Split Decisions

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Jeff Gordon has been credited with being the first driver to transcend racing and make a name in the general world of sports.

He's at it again, of course, and not for the kind of reasons he would prefer.

As the world knows, Gordon and his wife Brooke have split up, sending shockwaves through the racing world not felt since Geoff Bodine dated Tanya Tucker.

But the Gordon's divorce is a bit different. Bodine's dalliance with Tucker was mentioned in the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine, more, no doubt, because of Tucker than Bodine.

Gordon, unfortunately, is likely to end up there and elsewhere as the case unfolds in divorce court.

This is where being the “man who transcended the sport” will likely not be the title he wants to have right at this moment.

Because he and Brooke were such national figures - they were seen everywhere, did commercials together, and well, were the First Couple of NASCAR - there is going to a heck of a lot more attention put on the breakup.

Divorce is common these days. But when stars get divorced, it draws a lot more attention than Marge and Mitch down the street. Adding to the intrigue here is the wording in Brooke's divorce papers… the use of the phrases "irretrievably broken" and "marital misconduct."

Whatever happened to "irreconcilably differences," the catch-all term used in most Hollywood marriages, which sends a signal suggesting, 'Hey, it didn't work out'?

Brooke's paperwork suggests something deeper, more sinister than it didn't work out. And that, race fans, will likely get the garbage hunters going, looking for all sorts of details about why this seemingly perfect couple weren't so perfect.

In fact, the Gordons were such national figures that their breakup even became a discussion topic on Howard Stern's syndicated radio show. Stern, the occasionally controversial radio host who went through a public divorce recently, sided with Jeff, saying that if Brooke wanted what she's asking for she should have to race him for it.

"He's a little guy," said Stern's sidekick Robin Quivers, "she's taking him to the cleaners."

Whatever the reasons, and let's be clear, we expect very few people will ever know the real cause behind the breakup, it has captured the attention of the mass media.

On a broader scale, the breakup also shows that NASCAR's family image is accurate, though maybe not exactly the kind of family image the sports' leaders want to portray.

Half of all marriages end in divorce, according to the often-repeated figures. And in NASCAR there have been plenty of broken marriages, cheating spouses, and second weddings.

Fact is, the notion that this is a perfect world has always been a running joke in the sport.

It's not unusual to see reporters chuckle after races when a winning driver thanks the Lord and his family, because they know, from experience, he might also want to thank his girlfriend, too.

Truth is, that aspect of the sport has always gone unmentioned because there's really no reason to bring it up - naming names and that sort of stuff - unless it's having some impact on the driver's performance.

Also, on a deeper human level, drivers are no different than the participants in other sports, the people in the press box or the folks in the stands. Some relationships last, some do not.

However, news of most breakups does not hit the airwaves. This one has.

We may never really know what caused the split between the Gordons. And do we need to? Probably not. It's their business and unless it impacts his driving, and he says it hasn't, who cares?

A majority of the media covering the Gordons won't go near this case, and that's good. There will be some publications, however, that dabble in the salacious details, who will pick through the Gordons' trash cans and talk to so-called friends trying to squeeze out anything they can on the divorce.

Unfortunately, that's part of the downside that comes with being the driver who transcended the sport. Would "Entertainment Tonight" care if any other driver's marriage failed? No.

Years ago, Dale Earnhardt dubbed Gordon "Boy Wonder." The title, along with his beautiful wife, his image, almost made him seem superhero-like.

Last week, we all saw an example of him being human.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002, Jeff Gordon

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