I am going to start posting some articles that I originally wrote for an online magazine, but never published. Apparently my viewpoint tends to be a tad 'reckless', 'offensive', etc, etc. Anyway, they were written a few months ago, so take that into account… This was written the weekend that Tony Stewart hit and killed 20 year old Kevin Ward Jr. Enjoy…
Generally speaking, if we are talking about racing it is newsworthy. Mostly because racing is one of those sports. One of the sports you rarely recognize as a sport until something unfathomable happens, whether that be positive or negative. It falls into the same category as golf. I don't know anything going on in the golf world except that Rory dumping his fiancé was the best decision in the history of decisions, and Tiger Woods' body has the durability of balsa wood. No one casually brings up a NASCAR event unless you live south of the Mason Dixon, sleep under a confederate flag, and have a severe drinking problem. Unfortunately, we will be hearing a lot more about racing in the coming days and it will be for all the wrong reasons. In a relatively meaningless race in upstate New York a 20 year old KID, Kevin Ward Jr., lost his life after attempting to confront the "bad boy of NASCAR" Tony Stewart.
Now, I consider myself pretty open to all sports, but I can say with conviction that I couldn't name more than 5 NASCAR drivers. With that said, the first name out of my mouth would be Tony Stewart. Unfortunately for Tony, once again, that is for all the wrong reasons. Tony Stewart has a laundry list of episodes under his belt and has made far more enemies than friends on the track.
Full disclosure? Twenty four hours ago I would have told you Tony Stewart was my favorite NASCAR racer. That is for no other reason than him being a pot stirrer that wants to win at all costs and doesn't give a fuck who he offends in the process. I respect that attitude. I have embraced that attitude in every sport I have played growing up, and in every athlete whose career path I have chosen to follow. I, like Tony, am not one who believes in every little unwritten rule that exists in sports. With that said, Tony Stewart should be locked away for the rest of his life.
Do I think Tony Stewart intentionally ran over a 20 year old kid? I do not. I am not ruling it out based on the world we live in and the decisions people make. However, I like to believe someone that is put in control of a high speed motor vehicle on a daily basis has some basic regard for human life. Call me glass half full. Maybe that thought just helps me sleep better after an episode of 'Criminal Minds'. Whatever the case may be, I have a hard time believing it was intentional, no matter how premeditated it looks on film. My issue does not lie with the incident itself, but more so with how Tony Stewart has dealt with the aftermath of the incident.
I woke up to the disturbing video of someone being hit by a car on a 'field of play' and passing away shortly after. On your average day that is as shocked and rattled as you are going to be. Stewart, however, somehow topped that within hours of the news story breaking. Stewart made it publicly known that he had every intention of racing in Sunday's NASCAR event, a mere 12 hours after killing someone with his car.
I'm not sure whose Tony Stewart's public relations team is. I am not even sure he cleared this decision with them. He couldn't have, right? Tony Stewart racing today goes against every logical social norm in the world. Larry David couldn't mock up something this delusional. After a plethora of lengthy discussions Stewart decided not to race. Clearly the right decision. However, I can't look past the fact that it is a decision that he, himself, did not make. If Stewart had no one to answer to he would have 100% been in Sunday's race.
I, for one, can not wrap my mind around the deep seeded mental issues one must have to get behind the wheel of a car and compete shortly after killing someone, whether it be intentional or unintentional. I want to say that is borderline psychotic, but I would be completely downplaying the significance of it. That is full blown 'get the white jacket and prep the padded cell' level psychotic. Tony Stewart can no longer be trusted. Like…at all. I no longer trust him to make any decision, no matter how blatantly obvious it may be. Tony Stewart would be as likely to push an elderly woman down a flight of stairs as he would be to help her with her groceries. Complete and total wildcard. Would make Charlie Day's decision making look prudish. From an outside point of view racing a day after is disrespectful to everyone involved. It is disrespectful to the sport. It is disrespectful to the young man's life. It is disrespectful to his family. It is disrespectful to the fragile nature of human life. I can't see any rational bought process that brings you to the decision to race.
When the story broke ESPN had a former racer turned analyst on to offer up his opinion. Been with ESPN for 7 years. Talk about overwhelmed. Guy has been with ESPN for the better part of a decade and no one reading this could tell him part from any 'joe schmo' on the street. Probably spends about 5 hours a day mindlessly delivering green tea to Stephen A. Smith so he doesn't lose his voice. Well happy Sunday sir. Bright lights are on you. What do you think about a huge name in NASCAR hitting a 20 year old kid on the track and killing him? That has 'rejected snickers commercial' written all over it.
To get back on topic, when you trim the politically correct fat from his statement he basically said that confrontations happen on the track all the time. He went on to say that Tony Stewart lives and breathes racing. He was racing mere hours after the untimely death of a child because thats what Tony does….he races. He doesn't have a wife or kids and racing is his life.
This seems like an extremely poor time for a 'chicken nuggets is like my family' King Curtis joke. Somehow though, it seems fitting. Those two statements are equal parts unhinged from rational human thought. I don't blame the analyst. Personally, I think he nailed it. That's the only thing that makes sense. Literally nothing else in the world matters to Tony Stewart besides racing. Not even the shattered hearts of a family that had to watch their son meet his demise in one of the most gut wrenching ways imaginable. Tony, I don't want to offend you due to your indifferent attitude towards literally every other person on earth, but thats not a thing. Racing isn't your family. I certainly know the large majority of the racing community doesn't feel a kinship with you. If racing is your family then you are the creepy old uncle who uses wayyy too much sexual innuendo. No one wants anything to do with you, but you just always happen to be there making everyone uncomfortable.
We need to all step back and take a look at the issue at hand. If this was some other nameless driver and not Tony Stewart would we be debating whether or not the incident was intentional. Doesn't that say a lot about Stewart in general? The fact that there is an open debate on whether he tried to hit someone with a fucking car on a racetrack is utter lunacy. Lock him up forever, Tony Stewart is no longer capable of basic human interaction.
Let's not forget that Tony should be completely scarred for life from the incident. How does one hit a person with a car and kill them,whether intentionally or not, and have any interest in sticking a key in an ignition shortly there after? Generally speaking, the phrases "time heals all" and "sleep it off" weren't meant for the same situation. This is one of those instances in life where you say to yourself 'maybe he didn't break any laws, but that guy needs to be in prison'. His mind clearly doesn't work rationally enough to be behind the wheel of something that travels 200 miles per hour. You don't let kids run with scissors, and you shouldn't let Tony Stewart be in charge of a high speed death trap.. One and the same...to me anyway.
Out of respect for the life lost I don't think it is fair to question the thought process of Kevin Ward Jr.. Was running out into the middle of the track the right decision? No, absolutely not. We also have to realize that this was a 20 year old kid going against one of biggest names in racing. This 'blip-on-the-radar' of racing was one of the most important races he might ever take part in. Of course his emotion took over once Stewart ended his chances of winning by riding him off the track. If my life was in jeopardy every time I made a bad decision when I was 20 I would have gone through enough lives to kill a dozen cats.
I have always stood by the premise that not everything in sports need to be 'classy'. You don't have kiss your opponents taint every chance you get. I love when player's openly discuss their distaste for other athletes. Sure it is frowned upon, but it reminds me that athletes are people too. Tony Stewart is well known for getting in the faces' of other drivers and I always found it refreshing. You don't have to like people you compete against. In my opinion it is better when you don't. You should, however, respect the people you compete against. Maybe not as an athlete, but as a human being. Maybe that's why I found Stewart's original decision so shocking. It showed he is morally bankrupt, and incapable of making decisions a 6 year old wouldn't find troubling. If racing is family, he basically spat in his family's face. It's not that I think Tony Stewart intentionally took a human life, It's that it doesn't seem like he cares that he did.
R.I.P. Kevin Ward Jr.