Can You Hear Me Now?

In my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed Janet Jackson's breast would possibly cost Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a NASCAR championship.

Junior has Miss Jackson, Howard Stern and everyone else on the FCC's most wanted list to thank for the firestorm that has erupted around his cussing in Talladega's victory lane last week.

It's a story that just keeps on going and in a strange way, it has probably helped NASCAR by interesting not just racing media but general sports and news as well. I've been asked to do about ten interviews on the subject this week, something that surely wouldn't have happened with just another Talladega Junior win to report.

And now the latest twist comes with NBC's announcement the network will carry future NASCAR races on a five-second tape delay. MRN has countered with a seven second delay on its radio broadcasts beginning with this week's Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway.

"We're disappointed for our viewers to have to do this, but the delay provides a level of protection against anything inappropriate going out over the air," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.

So viewers and listeners will be protected from hearing any profanity in the future. But if a driver does utter such a vulgarity, will he still be penalized even if no one technically hears it? Does lip reading count for maybe $5,000 and 15 points?

My guess is the penalties Earnhardt, Jr., Ron Hornaday and Johnny Sauter received will still be in place despite the delay. The bottom line is the responsibility comes down to the driver.

Yes, I realize people use salty words as part of daily conversation all the time, but there is a time and a place. Eating dinner with your parents and grandparents or being interviewed live on national television strike me as just two of the situations when watching your language is paramount.

Like it or not, NASCAR is a mainstream sport and now must play by the rules of the big boys. It's up to the sanctioning body to police itself and while the current rule may seem too severe, NASCAR, to its credit, made a policy and stood by it.

And knowing how NASCAR loves to make lemonade (and money) out of lemons, they're probably already working on a soap sponsor to wash out the next offender's mouth.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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