Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Rice, Pro Athletes and Alcohol


Warning: Controversial and despised viewpoints ahead!

I have friends who know what I do in writing 50-60 sports articles a month, along with a ton of daily writing of blogs in other parts of my life and wonder how I do it. How do you find enough topics to write about? Well, it is not difficult if you write what you are passionate about. So, these words, controversial as they will be, will flow out of a passion I have.

I am not an ethnic minority, unless having a Swiss heritage counts as such – never has for my kids on minority scholarship documents. Since I’m going for it with controversy today, I might as well get it all out. I’m a Republican in Maryland – so that makes me a despised minority in the 30% category. And I’m one of those Evangelicals who are increasingly hated in our culture for holding on to values previously accepted as norms.

But the one thing where my viewpoints are most despised by even the majority of people in my own “minority” camps is that I hate the role of alcohol in our culture and believe that wisdom would suggest people choose to avoid it completely. Understand, having identified also with evangelical thought, I am not taking this stand from a Bible-thumping position. There are fundamentalist folks who do—propounding that the Scripture teaches that drinking is a sin. Drunkenness – yes, drinking – no, in my view. BUT, when considering the virtue of consideration for others, it seems to me that the highest way of living would be to just not do it … it is not necessary, and it is a destructive force in our culture with mechanical chariots that go 70 mph.

Yes, I know the argument in the form of “I do it in moderation and it is not a problem.”  Well, good. But there are a frightening percentage of people who don’t know the line. There are a dangerous number of people for whom it becomes a self-medicating poison.

And here is my bigger problem… what else in our culture that is this destructive and at the root source of death and the ruination of lives do we celebrate and laugh about as “the good life?” The physically destructive nature of tobacco has been vilified, and though second-hand smoke has certain dangers, it pales in comparison to the second-hand dangers of drunkenness. But drinking excessively is still cool and the stuff of jesting.

It is the stuff of ruined lives too. I’m a pastor of a larger than average church … but just this week, the two biggest issues on my plate in dealing with troubled people have alcohol as front-burner contributing factors.

So, no, I’m not for banning the stuff. I just don’t get why we celebrate it so much. I know it funds a lot of what I love in sports and write about. Brewing companies even own franchises. They have the best Super Bowl commercials with cute dogs and heart-touching messages. But gosh, our culture is over the top on this, in my view – yes, I know it is a minority viewpoint.

But I hate what it does to people who make bad choices, like Ray Rice in the orbit of my area of sports coverage focus. We can name others, even this year. I hate that a drunk driver took the life of my home-town rising baseball star Nick Adenhart after his rookie season opening game for the Angels in 2009. I’ll have a tribute article on him next week.

And so, I appreciate the step that John Harbaugh has taken in making a statement to those he has some authority over to raise the issue of substance and alcohol abuse. At the NFL owners meeting this last week he said, “When you drink too much in public, those kind of things happen … Really that’s what happened with Jah Reid as well … You can’t get drunk at a bar, you just can’t do it. You’re not a kid anymore and you’ve got responsibilities to not just yourself, but your family and your organization and your teammates and it’s unacceptable.” Nothing good comes from pro athletes as bars, nightclubs, and casinos.

So, again, I don’t get the defensive insistence upon rights to do the drinking thing, and beyond that to celebrate it so massively in our culture. But, I know I’m totally out of step with the broader culture and probably 99% of you reading this. So, if you’ve just got to do it for some reason, please don’t kill yourself or others.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice

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