Now that New York Giants offensive lineman David Diehl has taken responsibility for his actions that resulted in a DWI charge this past weekend, we have an opportunity to take a broad look at the incident and determine what Diehl's fate should be.
We all make mistakes, right? That's why both the National Football League and the judicial system are easier on first-time offenders than recidivists. But the majority of us don't make mistakes like these.
The 31-year-old Diehl might have had a pristine record until now. He had no history of off-field problems, which means that if he's found guilty of driving while intoxicated, he'll likely avoid jail time and/or a suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell.
While I'm not here to debate the strengths and weaknesses of the New York legal system, I will toss this out there: In the NFL, why do strikes still apply to drunk-driving cases?
Seriously, why is there any rope at all anymore? Haven't we been beaten over the head by enough messages from MADD that there's no excuse for ignorance at this point?
In the past, the NFL has only come down hard on first-time drunk drivers who were convicted of manslaughter (see: Leonard Little, Donte Stallworth), but NFL players continue to drink and drive like it's a God-given right. Six of them have already been arrested under the suspicion of drunk driving this offseason, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune's NFL arrests database.
There's no difference in malice in any of these cases. If Diehl was indeed driving with a .18 blood alcohol level (twice the legal limit), as the police stated, he's lucky he didn't kill somebody.
Little and Stallworth weren't so lucky. They were suspended for a combined 24 games. Precedent suggests that, if convicted, Diehl will, at the very worst, be fined.
We keep hearing the word "mistake," but with the information we have and the programs in place, there's no such thing as a drunk-driving mistake anymore. There's a difference between ignorance and a mistake.
We also keep hearing about Diehl's charity work and his clean reputation, but should that matter? Ruth Goldman's car was sideswiped in the incident involving Diehl. Here's what she told the New York Post:
"Everyone's saying how he did charity earlier that day. That means nothing if you're going to be an idiot after that. He had no business getting into that car."
We can't judge him on what we don't know, but how do we know this was Diehl's first "mistake"? It's not like he blew a 0.09. Who decides to drive hammered for the first time at the age of 31?
And that applies to the majority of drunk-driving cases involving NFL players.
Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News uses this incident to suggest that the NFL begin cracking down harder on the league's drunkest drivers.
There sure are a lot of unknowns about the brain. But there are virtually no unknowns about the danger of drunk drivers, who can kill you a lot quicker than the years of head trauma can. The National Football League knows this as well as you possibly can, because they have had DUI players behind the wheels of cars that killed people.
This isn't about whether David Diehl is a champion Giant or a good guy or a good teammate. He is all of those things and has been for a long time and was apologetic Monday.
But on Sunday night, after what was reportedly a long day of watching soccer and having enough drinks to put him over the legal limit, he got behind the wheel of his car and started hitting other cars, and in that moment, he was more dangerous off the field than James Harrison or the guys on which Goodell has come down so hard have ever been on the field.
Lupica argues that Diehl allegedly did something just as dangerous as what former teammate Plaxico Burress did when he walked into a crowded club with a loaded, unlicensed handgun in his pants in 2008.
Of course, Goodell is responsible for policing what happens on the field, while the, um, police are responsible for policing what happens elsewhere. Guys like James Harrison would face no consequences if not for Goodell's rulings. Diehl might evade a league punishment for this incident, but he won't escape the hands of the law. And if he "slips up" again, it'll be a double-whammy.
The Giants still could consider severing ties with the veteran lineman. He's coming off a season in which he was ranked as the worst pass-blocking guard and tackle in the game by Pro Football Focus, and he's likely to be cut in 2013 if his play doesn't improve anyway.
The Giants probably don't have the depth to make such a bold move, and Diehl's only slated to make $1.2 million in 2012 anyway, but it's not out of the question.
No one was killed Sunday night, and thus Diehl will escape this incident with nothing more than bruises to his reputation and maybe a fine from the league office.
However, based on the public's growing angst over such stupidity, his case might help serve as a catalyst for heavier NFL DUI punishments in the future.
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