You can’t really say anything bad about Donovan McNabb in this town without catching grief. But last month when the former Syracuse University quarterback, humanitarian, NFL standout and all-around good guy visited Syracuse, he had a chance to make a difference. And he blew it big time.
In football when you blow a call, you let your team down. You might mess with everyone’s fantasy league, but by Monday morning everyone is looking to the next week, and all is forgiven. It’s a game.
But this one is real life. Donovan McNabb isn’t talking Xs and Os, he’s talking life and death.
A reporter asked McNabb about his two arrests for drunk driving in the past couple of years. The QB said that it wasn’t a problem. What a disappointment. We have a society drowning in alcohol and addiction, and when we have a prominent person who decides to practice denial in such a blatant way, it’s a setback.
How bad is this? Really bad. With one simple statement, Donovan McNabb declared himself a public health menace. Remember when Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said that he would shower after having sex with prostitutes to keep from contracting HIV? It’s that kind of bad.
Fox Sports seemed to think it was a problem. They dumped McNabb from their roster of commentators and publicly requested he get help for his problem.
So it got you arrested twice and it cost you a job — and it’s not a problem? That’s what treatment specialists call denial.
Just a personal matter, you say? Drinking is a personal choice — agreed. Driving a car while drunk means it’s no longer personal. Donovan, you had twice the maximum legal amount of booze in your blood when the cop stopped you in Gilbert, Ariz., back in June. The person in the car you rear-ended at the red light emerged uninjured. That’s fortunate.
But it is a problem. On any given day, 28 people die in the United States because someone, just like you, decide to get drunk and drive a car.
Full disclosure: I was nearly one of those people. After a drunk piloting a Grand Prix on an Arizona highway hit my Pinto head-on a few years back, I spent three weeks in the hospital. He walked away; I nearly died. So yeah, you’re right, it’s personal.
Not a problem?
Over the course of a year, drunk driving costs us nearly $200 billion. These numbers come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Well, you might think, it was just bad luck. Stop. Please. According to the same national agency, a typical driver arrested for DWI has driven drunk 80 times before getting busted.
Not a problem?
Donovan, two drunk driving arrests in a year is a problem. It’s more than that. In New York state, it’s actually a felony.
You’re lucky you were in Arizona. You’re lucky you’re a well-off celebrity. You have every advantage. You can get a lawyer. You could have called a cab.
No doubt you’d like this to disappear. No doubt your fans will attack this writer for trying to make sure that it doesn’t. Like it or not, you are a public figure with a high profile, and as such you have a platform. Don’t use it to spew nonsense. Use it to help the millions of people, young and old, who struggle with the same problem.
You must be aware of the Herculean efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They work tirelessly and lovingly to change public attitudes and laws about the crime that put you in Maricopa County Jail.
You have to know how high school teachers and principals dread the weeks around prom and graduation as they wait in anxious anticipation for the inevitable news of young people pulled from wrecks that reek of alcohol. I’ll bet that you’ve even donated, kind heart that you are, to high schools that host “after the prom” parties designed to lure our kids into safe spaces and keep them off the roads.
You’re a smart guy. You have to know that denial is the oxygen that helps the drug and alcohol abuse epidemic grow. Bursting the balloon of denial can put you on a path to deal with the problem. Because now it’s not a personal problem. You just set all those folks back.
But you can change that. Time to reset. Start over, Donovan. It’s a problem.