May 22, 2001
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Today's Sherman's Lagoon cartoon strip appearing in major metropolitan newspapers may offer insight into AMA Pro Racing rules enforcement.<BR><BR>In the strip, three characters are playing golf, including Nessie the Loch Ness monster and Sherman the shark. Sherman's ball has stopped at the edge of the hole.<BR><BR>Sherman asks, "Are you gonna give me that putt, Nessie?"<BR><BR>Nessie replies, "Nay. Rules are rules, lad. Putt it out."<BR><BR>Sherman protests, "But YOU hit five tee shots on this hole!"<BR><BR>Nessie answers, "Aye, 'tis true. But I'm a mysterious legendary creature. The rules are different for us. Now, if you were Bigfoot, I'd give you that Putt."<BR><BR><BR>The strip may explain why it is that AMA Pro Racing Director of Competition Merrill Vanderslice insisted on strict enforcement of rules banning riding school instruction by Star Motorcycle School's Jason Pridmore and Rich Alexander at Brainerd and by Team Hammer Advanced Riding School's John Hopkins and Grant Lopez at Road Atlanta while giving Aaron Yates and Jamie Hacking special permission to break the rules and instruct at Kevin Schwantz Road Atlanta School sessions held on Tuesday and Wednesday prior to last weekend's Road Atlanta AMA National.<BR><BR>According to AMA Superbike Operations Manager Ron Barrick, the exceptions for Hacking and Yates were made because Vanderslice felt the appearances had "promotional value." The same "promotional value" of well-known riders instructing is also used by Pridmore's Star school and by the Team Hammer Advanced Riding School. But despite similar requests that Pridmore, Alexander and Hopkins be allowed to ride stock streetbikes to instruct students, the requests were denied. Because of that history, no special request was made on Lopez's behalf.<BR><BR>Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz said at Road Atlanta that Hacking and Yates were given special permission to instruct after Schwantz wrote a letter to Vanderslice requesting a waiver.<BR><BR>For the record, it is the official position of this website that all rules should be applied equally to everyone, and that the correct way to handle the situation with Hacking and Yates would have been to eliminate or modify the rule in question in advance, and to announce the change publicly.<BR><BR>That same position holds for the recent AMA Pro Racing decision to allow Mat Mladin's Suzuki to carry data acquisition equipment during AMA Superbike races, in violation of AMA rules. Vanderslice has justifed the decision by citing the promotional value of enhancing the TV broadcast with a real-time graphic showing the rpm, gear position and throttle position used by Mladin during the race. The data used for the graphic is collected and transmitted by the illegal-by-the-book data acquisition system on Mladin's bike.<BR><BR>The correct way to handle any need to enhance TV coverage through data acquisition would have been to change or modify the existing rule well in advance, not to give one rider and team permission to break the rule without consequences.<BR><BR>See related May 16 and May 17 posts on this website.<BR><BR>The Sherman's Lagoon cartoon strip can be seen online at