AS THE EVERNHAM TURNS
According to USA TODAY's Nate Ryan, Ray Evernham claims his personal life isn't having an impact on his Nextel Cup team.
Hmmm, let's see: it - that would be Evernham's 'personal life' -- has for months been fodder for more than one Nextel Cup garage gossip session; former driver Jeremy Mayfield cited Evernham's personal life in a very public court affidavit; and, two weeks following that Iredell County, N.C., courtroom mention, Evernham's personal life still is being headlined in USA TODAY.
Would Evernham's woes been the subject of the United States' most widely circulated newspaper if not for Evernham Motorsports?
In one respect, Evernham's personal life should be personal, but the demarcation line marking a distinction between personal and public life years ago started blurring somewhere between the relative obscurities in which most fans live their lives and the face-time their sports favorites get on TV.
Back in the 1950's and 1960's most of us hadn't heard of New York Yankee outfielder Mickey Mantle's hard-drinking life and wouldn't until just before the abuse took its ultimate toll, ending his life 11 years ago on Aug. 13.
Now, almost daily, headlines scream about the latest steroids investigation, how some football team members, on personal time, partied a tad too hardy or how a prominent politician wrecked his car -- hurting no one but himself -- while under the influence of intoxicants.
Yep, back in Mantle's day, in a world whose publication and TV images were largely black & white, showing red as gray and yellow as white, a lot of fans didn't have to decide whether a sports-star's life was 'right' or if it was an illusion (with due credit to the Moody Blues for that paraphrase).
Somewhere at some moment all of that went awry. From presidents on down to local celebrities, if your face was in the news for the good things you'd accomplished then it, too, could be in the news otherwise -- and not necessarily for overt criminal or negligent civil acts.
For the last three weeks NASCAR and ARCA Dodge team-owner Evernham has found himself backpedaling, maybe on the verge of reeling after he fired Evernham Motorsports driver Mayfield, absent of further compensation, from his No. 19 Evernham Motorsports' Dodge job.
It likely was Evernham's failure to provide severance pay that really rang an already departing Mayfield's clock and precipitated the lawsuit in which an accompanying affidavit cited a general discord in part caused by a " ... close personal relationship with a female driver he (Evernham) engages to drive on NASCAR's ARCA, Truck and Busch Series."
Evernham Motorsports' development driver Erin Crocker was easily identified as that "female driver" after tossing the names of remaining team drivers Kasey Kahne, part-timer Bill Elliott and Scott Riggs (who, if not a full-blown team driver, as a Valvoline Evernham Racing driver has a close association with Evernham Motorsports).
Given the numbers of sports stars who'd already faced scrutiny for personal-life actions, one just has to wonder if Evernham has recently read a newspaper or watched a sports newscast.
A professed baseball lover, had Evernham never heard of hall-of-famer Wade Boggs? The former Boston Red Sox player in 1988 admitted 12 adulterous affairs - an admission precipitated by weeks of negative headlines, if not years of rumors.
Also, has he never heard of discrimination lawsuits where a superior, usually male, is sued by a subordinate, usually female, for the former's untoward work-related sexual coercion? At least a few of those parties thought it a wonderful world until hit with papers.
While I'm not saying Evernham's personal relationship with whomever and wherever they may have occurred were adulterous or even sexual in nature ('cause I wasn't there, for sure), I'm willing to bet there are at least a few Bible-thumping, dance-disdaining and assuredly anti-fornicating Southern Baptists in and around Evernham's Statesville, N.C., shop who are at least slightly disturbed about questions arising over Evernham's personal life -- especially given that he and his wife, Mary, have yet to divorce (though having 'separated' after the 2005 season and filing divorce papers in August).
What would Evernham say to those church-goers, some of whom are NASCAR fans and who strongly believe in the sanctity of marriage? Is it their business? Is it Daimler-Chrysler's if at least some decide to forgo a Dodge purchase as a result of their being turned-off by the automaker's poster boy? What if a thousand potential Dodge, Chrysler and Mercedes purchasers were to undertake a boycott in this current domestic car-sale environment? Ten-thousand?
According to one NASCAR team owner, a few months ago he turned down a very talented, all-but-on-his-knees driver pleading for a job because the driver was "living in sin." Is everyone except drivers exempt from that belief?
The inescapable conclusion is that Evernham's recently disclosed personal life has impacted his team, causing at least some of Evernham Motorsports' 60-some-odd sponsors to consider a funding withdrawal under contingency plans A, B and C - or altogether checking out of NASCAR -- in the wake of this becoming something that won't soon go away.
In the meantime, the public can debate to their hearts' extent about whether anyone should even be remotely concerned about anyone else's personal activities.
Be assured I won't be the first to complain if certain tabloids soon altogether and forever disappeared from grocery store checkout lines.
Right now, the real world dictates a recognition of the how-things-are-done reality.
--Exclusively written for Motorsports.com by DC Williams