DUIs, New Year's Eve and the Grace of God

Famous people getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol is popular fodder for newspapers reporters, magazine writers, and television anchors, and, of course, bloggers.  Also, the subject of DUI's and police-enforced drunk driving roadblocks comes up every year around New Year's Eve.  While we scour the internet and our favorite entertainment sites looking for the perfect place to party, some of us should be reminded of what that partying could lead to and how lucky we really are.

This week,  former Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk  plead guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge after mixing alcohol and prescription medication and crashing a pickup truck in a New Lenox, Illinois cornfield while driving home from his daughter's house in October.  Fisk was found passed out in his truck with the engine running on that field at the time of his arrest.    Police also found an open bottle of vodka in Fisk's truck at the time of his arrest.

  Carlton Fisk Arrested for DUI (Chicago Tribune)

Fisk was sentenced to one year of court supervision and has to pay $1,250 in court costs, go through a drug and alcohol evaluation and substance abuse counseling. As is the case in most DUI convictions, Fisk must attend a victim-impact panel where you hear from victims of DUI's and watch graphic videotapes of the aftermath of DUI incidents.

Many people got a real kick out of Fisk's situation.  Radio dj's and comedians (Cub fans perhaps), in particular, jumped on the predictable "Field of Dreams" or "Cornfield of Dreams" humor.  While the level of humor may be questionable, it's not surprising and neither is the initial reaction to poke fun at a "famous" person's troubles.  But, we're talking about DUI here and the results are often not funny at all.

In another case this week, the chief of the Village of Robbins Police Department, a suburb south of Chicago, was arrested for DUI a second time in the past three years.  According to the Chicago Tribune, Police Chief Johnny Holmes (yes, that's his real name) was pulled over around 10:30 p.m. last Saturday in nearby Midlothian.  The arresting officer said Holmes smelled of alcohol, was carrying a flask of liquor in his jacket and had a blood alcohol level of 0.194, more than twice the legal limit. 

According to the Tribune, officers said Holmes smelled of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. They asked him if he had been drinking and at first he said no, "then admitted he had been recently drinking at the Posen Pub. Johnny thought he was still in Posen," the police report states. Posen is a town located about two miles east of Midlothian.

The first time around, Chief Holmes received received a sentence of supervision which was terminated satisfactorily and a fine of $1,375 which he paid.  Apparently, that didn't teach him a lesson but it's still too early to tell what will come out of this latest arrest - either with the courts or with the Village that he serves.

While both Fisk and Holmes maintain a common thread of being newsworthy, they also maintain a much more important common thread that those of us who plan to go out partying on New Year's Eve should think about:  They got arrested for DUI's and didn't kill anyone.

Is there anyone reading this or reading a newspaper who doesn't know someone whose life was negatively impacted by a drunk driver?  A colleague of mine had both of her parents killed by a drunk driver two years ago.  Both parents - at the same time - minding their own business, on their way to a vacation spot - killed by a fool.  Stories like that are everywhere and it is preventable.

I'm really not trying to preach as much as I am trying to remind myself and anyone who may read or listen to this that we shouldn't drive a car after drinking.  Sounds simple doesn't it?  It's not.  I've done it - more times in my younger days than I care to think about.  I've gotten behind the wheel of a deadly weapon after drinking and thought: a) I've only had a couple of beers, I'm fine; b) I don't have too far to drive; c) I'm alone and have no other choice to get home; d) I'm a guy and I'm not going to have a woman drive for me; e) Etc., etc., etc.

So, how do I sit here and dish out reminders without being deemed a Class A hypocrite?  I guess it's just looking back at the newspapers, violence in our society and people dying for no reason.  And, two phrases ringing in my head:

"There, but for the grace of God, go I." 

This phrase is attributed to an English evangelical preacher and martyr, John Bradford, who lived in the 16th century.  Unfortunately, he didn't enjoy the grace too long after he saw criminals being led to the scaffold.  He was burned at the stake in 1555.


"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."  Matthew, Ch. 7, v. 1 and 2.

As I get ready for New Year's Eve, I can only speak for myself when all is said and done.  I can't and won't judge Carlton Fisk and Chief Johnny Holmes.  They did wrong and got caught.  I've done wrong and haven't gotten caught and there, but for the grace of God, go I.


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