A common media narrative has emerged in the day or so since Jim Irsay was arrested for DWI and possession of a controlled substance: that the entire episode should be regarded as a “wake up call” for a troubled man lucky not to be in worse trouble. Indeed, it was announced on Tuesday that Irsay has checked himself back into rehab, help that he surely needs.
From the media, this episode has evoked meditations on the nature of addiction that are rarely extended for any NFL player who isn’t Brett Favre. By and large, writers want to cut Irsay a break in a way they almost never do when a player lands in similar trouble. Colts fans – or at least this one – apparently feel like it’s out of line to speak ill of their team’s owner even a day after his arrest.
It’s fine to be concerned for Irsay’s health and well-being. In a way, that’s a separate matter from the fact that he decided to get behind the wheel of a car under the influence of prescription drugs. Several writers have been quick to point out that Irsay’s father, the man who made Jim the vice president and general manager of the family’s NFL franchise just two years after he graduated college, was a heavy drinker, as though that’s a mitigating circumstance for a thoughtless crime that could have been easily avoided. Were there any such attempts at understanding for Josh Brent? For Donte Stallworth? Or even NFL players whose drunk driving arrests, like Irsay’s, didn’t result in death? None that I can recall. They’re just called irresponsible and reckless.
Well so was Irsay, addiction or not. Yes, the arrest succeeded in getting him back to rehab, so we’re supposed to feel good about the whole thing? Apparently!
Jim Irsay has had several stints in rehab prior to this incident. He’s told members of the media that he’s gone 15 years without drinking. This isn’t the history of someone who isn’t acutely aware that they have a problem. How many wake up calls does one person get before taking responsibility?
Substance addiction is a serious problem, but it isn’t a license to be a dangerous asshole. Yet if you believe people like The Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz, Irsay needn’t even ask for redemption. It’s already come.
Now comes the wake-up call.
Do you hear it, Jim? Do you hear it? Or do you press the snooze button and continue on this downward spiral?
There’s no shame. There’s no embarrassment. Fact is, if Irsay gets the help he needs, he’d be a public beacon for the multitudes who also need help with alcohol and drugs. Just as Chuck Pagano has taken the lead on finding a cure for cancer and more specifically leukemia, Irsay can be a guiding light for those in the grips of addiction.
That’s right, Jim Irsay fucks up and it’s immediately framed as his shot to become a hero. Must be nice.
But perhaps Kravitz has adopted a similar tone with players who gotten in trouble while intoxicated? Oh, nope, it’s heavy handed derision for them. Take his reaction to Pat McAfee’s 2010 arrest for public intoxication for swimming drunk in a canal:
I’m supposed to be taking this more seriously. I’m supposed to be body- slamming Phelps — that’s Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee from now on — for his drunken, early-morning dip in the Broad Ripple Canal, a body of water that is known as “the city’s primary conduit of raw water.”
What’s next, Phelps?
The Love Canal?
Where are the attempts at understanding and concern? After all, McAfee’s crime was certainly less hazardous to others than Irsay’s. I guess McAfee should’ve come closer to hurting someone then perhaps he could’ve been a hero too! Then again, Kravitz is a toadying Colts beat writer. A positive relationship with an NFL owner is much more important to his job than a punter who will be gone from the team in a few years, at most. It’s regrettable but not entirely surprising that he would think this way.
Unfortunately, many others who cover the NFL think the same way, even without the clear conflict of interest. NFL owners have had enough breaks in life, they don’t need an obedient media prepared to immediately absolve them of their mistakes on top of it.