La Russa warned pitcher about excessive drinking
May 4: St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa says that he had a "very serious heart-to-heart" talk with pitcher Josh Hancock about excessive drinking days before his fatal accident.
Hancock was one young man who had too much to drink, got behind the wheel, encountered something on the road that wasn’t supposed to be there, and crashed into it. We know about him and we care about him because he was a professional athlete.
But he’s hardly the only one. People die every day pretty much like Hancock did — coming home late from a bar after three or four too many and making a fatal error in judgment.
I don’t know a lot of people who can honestly say it couldn’t have been them. Beer is our national lubricant, cars our personal passion, and bars the meeting place of choice for people looking to have a few with their friends, maybe meet a girl or guy, and just unwind.
We don’t, most of us, live in cities where we can walk down to the corner pub. So we drive. In Texas, what we call a gin joint back east is a roadhouse. No question about how you’re going to get there. And despite all the preaching and laws against drinking and driving, there still isn’t much question for too many people about how they’re getting home.
There’s an easy solution, and the technology is here. But it’s not something for a ballclub to do. It’s a price we have to show we’re willing to pay.
The Japanese have developed a sensor that reads the level of alcohol in your system through your skin. They’ve made a steering wheel with the sensor in it. You grab the wheel and you’re over the limit, the car doesn’t start.
And that’s the only way possible to stop people from killing themselves by climbing behind the wheel drunk. You can breath-test everyone leaving a bar parking lot and stop the drunks from leaving. Or you can wire the car to keep it from starting.
Guess how many people would get out of the parking lot on a typical night, with .08 — about three beers in an hour — the limit. Unless a bar were willing to hire a shuttle bus to get the patrons home — something they should actually do — it’s going out of business.
That’s the price of saving the world from drunk drivers, and we haven’t been willing to pay it. Bars would close up at an alarming rate. Beer sales might plummet. It would be an economic catastrophe. So we’ve decided that we are willing to accept a certain number of deaths in return for a way of life and a multi-billion dollar industry.
For the guy who goes out and has “a few” — beer-drinker’s code for six or eight or more — is playing Russian roulette with a really big gun with a lot of cylinders, at least 50, maybe 100. The odds of hitting the one with the bullet aren’t that big. But if you keep pulling the trigger, eventually the bullet will find you.
If you’re lucky, although you won’t think so at the time, the cops will find you first. I speak from painful, but necessary experience when I say that you don’t want to get arrested for DWI. It’s a stupid mistake, not to mention expensive and a misdemeanor — a criminal offense.
I didn’t have an accident, and probably would have gotten home. I’d done it before. But I was speeding and got caught. I’m glad I did, although the folks who own the bar I used to hit a couple of times a week on the way home — just a few miles away — aren’t very happy. They’ve lost considerable money since I vowed never to get behind the wheel again with any alcohol in my system. On the other hand, I’ve saved a lot of money, I get better rest, and, while I don’t think I’m a better person, I am a safer one.
So when I see athletes arrested for DWI, I have a little sympathy. Like me, they convinced themselves they could handle it. Like me, they probably never got into an accident. Like me, they grew up in a culture that loves its beer and loves its cars. Like me, they felt invincible.
And, like me, they were saved from themselves. Somebody stopped the Russian roulette game before we hit the loaded cylinder.
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Cardinals to review alcohol policy
May 4: St. Louis Cardinal General Manager Walt Jocketty says that the baseball team will re-examine its alcohol policy, at a news conference to discuss a police report that said Josh Hancock was drunk at the time of his fatal accident.