Leave Jim Irsay alone 

Who cares what he"s done in private?

Who cares what he"s done in private?
I hadn"t intended to write about Jim Irsay again. A few weeks ago, I said my piece about the Colts: that they may well leave, and that I"m pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. But something came up last week about which I"m not ambivalent. After a one-year investigation, TV station WTHR reported Irsay has been addicted to prescription painkillers for the past seven years. Irsay admitted being addicted to drugs but says he"s gone through a rehab program and is now clean. "This has been a personal journey and I ask that my privacy, as well as that of my family, be respected on this health issue," he said in a written statement. It"s a little late for that. As soon as the Channel 13 report came out, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz weighed in on the situation. "Indianapolis is not going to spend its money to help out a team that is owned by someone who is perceived to be a drug addict," Kravitz wrote. "Ö What it comes down to is this: Irsay has to prove he is clean now and can stay clean. He has to ensure that the cloud of suspicion has passed. Otherwise, the city can"t do business with him." I generally enjoy Kravitz"s columns, but this one is pure bullshit. What cloud of suspicion? Why can"t the city do business with him? First of all, it"s nobody"s business but Irsay"s and his family"s. The situation is bad enough without everyone in the city coming off all judgmental on him. What should have been a private family crisis has literally been splashed all over the newspaper and TV, no doubt adding to the stress he"s feeling at this time. Leave the man alone. Having a prescription drug problem is nothing to be proud about, but overcoming an addiction - as Irsay says he"s done - is something in which to take pride. Who among us hasn"t had some sort of problem we wouldn"t want to see as the lead story on the 11 o"clock news? What makes Irsay"s problem any different than anyone else"s? The fact that he"s rich? The fact that he"s considering moving the Colts? Even millionaires should be able to have private lives without the rest of us voyeuristically looking on. Especially in a delicate situation like Irsay"s, where backsliding is so easy, there should be some measure of discretion. Irsay isn"t out on the field playing for the Colts, so whether he"s wasted on pills or not shouldn"t be an issue. He probably has chauffeurs, so he"s not endangering me or my family by driving while intoxicated. As far as I know, in America you judge someone"s work by what they do between 9 and 5, not what they do after hours. That"s the measure on which Irsay should be judged. If you don"t like some of the moves he"s made as the Colts" owner, criticize him for that. If you think he made a mistake in hiring coaches or players, take him on for that. But to say he"s ruined as a football owner because he"s undergone a negative personal situation is ludicrous and goes against everything America stands for. We"ve had at least two presidents known to have had sex with women who were not their wives while serving in the White House. They were, incidentally, two of the best presidents we"ve ever had. They knew when to party and when to work. Besides, owning a football team is not the same thing as heading up the Boy Scouts. And Irsay never signed, to my knowledge, a contract pledging to be as pure as Ivory soap. And look at the people under his employ. Professional athletes, in general, have had a pretty woeful record when it comes to staying off drugs. The sheer number of pro baseball, football and basketball players with drug problems is testament to that. What"s the common denominator in all of those cases? They were given second, third and even fourth chances to stay clean. They didn"t forfeit millions of dollars, most of them weren"t jailed and all of them were welcomed back on the field after dealing with their addictions. What makes Irsay any different? He has not been charged with any crime as of yet. And, even if he was charged, he is still considered innocent until convicted in a courtroom. My instinct tells me that"s not going to happen in this case. Even if everything said about Irsay is true, that still doesn"t compare with the felony conviction of George Steinbrenner, who illegally gave money to Richard Nixon"s re-election campaign. To me, the timing of this story is suspicious. It comes right when the city and the team have begun negotiations about the future of pro football in Indianapolis. Could the story"s timing have been arranged to cause damage to those negotiations? If so, who stands to benefit? The issue of what, if any, concessions the city should make to keep the Colts is another story. Either they"ll work out a mutually-beneficial deal or the team will move to Los Angeles. It"s that simple. What I don"t like to see is a good man"s personal problems being brought out for everyone to see and judge. Why can"t Irsay be allowed to recover in privacy? And why should that impact what happens with the Colts? Irsay is a businessman in a high-profile field. But that doesn"t mean he should be ridiculed and mocked for private failings. I"ve never met the man and probably never will. But he should have the same rights of privacy as everyone else. I wish him the best. And I wish everyone else would shut up about it.

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