Of chasing speed and wrecking a season

Tony Stewart broke his leg Monday night in a sprint car race in Iowa, an untimely injury that may end up having a profound effect on the three-time champ’s Cup Chase chances. (Say that three times fast.)

Stewart will miss this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen, and it’s unknown when he’ll be back in the No. 14 Chevrolet — though it could be sooner than you think. But regardless of how much time Smoke misses and how serious an impact his leg ends up having on his standing at the end of the season, the injury still raises an important question about drivers’ involvement in non-sanctioned races during the NASCAR season.

It has been argued — and fairly, I might add — that racers race, consequences be damned. It’s a part of the sport that must simply be accepted. But can you imagine another sport where an injury like Stewart’s — one suffered during a non-sanctioned event, during the season — would be acceptable?

Surely, LeBron James loves basketball as much as Tony Stewart loves racing, but you’d never see him balling in Rucker Park during an off-day in New York City. Can you imagine what would happen if Adrian Peterson re-tore his ACL in his Wednesday night flag football league, or if Justin Verlander blew out his elbow pitching in a beer league game over the All-Star break?

There’s an accountability in these other team sports that doesn’t seem to exist within the confines of racing.

Then again, there are some other factors to be considered. Whereas a LeBron injury would surely infuriate Heat owner Mickey Arison, and Mike Ilitch would probably have a conniption if Verlander blew out his elbow playing baseball for someone else, Tony Stewart’s boss can’t be too mad, because Tony Stewart’s boss is Tony Stewart.

There is probably a fair question to be asked about whether Stewart the part owner of Stewart-Haas Racing should have let good sense prevail when considering whether to allow Stewart the driver to compete in non-Big 3 events. I mean, is this really how the boss should operate? But in the end, if Stewart is comfortable putting his NASCAR chances at risk to compete on local dirt tracks, that’s on him and only him.

There’s also the issue of drivers not having an offseason to partake in these down-home races they love. No one is stopping NBA players from competing in the Drew League in South Central LA — though there have been cases of athletes being contractually obligated to refrain from such events — but when, exactly, are NASCAR drivers supposed to indulge in their little offseason pleasures?

The season finale at Homestead isn’t until mid-November, and by January, guys are already preparing for Daytona. And there’s probably not much sprint car racing going on anywhere in December or January. If Tony Stewart wants to race among the locals in Iowa, this is when he has to do it.

It’s a tough question to answer, but in the end, I think guys like Stewart and the countless other racers who take part in non-sanctioned events should be making their profession a priority over their hobbies — especially when they also serve as a team owner who should have the good sense to know when he’s crossing a threshold into danger and putting his season at risk. Where would you draw the line?

Now, for some links:

• No. 5 overall pick Alex Len credits his hoops star girlfriend with his improvement as an English-speaker.

• The University of California sent an ex-season ticket holder a Rocky Road candy bar to try to win him back.

• Ozzie Guillen has some ideas about who is to blame for A-Rod’s PED problem:

• A couple street-balling Mormon missionaries showed off their surprising skills on some unsuspecting opponents:

• Desmond "Heisman" Howard is thinking about joining the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.

• A hat tip is in order for the mystery man at Miller Park who made a young boy’s day at a Brewers game.

• A South American female linesman got a faceful of soccer ball at a recent game:

• Bryce Harper set off a Twitter beef between the Braves and the Nationals:

• Read this account of a day in the life of an MLS player making $35,125 per year.

• Ray Allen takes his shots against diabetes.

• The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium is ready for game action after a year of renovations:

• Read about how the Biogenesis bans came to be.

• Bradford City fired its mascot because he wasn’t fat enough.

• Chris Perez is in no mood to talk to reporters these days:

• There were bats on the field — like, those bats — in Pittsburgh:

• How bad is U.S. men’s tennis? This bad.

• Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had a "come to Jesus" meeting with some of the team’s young players.

• An Olympic gold medalist accidentally gave away her engagement ring. Fortunately, she got it back:

• Billy Dillon was about to sign with the Detroit Tigers when he was wrongly convicted of first-degree murder and spent the next 27 years of his life in a maximum-security prison.

• Louisville football got a commitment from Name of the Year candidate Poona Ford.

• Ryan Lavarnway had a tough time corralling Steven Wright’s knuckleball in the first inning Tuesday:

• But the error of the night, via The Score, goes to Raul Ibanez:

• Why will Joey Logano drive No. 48 at Watkins Glen?

• Former Giants lineman Luke Petitgout allegedly beat his wife with her own pocketbook.

• Shane Battier doesn’t seem thrilled with how he’ll be spending his holiday season:

• Dwyane Wade and his sons honored Trayvon Martin on a magazine cover:

• At Complex, one man remembers "The Time I Dunked on Gilbert Arenas and Sharted My Shorts."

• Speaking of oversharing, the Florida State football team is shutting down Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the season.

• Rickie Fowler has a Dumb and Dumber quote on one of his wedges:

• Read about a day in the life of a clubhouse manager.

• USC defended Marqise Lee against accusations that he received payment for signing autographs.

• Clay Matthews gives us a sneak peek at the luxuries of training camp life:

• An 86-year-old high school football coach is embarking on year 63 of his coaching career.

• The Phoenix Suns bought the Beat.LA domain name.

• Kansas State gave a couple of its newcomers some truly terrible haircuts:

• And in the NFL, the Giants pranked their top draft pick.

The President weighed in on the issue of gay rights and the Sochi Olympics.

• And the Canadian women’s hockey team captain isn’t happy with Russia either.

• Peyton and Eli Manning should stick to their day jobs:

• The Titus Young saga continues, with the former Lions receiver receiving one last chance to appear in court after multiple no-shows.

• The "Madhouse on Madison" sign was removed from the United Center.

• Is Tiger Woods’ 10,000-square-foot Jupiter Island mansion sinking into the Florida earth?

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