Whenever a professional athlete is arrested for a DUI, I have two distinct questions. (1) Why in the hell would a millionaire athlete not be using a taxi when every drunk I know in Woodside, Queens has a car service number handy the moment the third or fourth vodka hits his lips? (2) When are the sports leagues going to say enough is enough?
First, a note. I don't believe the Bears should cut Evan Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a kid and he made another awful mistake but if the Bears were to cut him another team would snatch him up in a few minutes and start spouting that "second chance" bullshit that permeates press conference rooms. "Yes we know Evan has had a troubled past but we believe everyone is entitled to a second chance and we believe the structure is in place here for him to succeed."
The Bears should be the demanding father figure. They should teach Rodriguez a lesson. Here's how:
- Formally announce that the organization is suspending Rodriguez for the first four games of the 2013 season without pay. Then donate that pay to MADD or another worthy organization.
- If the NFLPA won't allow for the suspension, take the financial hit and stick him in the inactive jump suit and let him spend those magical Sunday afternoons chatting with Matt Blanchard.
- Organize a face-to-face meeting between Evan and the family of Robert Cann, a 26 year-old cyclist who was killed by a drunk driver in Old Town a few days ago. (To read the details of that story, simply CLICK HERE.) Psychologically, athletes drive drunk because they believe they're both above the law and immortal. This conversation might be the first truly grounding moment of Rodriguez' adult life.
So that takes care of Evan Rodriguez. (No, I'm not foolish enough to believe this statement to be true.)
Drunk driving is not a sports problem. But the sports world has a remarkable opportunity to be leaders in finding a solution. The NBA fines players for wearing sweat pants to press conferences. The NFL apparently has the world's greatest test for Adderall. Golf Channel spent two days - two! - debating how far back from an original divot the world's greatest golfer is allowed to drop the ball. When any athlete in any professional sports say the word "faggot" under his breath and is caught by cameras, the ESPN newsroom erupts and interns are sent to wake up Bob Ley.
(Side note on that joke: I really love Bob Ley. ESPN is a dreadful network but when they know can't screw around two faces inevitably appear on their screens: Ley and Mike Tirico. Classy fellas.)
I know its important for players to respect the image of the NBA. I know Adderall is a drug thought to give players an unfair advantage. I know prejudice should never be tolerated. But when will attention be paid to employees taking to the road with a ton of metal killing machine and the inability to see what's in front of them on the road?
Just imagine if a DUI arrest was met, universally by the sports leagues, with a month suspension. All the major American sports leagues and unions got together and said if you drive drunk and are arrested for it you are suspended for a month without pay. It would be the most significant cultural impact ever made by professional athletics.
Evan Rodriguez is a kid, yes, and probably an idiot. NFL analysts want you to think playing football is terribly difficult and requires massive brain power. Its not and it doesn't. It requires freakish athletic ability. Sure you have your intelligent, thoughtful men like Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Birk. But you also have...a lot of other guys. Jerry Rice is in the discussion for greatest NFL player to ever live and he can't put together a sentence. It is incumbent upon the Bears organization to not tolerate Evan's idiocy.
That would be Advil for a hangover. Drunk driving in America is a deadly epidemic. Only a joint effort by the US sporting universe can make a true dent.