.
    But on Monday, NASCAR officials said Dilner’s story was wrong. Spokesman Jim Hunter’s actual term was that it was "one reporter’s unsubstantiated fantasy."
    Hunter said NASCAR did not have any issues with the 31 and 29 cars and that the team was not told it couldn’t bring anything back to the track. The team denied any wrongdoing as well, but Speed continues to stand by its reporter and his story.
    So what really happened?
    Well, everything that I know for sure I just told you.
    Before even going to see the Speed folks, I will tell you this. I believe that Bob Dilner believes his story was accurate.
    As a viewer, Dilner gets on my nerves with his incessant preening before the camera, and he moves his hands and arms around so much that if you gave him an orange flashlight he’d look like a guy parking planes at the airport. But he does work hard and he does have sources in the garage. His information on this story is very detailed, so for that reason and so many other obvious ones, too, it’s hard to believe he just made it up.
    But I’ve also talked with several people connected with RCR who swear they did nothing to alter the wheels on their cars. Obviously, they have a stake in this. But their denials are very specific, too, in ways that are hard to immediately pick apart.
    One thing that is certain is that NASCAR is paying very close attention to tires, tire valves and wheels to check for teams playing games. On Monday, Hunter said NASCAR has been checking for ways to bleed air for about four months. At a race earlier this month, I personally heard John Darby come over the scanner and tell an official to check the tires on one team’s car after a run. That team’s crew chief came over the radio and told his driver, "They think we’ve got bleeders. That’s funny."
    Maybe what happened Sunday night is that NASCAR thought it had found something and the officials and inspectors started talking about what they might be looking at, and some of that talk made its way to Dilner. Then, after a closer look, the officials realized nothing was amiss, and that word didn’t get to the reporter before the story aired.
    Maybe I will know more when I get back from Speed’s headquarters later today. I will let you all know if I do.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    If you can download songs, what if you could ...

    I finally got around to buying one of those MP3 players that I see everybody with on all of these airplanes that I find myself on in this job.
    It found it interesting as I assembled the music I wanted to put into the little thing. I suppose just about everyone considers his or her musical interests to be an eclectic mixture of styles, but when you transport tracks from the Black Crowes onto your personal portable stash and then notice that The Carpenters are next it’s hard not to wonder about yourself.
    (For the record, not that you care, but far and away the two most heavily represented artists in my Ipod are the Eagles and Willie Nelson.)
    Anyway, the process got me thinking in a way that sports columnists often think. I am sure I’m not the first person to have this idea, but if you could load your favorite sports memories – if somehow you could have access to anything you’ve ever seen – onto something you could carry around with you, what would you include?
    I imagine it’d be a fairly eclectic mix for just about every one. Here, off the top of my head, are some of the things I’d like to have on my sports Ipod.

  • The final 20 laps of the 1998 Daytona 500, along with the immediate aftermath when winner Dale Earnhardt rode down pit road being greeted by every crew in the sport.
  • The final three innings of the 1975 World Series game where Carlton Fisk hit the game-winning home run for Boston and “waved” it fair.
  • The back nine on Sunday of the 1986 Masters, with Jack Nicklaus storming to an incredible victory.
  • The second half of the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, even though the Panthers lost. Great football between two teams that were flat getting it done.
  • The final 15 laps of the fall Talladega race in 2000, Dale Earnhardt’s final Nextel Cup victory with the black No. 3 rallying from 18th to first over the final five laps.
  • The last five minutes of the 1982 and 1983 NCAA basketball championship games, with North Carolina beating Georgetown in ’82 and N.C. State topping Houston the following year in Jim Valvano’s improbable run.
  • Franz Klammer’s Olympic downhill run to the gold medal in 1976. Until you’ve seen it, don’t tell me you’ve ever seen the most exciting two minutes in sports.
  • Five minutes of footage from Chris Evert’s tennis career, when she was about 20 years old, and five minutes of Maria Sharapova in last week’s U.S. Open final. Just for comparison.
  • The entire 1992 Hooters 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway, with Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison battling for the championship and Richard Petty bidding farewell to his driving career. (Heck, I guess I’d have to have that one on DVD.)
  • The final three minutes of the U.S. hockey team’s win over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.
  • Secretariat beating the field by about a half-mile in the Belmont Stakes to win the 1973 Triple Crown.
  • The final five laps of the 2003 Dodge Dealers 500 from Darlington Raceway, which ended with Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven battling side-by-side for the victory.
  • OK, I know this sounds nuts, but I’d have two sunsets that I saw in there. First, there was one I saw at Fenway Park one night. It had been cloudy all day but a front was clearing out and just about 30 minutes before the sun went down it got under the edge of the clouds. We were sitting down the right-field line, looking back at home plate with the sun behind the grandstands. Just awesome.
    The second was at Phoenix International Raceway in October 1998, the day Rusty Wallace won a rain-shortened race in the desert. After the race had been called and the track was clearing out, the same thing happened. The sun got under the cloud line and the colors were incredible.
    After the race, a couple had arranged to get married on the start-finish line. As they were exchanging vows, I swear that a rainbow formed that had one end behind the grandstands and the other about 20 feet behind where the wedding was taking place.
    How about you? What would you put on your sports Ipod? Leave your list here or e-mail it to me at dpoole@charlotteobserver.com. I might have some space leftover on mine.

  • Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Planes, pains and automobiles

    I swear, as the great Dave Barry once said, I am not making any of this up:
    Thursday, Aug 31 – 4:30 a.m. (Eastern time) My alarm goes off. Thursday, Aug. 31 – 5:45 a.m. (Eastern) I arrive at Charlotte’s airport to catch a 7:30 a.m. flight to Atlanta. I won’t name the airline. But it rhymes with “Melta.”
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:05 a.m. (Eastern) After making it through security and walking to the gate, I notice that the airline is now posting an 8 a.m. departure for my flight. The crew got in late the night before and needed additional time for required rest. I consider the new posted departure time an opening point in negotiations.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8 a.m. (Eastern) We board the flight for Atlanta. About 15 to 20 other people on the plane to Atlanta are scheduled to go on to Ontario, Calif., on the same 9:49 a.m. connecting flight I am booked on.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8:30 a.m. (Eastern) After sitting on the runway for a few minutes because of rain south of the airport and a ground stop in Atlanta due to heavy air traffic, we take off.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 9:40 a.m. (Eastern) After several minutes of being “vectored” to fit us into incoming traffic, we are allowed to land in Atlanta.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 9:55 a.m. (Eastern) After taxiing almost a complete lap around the Atlanta runways, our flight arrives at Gate A6. Upon deplaning, the monitor shows our connection to Ontario had been delayed until 10 a.m. But beside that time the word “CLOSED” appears. There is no agent from the airline there to answer any questions. We scurry to what I am now calling the “customer abuse” desk in the middle of the concourse. We’re told our flight, leaving from Gate B36, is already closed and we can’t get there in time to make it. Despite the fact that this will severely inconvenience about 20 passengers (another word you might consider using would be “customers”), nothing can be done.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 10 a.m. (Eastern) I am told that I have been rebooked on the next non-stop from Atlanta to Ontario, with a scheduled departure of 5:07 p.m. – seven hours from now. There are other options, like flying to Los Angeles or connecting through other cities, but most of them require changing rental car arrangements and still getting to Ontario in the late afternoon.
    I’ve been given a first-class seat on the rebooked flight, so I decide to stay on it.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 10:15 a.m. (Eastern) I go to the airline’s lounge – rhymes with Clown Room – to wait out my unexpected layover. I set up my computer, pay $10 for internet access and spend the day doing work that I needed to do anyway.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 4:15 p.m. (Eastern) I pack up my stuff in the lounge and walk to the gate for my 5:07 departure. Upon arrival, I notice there is no plane at the gate and that the “adjusted” departure time is now 5:35 p.m. Again, I consider this the start of negotiations.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:p.m. (Eastern) The departure time is now listed for 6:10 p.m. But since we’re standing inside the terminal still, I am not optimistic.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) I board the flight and take my seat. It’s 1D, a window.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:33 p.m. (Eastern) The person in seat 2D takes his seat. His name, apparently, is Justin. He’s about 5, I would guess. His mother and baby sister are sharing 2C, with Dad across the aisle in 2B.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:34 p.m. (Eastern) Justin starts kicking the back of my seat.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:39 p.m. (Eastern) Justin begins to multitask. While continuing to kick the seat, he discovers that his baby sister is amused if he says “Num, num, num, num, num” to her. In fact, she repeats it to him and then cackles. It’s very cute.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6:43 p.m. (Eastern) The “num, num” game officially stops being cute. Nonetheless, it continues. As does the seat kicking.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 7 p.m. (Eastern) The flight takes off.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 7:15 p.m. (Eastern) Justin breaks out the video game he’ll use to keep himself occupied. Apparently, the button that controls the volume is broken.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 7:15 p.m. (Pacific) Justin’s sister begins screaming, apparently testing her lungs and vocal chords. They appear to be in perfect working order.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8:15 p.m. (Pacific) The baby sister nods off, but Justin’s feet are still kicking that seat.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8:30 p.m. (Pacific) The flight lands in Ontario.
    Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8:40 p.m. (Pacific) Upon arrival at baggage claim, I discover my bags are already there. While I was unable to make the 10 a.m. connection in Atlanta, my luggage did.
    We now fast forward to Sunday, Sept. 3.
    Sunday, Sept. 3 – 11:50 p.m. (Pacific) I leave California Speedway.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 12:03 a.m. (Pacific) I top off the gas tank in the rental car.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 12:15 a.m. (Pacific) I arrive at the Hampton Inn at Ontario Mills Mall, go to my room and finish the work that must be done for the Tuesday paper before my morning flight home.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 2:23 a.m. (Pacific) I retire for the “evening.”
    Monday. Sept. 4 – 4:15 a.m. (Pacific) My alarm sounds. Monday,
    Sept. 4 – 5:05 a.m. (Pacific) I return the rental car and catch the shuttle bus to the airport.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 7 a.m. (Pacific) My flight from Ontario to Atlanta, remarkably, leaves on time.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 1:45 p.m. (Eastern) The flight arrives 15 minutes early in Atlanta. While that is great, it only extends the five-hour layover for which I was already scheduled.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 7:15 p.m. (Eastern) My flight from Atlanta to Charlotte departs on time.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) The flight lands at Charlotte, on time.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 8:40 p.m. (Eastern) At baggage claim, I once again discover that my luggage made an earlier flight that I was told I couldn’t get on. This is the sixth straight trip on this airline in which myself and my luggage have not arrived on the same airplane.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 8:44 p.m. (Eastern) My wife, Katy, calls to say she is on the way to the airport to pick me up. She expects to arrive in 15 minutes.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 8:51 p.m. (Eastern) Katy calls the cell phone again. Slight delay. It seems someone turning left across the road she was on and didn’t see Katy – who’s driving my old beat-up 1993 Ford Thunderbird because her car is in the shop getting an ailing transmission repaired. There’s been a collision. Katy is OK, but she clipped the other car, then jumped a median and then a curb. The car, in which the odometer quit working at 125,487 miles about a year ago, is toast.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 8:56 p.m. (Eastern) I quickly arrange for a rental car and catch the bus go get it.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 9:05 p.m. (Eastern) I get to the scene of the accident. Not pretty, but thank goodness everyone is OK.
    onday, Sept. 4 – 9:06 p.m. (Eastern) It starts to rain.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 9:07 p.m. (Eastern) It starts to pour.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 9:10 p.m. (Eastern) It’s still pouring, but it no longer matters. You can only get so wet.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) The flatbed arrives to haul my car away. I retrieve a few items from it. It’s still pouring.
    Monday, Sept. 4 – 10 p.m. (Eastern) We’re about a half-mile from our house, and we notice that it hasn’t rained a drop.

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    NASCAR's destruction of a Labor Day tradition? Borderline criminal

    I some know people get awfully tired of hearing about this, but the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series is an entire country away from where it ought to be for Sunday's race.
    The only place where the circuit should be on Labor Day weekend is Darlington, S.C. It was an idiotic decision to end that tradition and nothing that's happened in the three years since that happened has done anything to indicated otherwise.
    There's simply nothing special about being at California Speedway for Sunday night's Sony HD 500. It's just another race at another track.
    Southern California could not care less whether the second Cup date here is this weekend or sometime in November, although if it were later in the year it might not be a THOUSAND degrees here.
    I know it's hot in South Carolina this time of the year, and with the humidity it might be more uncomfortable there. But Darlington had traditions dating to 1950, for goodness sake, on its side.
    In 1950 they were still building ships on this site, I guess.
    NASCAR wants to be part of the Southern California scene, desperately. It wants this track to be a roaring success, but it's not.
    The crowd for the season's second race here in Februray was pitiful. There figures to be more people here Sunday, and there will probably be more here than there would be if Darlington sold all of its seats.
    Nobody is saying that California Speedway shouldn't have two dates each year. Well, actually, if the fans in this region continue showing their indifference to this track that might be something worth considering.
    You wouldn't want to bet, for instance, that Las Vegas couldn't sell more tickets for two races than this track has been able to.
    But that's an argument for another day.
    The point here is that there are some things you don't mess with. The Southern 500 was one of the most significant races on the NASCAR schedule for generations, and the fact that International Speedway Corp. let its tradition waste away is borderline criminal.
    I've heard that some of the people connected with the race that does survive at Darlington, now held on the Saturday before Mother's Day, are toying with the idea of naming that race something like the Dodge Southern 500. That would be an absolute travesty, and anybody with a soul who covers that race would have to hold their noses to type that in as the name of race held on any other weekend but this one.
    Darlington has done a good job in the past couple of years selling tickets for that race, and if given a choice for one date a year the track might pick May over September. I think that's sad, too.
    Run the Southern 500 at 6 p.m. on the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend and spend the kind of money needed to turn Darlington into a modern, up-to-date facility and you'd have a ticket that fans ought to be clamoring for.
    This is almost certainly a lost cause, but you can fight a losing battle and still be on the right side.