'Two Sides To A Story'
Early Spring 1999

Over the course of the past month, there have been two events that caused me to sit back and wonder why people were in such a rush to judgement. The events are not related, except that they deal with NASCAR, but the rush to judgement is the same. In both instances, things were not as they appeared to be. Before an election, voters listen to both candidates make their arguments. In a trial, a jury will listen to the prosecution and the defense. However, two recent events involved an unfair rush to judgement.

The first recent situation occurred with Junie Donlavey's race team. In December 1998, a mutually beneficial deal was struck between an Oklahoma barbecue sauce company and Donlavey Racing. The deal hinged on several factors being met. For it was not a cut and dry sponsorship agreement. Drivers, team members, and company executives were relying on the deal to work. Whether Donlavey Racing promised something it couldn't deliver, or if the barbecue sauce company flagrantly misled the race team, is up for debate. However, there are two different viewpoints there.

When the sponsorship arrangement fell through before Daytona, most assumed that the company had misled veteran car owner Junie Donlavey. But did they? Or did Donlavey Racing promise something to the sponsor that they simply could not meet? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The point is that I seriously doubt there is an innocent party there. Both sides should come out of this looking bad. Yet some individuals rushed to judgement and immediately blamed the former sponsor. There was another side to the story. It's too bad that some didn't wait to hear it.

Another troubling situation occurred after Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin wrote a tongue in cheek article about watching NASCAR on television. Upon reading the article, NASCAR President Bill France fired back an angry response to the editor of the magazine. He handed out copies of the article and his response. He urged NASCAR advertisers not to advertise in SI. Keep in mind that the article was not written by SI's motorsports writer Ed Hinton, but rather by a TV critic for the magazine. When Bill France finds something he doesn't like, he does everything he can to ban it. Want a previous example? Two words: Tim Richmond.

After hearing about what France did in regard to Rushin's article, many NASCAR fans screamed, "Thank you." It's funny. They applaud him for practically censoring someone's point of view. Sorry, but that doesn't make any sense to me. If NASCAR fans would take the time to read some of Steve Rushin's previous work, they would likely come to appreciate his humor and wit. His book, 'Road Swing,' is one of the funniest sports books I've ever read. He openly admits that he's not the worlds biggest NASCAR fan. But, on his year long road trip around the country, he visited Richard Petty's museum in Level Cross, North Carolina and Talladega Raceway in Alabama. In the book, he paints a sharp picture of the fans wanting to see Richard Petty in Level Cross only to be told by a souvenir salesperson that racing is too corporate nowadays. In Alabama, he visited the racing museum and saw the Davey Allison tribute. He saw Phil Parsons' wrecked car from 1984. He saw Michael Waltrip's mangled mess of a car from Bristol. And he appreciated the sport because of that. Rushin's columns in Sports Illustrated, like his book, are usually filled with tongue in cheek humor. That has always been his writing style.

I found his depiction of NASCAR somewhat humorous. Tires are referred to as "tars" and cautions are referred to as "cow-shins" among some in the NASCAR community. The drivers repeating sponsor names after a wreck can seem odd to someone not enamored with the sport of racing. Rushin's column was about pointing out humor; nothing more and nothing less. Those that took it as a serious piece like 'the gospel' don't know his history.

Regrettably, Bill France and the powers that be at NASCAR rushed to judgement in regard to Steve Rushin. Would they have reacted differently had David Poole from the Charlotte Observer or Monte Dutton from the Gaston Gazette written the piece? Without a doubt. However, because Rushin's work was not familiar to a segment of race fans, the rush to condemn him was on.

There will always be two sides to a story. In both cases, the rush to judgement occurred too quickly. Before judging anything, listen to what both sides have to say.

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