Commentary

Drink, drank, drunk

Updated: October 10, 2013, 3:32 PM ET
By Jeff MacGregor | ESPN.com

 & de la Hoya & SmithGetty ImagesLamar Odom (left), Oscar De La Hoya and Aldon Smith all struggled recently with alcohol.

"Drink responsibly" is an oxymoron.

With due respect to distillers, brewers, vintners, advertisers, drinkers, drunks, teetotals, soaks, dries, winos, bluenoses, red noses, boozehounds, newshounds, revenuers, moonshiners, bartenders, schoolmarms, mothers and self-medicators, cops and B-girls and their advocacy groups, to drink responsibly is to miss the very point of drinking.

From the time of Gilgamesh, from Beowulf to "The Aeneid" to "The Odyssey," from Ulysses to Ulysses S. Grant, from "Lost Weekend" to "Leaving Las Vegas," the story of humanity is the story of drunk. Things are certainly no different in sports.

Aldon Smith goes loudly to rehab. Cornell goes quietly off the rails. Pacman Jones goes back to the police, and Jacoby Jones gets bottle service.

We drink when we're happy and we drink when we're sad.

Players and bosses alike. Matt Russell, busted. And Tom Heckert. And Tom Lewand. Browns executive Jon Sandusky was arrested on suspicion of DUI while I was writing this. He refused to take a breathalyzer at the scene. 

So did Bernie Kosar. And Lamar Odom. Cutting out the middleman, Oscar De La Hoya checked himself straight into rehab. Again. Jason Kidd, suspended. All sports, all styles, all drunk. Drunk, drunk, drunk.

"To alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems."

More than a million DUI arrests a year. Happens everywhere and in every walk of life. Including politics. Commoners and kings, presidents and vice-presidents. Sometimes you get a second chance. Or a third.

Sometimes you just get fired. Everyone's a scold until it happens to them. The numbers, like the drivers, are staggering.

And it's not just America. And it's not just the NFL. It's young footballers in the Premier League, too. And old English footballers with prior convictions. And Danish players on loan from English football to the Italian league. Nicklas Bendtner gets lit, drives the wrong way through town, loses his license for three years, and based on the oddball calculus of Denmark traffic law, is fined 842,000 kroner. More than $152,000 at this morning's exchange rate.

Counterintuitively, back in the States, professional footballers are actually less likely to drive drunk than other American adult males.

All this goes back a long way. The Etruscan chariot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was probably a DWI forfeiture. Tablet II of the Epic of Gilgamesh -- the oldest writing we have, circa 2700 B.C. -- explains drunkenness as a measure of our humanity. Seven skins of beer! Singing! Dancing! And humanity has been in and out of detox ever since.

In-patient, outpatient, 12-step, Betty Ford -- rehab is big business. The cost of treatment and lost productivity in the United States exceeds $200 billion per year. There are nearly 15,000 addiction treatment centers nationwide. Who knows how many AA meetings.

Maybe cocktail culture is more problematic than we let on. Oktoberfest, too. Violence and sexual assault, and how are we going to talk about the players when the fans are just as bad? And the teams just as stupid? Free drinks! What could go wrong? Paying only selective attention to cultural, political or social problems has been a human specialty since Elpenor, another hungover hero of the wine-dark sea, fell off Circe's roof and broke his neck. Our problem with drunk is love.

It's physical, psychological, spiritual. It's brain chemistry, loneliness, dependence, poetry. It's the Bible.

Your indignation is the least of it.

And you're not up against jock culture. At least, not only jock culture. We're up against the disease of addiction; weakness and moral defect; self-loathing and joy and slow suicide and the failure of moderation; billions in advertising; singing and dancing and laughter and forgetting; lost inhibitions and a hundred million hours of productivity gone, and the warmth that radiates out from your center like universal love at last.

We're up against 10,000 years of human history, of first community and organized agriculture, and the very basis of civilization. Everything we are began in beer

What chance does "Drink Responsibly" have?

Still, sports teach us to fight the battles we have to fight, not just the battles we think we can win. It's important we fight drunk driving. Please drink responsibly.

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