The sound of the loudest flushing toilet he ever heard woke him up and his eyes were introduced to a reality no one could imagine waking up to. Waking up in a plastic litter box with skinny mattress-like object underneath him, with guys asleep all around him, Paul was a bit confused. The morning after his twenty first birthday he was prepared for the unexpected, but this was different. This wasn’t a friend’s couch, or a front lawn, this was jail.
Trying to remember what happened last night was a lot like trying to remember who played third base for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982, it was in the memory bank somewhere but it wasn’t exactly clear. The officer walking up and down the hallway was no help. Paul tiptoed to the back wall of the cell and picked up the telephone and dialed the only number he knew without having his cell phone in front of him. His voice cracked when the operator asked to state his name for the caller, he just prayed that someone would answer the phone. He had no idea what time it was, or even really what day it was, he just prayed someone could provide answers. Hearing his dad’s voice on the other end allowed a brief moment of clear thinking, but the urgency of his dad’s voice thrust him back into panic. He heard words like lawyer, police report, accident, and didn’t make it. Unable to put the words together, he simply asked, “What exactly did I do?” There are thousands of parenting books out there that probably cover every topic you’ll ever discuss with your kids, except for how to tell your twenty one year old son that he killed someone driving home last night. What’s even tougher, trying to digest the news while surrounded by the fierce reality reminder.
Whether the Dallas Cowboys want to admit it or not, they have a trend on their hands. Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit when his pickup truck hit an 18-wheeler truck on Jan. 22. Ratliff, 31, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving at the scene of the crash. Police in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine said that Ratliff’s blood-alcohol level was .16, double the legal limit in Texas of .08.
Ratliff was the second Dallas Cowboys player to be arrested in an alcohol-related crash within a little more than a month. Josh Brent, also a nose tackle, was indicted by a Dallas County grand jury on one count of intoxication manslaughter on Dec. 28, in a Dec. 8 crash in Irving, Texas that killed his friend and practice squad member Jerry Brown Jr. Coincidently, Josh Brent was playing due to Ratliff being injured.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.
Bernard Pollard of the Baltimore Ravens said before this week's Super Bowl that he thinks that the way the game of football is evolving with players getting bigger while also getting faster, something seriously tragic may occur on the field, rather than years down the line caused by concussions. “The only thing I’m waiting for,” Pollard said. “And, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks. “Like I said, I hope I’m wrong, but I just believe one day there’s going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we’re going.”
Turns out that a death still won’t change player’s opinion of drinking and driving.