Everyone knows the Cubs/Cardinals series always gets mean and dirty, but the rivalry is forgotten when tragedy strikes. A game simply becomes meaningless when a team loses one of its players to an unfortunate tragedy. Circumstances such as those serve as stark reminders to fans and athletes alike that no one is invincible. Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras gave us that stunning reminder last October when he made the unfortunate choice to drink and drive.
While it’s tragic that Taveras is gone, it’s important to remember the mistake he made that ultimately cost his life and the life of his girlfriend.
After the Cardinals were eliminated from the 2014 postseason, Taveras went to his home in the Dominican Republic where one night he chose to get behind the wheel of a car after having too much to drink.
The end result?
The 22-year-old lost control of his car, taking not only his own life but the life of his 18-year-old girlfriend as well.
Yes, this was a horrible event, and I don’t think anyone will argue that such great talent was taken away far too soon. However, the media portrays Taveras almost hero-like when the reality is he made a poor decision which cost him and his girlfriend their lives. Everyone makes bad choices throughout their lives, but being a famous athlete doesn’t change anything.
Turn on a Cardinals game, typically on ESPN, and you’re bound to hear mention of Taveras and the agony his passing has caused his teammates. Of course it’s expected to hear about his accomplishments and what a bright future he had with St. Louis; he was a talented athlete and he should be remembered for that. But what you very rarely hear from the media is a reason to not drink and drive, Taveras being the primary example.
Why is Taveras practically held on a pedestal when there have been other accidents in the baseball world? You may recall the shocking death of Angels’ rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart in 2009. The 22-year-old was hit and killed by a drunk driver just hours after making his first start of the year for the Angels.
The difference between these two accidents are that Oscar Taveras made the choice to drive drunk which lead to his death; Nick Adenhart was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when a drunk driver ran a red light and hit the car in which he and his friends were riding.
And what about the ‘OT’ patches the Cards are wearing this season to honor their former teammate? Why honor a person who drove a car when his blood alcohol level was five times over the legal limit? Why honor a man who killed his girlfriend in that accident as well? I’m all for remembering the victims in a moment of silence or something of that nature, but a patch bearing only Taveras’ initials and ignoring the other victim, seems likes it’s sending the wrong message.
We should not be praising a man who made the foolish decision to get behind the wheel that fatal night, but use this as an opportunity to bring attention to the severity of drunk driving.
This is where I must give the Cardinals some credit. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the team put together a program this year to educate their players about drinking and driving. The Post-Dispatch added the program will include guest speakers sharing their own drunk driving experiences and impacts, as well as a car service for anyone in need of a ride home.
Maybe it sounds a bit juvenile, almost as if you’re back in high school and sitting through the lecture about being responsible on prom night, but maybe this is what the Cardinals need to realize the reality of their teammate’s actions. Maybe this is what the rest of professional sports needs. Heck, maybe this is what the entire country needs based on the number of drunk drivers on the road every single day.
It really is a shame that Oscar Taveras is no longer with us, but honoring someone who chose to recklessly operate a vehicle while drunk is inappropriate, almost as if we’re applauding his mistake. It’s time to stop viewing Taveras as a victim and look forward to fixing the problem of ballplayers driving under the influence. The Cardinals have taken the first step; hopefully others will follow.