Your great questions (including a new one from Erika about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez) will be answered in due course, but I just had to say something about this.
Apparently, according to this news release, the NFL is banning alchohol for all players, team officials and executives, staff and guests at all NFL events including the travel to and from those events.
Well, I never...
It seems that the "nanny state" instinct has invaded the NFL. According to the release, NFL Commissoner Roger Goodell says that the decision comes in the wake of incidents in the NFL like the (highly disputed) case of Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones. Jones, who was to have been suspended for the whole 2007 season without pay, was involved in an off-field incident at a strip club where he was charged with public intoxication.
The release also intimates that the decision also comes on the heels of the death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock who was found to be drunk when he fatally crashed his vehicle on April 29th of this year.
I would like to start by saying that I do not endorse drunk driving or committing violent acts while intoxicated. The act of getting intoxicated and the actions that follow are voluntary and you should be punished for doing them; that's why there are laws that govern such things (although public intoxication can be a law that is often grossly abused).
What I take issue with is the idea that, since there were sports people involved in alcohol-related crime, this means the problem is epidemic, could cause the downfall of the NFL and requires swift and drastic action from the very top.
Give me a break. All this is is the commissioner punishing a large group of adults for the crimes of a few, for which these few are already punished by the law. The commissiar (and I use this word advisedly) of the league would claim that the reputation of the league is at stake and, by God, the only way to save it is to make sure that everyone in this league never drinks for any reason at any time while it could even be tangentially construed that they are on league time.
Using this same logic, one could imagine that, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission could say that alcohol at company Christmas parties and picnics shows badly on the company and the business community at large. Therefore, if you want your company to have publically listed stock, you must ban all alcohol from company events, including even salesmen in the field travelling on company business.
The sad thing is that this plan does not seem far-fetched at all. We live in a society that loves the abstract notion of freedom but hates the particular expressions of it. We love to see people like athletes as "role models," and I guess that we want to see whole sports leagues as shining beacons of morality that represent the best of America.
What does all of this show? It shows that the NFL does not trust its adult affiliates to be responsible for their own actions and decided to add another layer of restriction on top of the laws of the land. It shows that hoary old impulse to try and protect people from themselves is not just a natural instinct of governments, but corporations as well. It shows the further demonizing of alcohol and those who use it in our larger society (when you live in a society founded by Protestant religious fanatics, what could one expect; look at our sexual hang-ups for chrissake).
Will this make the NFL better? Well, I guess that depends on how you define "better." Will people not drink while on the job, at the aforementioned events. They can't now; they will lose their jobs. Will this do anything apart from frustrate people? Not really. Does this show that the NFL is out of touch? Yes and no. Yes because any sane, rational person can tell the difference between someone who made a mistake and is paying the price and an epidemic that threatens the integrity of the system at large. No, because this is how some people think large organizations should function; drinkers are bad, we hate stuff that is bad, therefore...
I, for one, point to two sterling examples of athletes who were at the absolute tops of their games and were some of the most monumental drinkers of our age: Andre the Giant and Joe "Willie" Namath. Read their stories (as told by the marvellous bastards of Modern Drunkard Magazine and revel in their talent and their exploits.
Then tell me that athletes (and all of the support staff around them) should never drink while even loosely involved with league activity.
If indeed sports are a reflection of the society from which they come, then this move by the NFL is absolutely indicative of our society's confounding relationship with alcohol and, to a larger extent, liberty.
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