Its About Forgiveness

When I first sat down to write this column, my first thoughts and emotions were to blast Tony Stewart for his recent actions concerning a photographer after the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As a matter of fact, I went as far as to write the column, and it was one that basically chastised Stewart for not being professional enough to control his emotions. How dare a professional athlete act like that?

He's had problems with the media before, and simply for that I wanted to rip into him. Enough was enough.

But then something happened that changed my entire outlook, and could perhaps change my entire life. I don’t think I’ll ever look at Mr. Stewart in the same light again.

Please forgive the personal angle to this part of the column, but it is pertinent. I’m going to be completely honest and forthright, so you’ll see why.

I was working from home, working on deadline on a busy day for RacingOne.com, and when that happens, I tend to get in a “zone,” and don’t want any distractions. I get pretty focused and intense during that time, so all of my attention is focused on the job at hand.

My wife Patty works from home, and because we recently lost our babysitter for our five-month-old daughter, she’s been having to do both her job and take care of our child. That day, my daughter, Rachel, hadn’t been feeling particularly well, and she had been crying most of the day.

During this time of “intense focus,” on my job, I actually had the audacity to snap at my wife and my child. Anyone with any type of sense at that time would have been understanding of the situation, but I got upset and yelled at my family.

Now, I’ve been described as a “Type A” person, and I tend to let my emotions get the best of me at times. Road rage? Yeah, you can bet I’ve had quite a bit of that over the past few years.

I’ve never allowed myself to get to the point where it’s become a physical thing, but the fact that I’m capable of yelling like that at the woman I love and my beautiful, precious five-month-old baby scares the life out of me. Even though I am a strong Christian man, if I’m able to do something like that, what else could I be capable of?

What else could any human being be capable of?

A few minutes after the incident, complete guilt set in. I apologized profusely to my wife, begging her forgiveness, for which I didn’t expect any.

And then it hit me. You’re going to have to re-write your column. With what you’ve just been through, you’ve got absolutely no business whatsoever in judging Tony Stewart like that.

Stewart is a professional athlete, and with his job comes a great deal of intensity and pressure. As a driver for one of the better teams in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, the expectations on him are very high, from his team owner, his sponsors, and even himself.

I’m certainly not condoning his actions following the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis recently. The photographer Stewart shoved was only trying to do his job, and there’s certainly no excuse for what he did.

Sure, Stewart had just finished 12th a race that he was hoping he would win, at a place where he’s been trying to win a big-time race all of his racing career. But in the grand scheme of things, is that really worth getting that upset over.

That’s the same thing I told myself, and that’s why I’m writing this version of the column.

Since the incident, Stewart has been fined twice – once by NASCAR and once by his sponsor, The Home Depot. He’s been put on probation until the end of the year, twice – by NASCAR and his sponsor.

It's the first time I've seen a driver fined by his sponsor, and perhaps this is a good thing for Stewart. It might keep anyone else from doing anything similar.

Stewart has issued a formal written apology to the photographer and hopes to meet with him face-to-face to do so in person. I applaud him for that.

The $50,000 fine by his sponsor – unprecedented in this sport – was what Stewart termed as “My heart attack. A wake-up call.”

But the newfound respect I have for him stems from the fact that he was quoted in a story by The Associated Press as saying, “I need help.” That’s a huge step in the right direction, and I pray that he follows through with that.

Once again, forgive me if this sounds a bit hokey and a bit mushy. It was not my intention for that to happen.

But, whether or not Stewart sees this column or even cares about what I have written, I want to say this to him: Tony, you’re forgiven. God forgives you, and he forgives me, no matter what anybody else’s opinion is of either one of us. You’ve taken a self-inventory, and I know things are only going to get better for you.

And from now on, they will for me as well.

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