Kravitz: Jim Irsay is fighting for his life, he needs help – USA TODAY
In a twisted way, Jim Irsay’s friends have been praying for this day. They’ve been praying for the day when he’d reach rock bottom and be forced to come to terms with a drug problem that he’s battled for some time.
“He’s a sick, sick man,” one source told me. “He desperately needs help.”
There was a sad inevitability to what happened Sunday night in Carmel, Ind. Irsay faces four felony counts after being arrested on preliminary charges of driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. For years, Colts insiders have known that Irsay was struggling again with drugs. For years, they fought to get him into rehabilitation. At the very least, they fought to get him a driver in the hopes of keeping away from getting behind the wheel.
The Colts have been cleaning up Irsay’s messes for years now. Time and again, Irsay dismissed the concerns of his close friends and confidantes, even if his increasingly gaunt physical appearance sent up red flags throughout the community.
I asked him two months ago about his weight loss, which has brought him from 235 pounds to 165 pounds, and he insisted that the doctors wanted him to lose weight to keep the strain off his troublesome back and hip.
I suspected otherwise.
Those of us who are around Irsay on a semi-regular basis suspected otherwise for a very long time.
So why didn’t you write it?
That’s a fair question. But it’s much like the baseball players during the steroid era. Suspicions cannot be the basis for news stories. My feeling all along has been, “Unless he gets arrested for drugs, or acts erratically in a public setting while obviously under the influence, it will remain nothing more than an educated guess.”
Now he’s been arrested.
The game has changed.
He has two big problems, besides the obvious drug issue: He’s crazy rich and he has lots of free time. That is a dangerous cocktail for a man with a genetic predisposition to substance abuse.
That doesn’t make him a bad man, just a troubled one, one who has been in and out of rehab on multiple occasions, one who needs to get himself some help again if he wants to be alive for the Colts’ next Super Bowl.
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This is not written in anger. It’s written with compassion – although if he’d hurt someone while driving, it would take on a different tone. This is a man in the throes of addiction, a disease he’s been fighting for years and years with mixed results.
Now comes the wake-up call.
Do you hear it, Jim? Do you hear it? Or do you press the snooze button and continue on this downward spiral?
There’s no shame. There’s no embarrassment. Fact is, if Irsay gets the help he needs, he’d be a public beacon for the multitudes who also need help with alcohol and drugs. Just as Chuck Pagano has taken the lead on finding a cure for cancer and more specifically leukemia, Irsay can be a guiding light for those in the grips of addiction.
He’s just got to decide it’s time.
Because, well, it is time.
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As a secondary issue, there’s now the question of what commissioner Roger Goodell will do once he collects all the pertinent information. I can promise you the NFL Players Association will watch this closely. Will the commissioner come down as hard on Irsay as he does the league’s players? In 2010, Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand drew a 30-day suspension, $100,000 fine and performed community service after pleading guilty to driving while impaired. It wouldn’t shock me if Goodell suspends or metes out some sort of harsh punishment against Irsay.
Again, though, that’s secondary.
Based on several conversations with team officials and friends, this is a man fighting for his life.
Get some help, James.
Please, get some help.
Bob Kravitz writes for The Indianapolis Star