We all should know better than to jump to conclusions

Published 8:29 pm Thursday, August 14, 2014

By now I am sure all of you folks have heard of an incident involving NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart and a New York sprint car driver Kevin Ward.

Stewart and Ward made contact during an event last Saturday at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. After the on-track incident, Ward got out of his car ad approached Stewart’s moving racecar. Stewart’s car struck Ward, sending him through the air.

Ward was pronounced dead late Saturday evening.

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This column isn’t about my opinion of what happened on that dirt track, it is about the disappointment I have in the aftermath of a tragedy.

By no means would I ever consider myself an expert on dirt sprint cars. I have only seen them race a couple of times, and will leave the specifics of what happens when a driver hits the throttle to those that actually know.

I am not a racing expert by any means either, however I did cover short track racing for over three years while in college and was able to learn about, and become a part of, the racing community.

Racing is a large family. Fans, drivers, crewmembers and media are all united around a common love for the sport. Short track racing is an even tighter community.

The racing world lost a family member last family last Saturday. And major sports networks repeatedly aired the amateur video of Ward being hit by Stewart’s car. That is utterly disgusting.

Why do sports networks quickly cut away from graphic leg injuries such as Joe Theismann, Tyrone Prothro and Kevin Ware, but repeatedly show a young racer losing his life?

I work in the newspaper business, and know the old saying well, “Controversy creates cash.” We are all about rack sales and web click, while our TV cousins are coocoo over ratings.

The incident was a hot topic, but did we really need to show the video over two dozen times?

I went to a family reunion last Sunday, and overheard family members say, “Tony Stewart killed that guy” and “Stewart did it on purpose.”

All I could do was get up and go find another piece of pie.

Did Stewart hit Ward on purpose? I have no idea. Only two people – Stewart and the Good Lord – know for sure.

However, I do know that Tony Stewart knew better than to put himself in that situation, Kevin Ward knew better than to approach Stewart’s moving car, ESPN knew better than to air the death video over and over and my family knew better than to cast blame before knowing fact.

Kevin Ward doesn’t have the opportunity to rethink his decision. The rest of us do, and I hope we will.


Ryan McCollough is a sports writer for The Messenger. He covers recreation, high school and Troy University athletics.