Drunk, Stupid & Dangerous: NFL Avoids Their DUI Problem
Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer would not be amused. Delta House Sergeant-at-Arms Bluto Blutarsky would be proud.
It’s time for the National Football League and every member franchise to take a page from Dean Wormer and start doling out a lot more than double-secret probation for the drunken knuckleheads and potential killers roaming the streets.
Let’s start with season-long suspensions without pay. Cancel a few of those bonuses. End their careers as they might have ended someone’s life for their galactic stupidity.
This frat party atmosphere has become more the norm than the exception. Players are boozing it up at record-setting levels, which normally wouldn’t register so much as a sister-insulting verbal snap tossed on the line of scrimmage just before the ball is snapped.
However, this collection of lubed-up morons should snap the warning signs to a high level of attention for two reasons.
One, it shows the NFL has been and is still turning its collective back on what for so long has been the prevalent “boys will be boys will be binge drinkers” attitude.
And, two, that first omission could be paving the way for unintended and tragic complicity in the deaths of unsuspecting men, women and even children.
Fellow motor vehicle operators. The ones who never see nor have time to react when a powerful cage of steel aimed by a drunk plows into them and often separates limb from life.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley is something of an amateur here. Busted twice within two months on DUI charges and still on the practice field. Coddled and figuratively hugged by his coordinator, Gunther Cunningham. Knowing full well Fairley is a direct connection to the elusive Super Bowl title, it would be something of a stretch to think that Cunningham and the rest of the organization would lower a minor boom or two to, at the very least, make a point.
The Players Association would then cry foul. After all, this is the same group that has no intention of doing whatever it can to stop the use of illegal substances. Nor have they taken any sort of lead in helping to ferret out the truth on those sadists who will take a few hundred dollar bills after separating an opponent’s brain from its stem.
Cunningham did indeed welcome Fairley back to practice with a fatherly glance, a kind hand on the shoulder, and the standard “he’s had a tough life” excuse. As we all know, everyone who has endured a difficult youth has no concept of the difference between right and wrong.
Justin Blackmon has a few furlongs on Fairley in the drunk tank department, mostly because he’s not even officially a pro player yet and has already managed to screw the cap off his potential and start pouring it down the drain.
Selected fifth overall in the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Blackmon was about to start riding the monetary wave few players ever experience. All he had to do was keep it clean until that deal was signed and then get to work catching passes and cashing paychecks.
Sorry. Too difficult for Blackmon to grasp. Much too difficult.
Back home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Blackmon blew three times the legal alcohol limit during a PD traffic stop. Naturally, as yet another in the entitled gaggle of talented college athletes we endlessly worship and give limitless breaks to because they can help cover the spread, Blackmon knew he could get away with a little “how dare you” attitude toward the officers. That’s misdemeanor aggravated DUI. The local D.A. apparently never heard about letting star athletes slide because he’s already told Blackmon there is zero chance of pleading down to the lesser reckless driving charge.
Nice bookend for Blackmon, arrested for DUI in Texas back in 2010. That only cost him a one-game suspension because, after all, the kid’s a star and they always get plenty of leeway.
He’ll be punished by the Jaguars. Maybe even suspended by the NFL. And what might have been a $20M contract will be whittled down and leave him with a paltry, measly, pathetically cheap deal in the neighborhood of around $15M or so.
A crushing lesson, to be certain.
Both Blackmon and Fairley pale in comparison to Minnesota Vikings FB Jerome Felton. Cops near Minneapolis responded to a call about an intoxicated man behind the wheel of his car. When they arrived, police found Felton obviously lit, and when he refused the breathalyzer test, the deal was done. He was busted and taken downtown.
After that, the arresting officers likely muffled their laughter, having cuffed and removed Felton from his car. The one that was in the McDonald’s drive-thru lane at 3AM. It will go down in the Minnesota legal annals as the first second degree DUI arrest conducted between cries of “Get your hands off me!” and “Do you want fries with that?”
The NFL has a drinking and drug use problem. A severe problem. One borne of those aforementioned entitlements, the “wink and a nod” jock network, and the belief that it’s only a few beers, so what’s the big deal?
Since June of 2011, 15 players have been arrested for some form of DUI or illegal alcohol use. 12 players have been nailed for illegal marijuana or some other form of drug use. We won’t even get into the various assault cases for which the more violent athletes have been known to be involved in for many years.
And these are only the ones we know about it. Having covered college and professional football for many years, it would take me a calculator with floating integers to calculate the number of times I have seen or been told of times when players and coaches were rolled off the hook by friendly gendarmes.
But this is about DUI. This is about those athletes who spit in the eye of societal rules because they can. Ones who believe they can and always will be given a break because of what they do with a ball.
The ones who can, in an instant, become just another statistic in a deadly and sobering national epidemic.
Every minute, one person is injured in an alcohol-related vehicle crash. 50-75% of drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. An average drunk driver has been sauced 80 times before their first arrest.
Over 10,000 people died last year as a direct result of drunk driving.
The NFL swept this under the macabre rug once before. St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little was drunk and behind the wheel when he killed a woman in 1998, for which the state dealt out a mere 4 years probation and 1,000 hours community service.
And he kept playing football.
Little learned nothing; he was busted again in 2004 after failing 3 roadside sobriety tests.
He not only kept playing in the NFL, but two years later signed a contract extension worth almost $20M.
Drunk NFL players are but a microcosm of society. Do the math and those arrest numbers I cited earlier are almost microscopic.
But, as a league where players are worshipped by young and old alike, men and women, impressionable kids and adults, the NFL has great responsibility and power. They can make statements that might just change a mind or two. That could possibly keep that kid with NFL dreams in high school from getting behind the wheel when drunk.
Maybe even save a life. Or two. Maybe more. Perhaps one of their own athletes.
Yes. I’m dreaming. The NFL, after being given tips from anonymous players and being alerted to a growing problem, has rightfully stopped at nothing to uncover the animals who enjoy snapping bones for cash. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the guilty parties here banned from the game. As noted earlier, the Players Association will put a stop to that idea or anything else that will keep the cash from flowing in.
All parties have known about this drinking issue dating back to Leonard Little and further back in history. Those 5 or 6 beers after the game didn’t magically dissipate. The NFL, their clubs, their coaches and players have been sliding along the edge of this straight razor for decades.
So have the fans by not demanding more from their heroes.
Isn’t it well past time to take an historic stand? To severely punish these players. Send an incontrovertible message. Leave no doubt as to what the standard of performance on and off the field will be with regard to a known killer.
Because leaving it to the players will only leave the door wide open for an eventual deadly disaster.
Veteran Network sportscaster and writer Ed Berliner knows first hand the tragic aftermath of what drunk driving can do, having lost more than one friend over the years to this national nightmare. He is Sr. Columnist for "Sports Media Masters", (http://sportsmediamasters.com), covering the NFL, NBA and MLB with multiple regional, local and national sports reports.
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