WRITER'S NOTE: The column below appears as it did when it was posted Sunday night. While I stand by what I wrote, I'd like to offer my sincere apologies for what I didn't writeNO PART OF ME thinks Tony Stewart did this on purpose or it was intentional in anyway. This was 100 percent an accident. In my opinion --- and that's what I do --- Stewart was perhaps trying to send a message to the kid, but he obviously didn't intend to get that close or strike the young man. I obviously did not make those points clear. We decided against pulling the column because we love hearing your opinion, whatever it may be. In this case, many thanks for correcting me and setting me straight. Again, please accept my apologies for my lack of clarity and to those of you I offended in this tragic situation. That was certainly not my intent. --- Tom Loeffler
Dennis Rodman was a total jerk most of his career.
But he never killed anyone.
Sports has plenty of these guys. Likeã??Ndamukong Suh. Mike Tyson. O.J. Simpson.
Wait, scratch that last one.
At times, you've been a jerk and so have I. But the only thing I've killed is good times at a party when I show up with noise makers, party hats and whoppee cushions.
Although I still I maintain whoopee cushions are a can't-miss.
Tony Stewart has been a total jerk most of his career. Tough guy. Intimidator. But aã??multipleã??winner on the NASCAR circuitã??--- and a three-time NASCAR season champion --- where he's won hundreds of millions of $$$.
Sunday, Stewart was scheduled to race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. He didn't.
Because Saturday night --- competing in a winged-sprint dirt track race, of all things, a short distance from Watkins Glen (this is like Rory McIlory playing in the Thursday night league at Oak Hills) --- Stewart's car struck and killed a fellow racer, a 20 year-old.
Stewart had bumped Kevin Ward into the rail on the previous lap. Ward exited his car and waved an angry fist as Stewart came back around.
Other drivers passed Ward without incident. Stewart, 43, hit him. It flipped and hurled Ward an estimated 50 feet across the track.ã??He was later pronounced dead at a Canandaiguaã??hospital Saturday night.
Ward had been racing in this winged-sprint series for five years. He started racing in go karts at age four.
"There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward." Stewart said in a statement Sunday. "It's a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I've decided not to participate in (Sunday's) race. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy."
Greg Zipadelli, the competition direction for Stewart-Haas racing, had said earlier Sunday that Stewart would race at Watkins Glen, calling it "business as usual."
Really? Seriously? Did he really say that? Yes.ã??Jerks obviously run in packs. Later, they obviously thought better of it out pulled of the race.
As much as Stewart is respected for his talent, he's even more disliked for who he is.ã??This tragedy remains under investigation, although it's not a criminal investigation at this point. We'll see.
Should Ward have stayed in his car? Sure. But could arguably the best driver in a world of 7 billion people avoided him?
You would think.
Jimmy Stewart had a Wonderful Life and so did Tony, living his dream and getting paid wads of cash to do it. He's blown it, at least in my opinion, because he apparently couldn't handle his inner jerk.
And a 20 year-old kid has paid the ultimate price for it.