One could print volumes upon volumes of encyclopedias, all with very small print, of all of the things I can admit that I don’t know. Frankly, there are some things that I should understand more, but whether or not USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian has a “problem” with drug or alcohol abuse is not one of them.
Sure, the de facto CEO of Los Angeles’s top football brand, albeit on the amateur level, should be embarrassed, very embarrassed by his behavior at a donor function on August 22nd. He used foul language and stated very bluntly that a few of the Trojans bigger rivals “sucked”. Sarkisian later apologized for his boorish behavior and attributed the transgression to mixing medication and booze.
On Monday, news broke of USC’s (perhaps) new policy of banning liquor and spirits in the locker room on game days, a policy that wasn’t met with resistance, but curiosity. I’d always imagined, back in the Pete Carroll days, that most things about the USC program were probably fun. I never pictured it as a Dave & Buster’s with showers and lockers. We’d learn on Tuesday that it was more along the lines of the coaches keeping a bottle of scotch in a desk drawer to celebrate big wins.
Foul language in the presence of boosters isn’t that big of a deal. Didn’t we just see Urban Meyer tell a ballroom full of Buckeye faithful that they were going to “beat the shit out of Michigan” just a few years ago? If I recall, those words were met by thunderous applause without a lick of criticism. Substance abuse, and I’m not saying that’s the landscape in Troy with their head coach, doesn’t have such a coach-friendly precedent.
To be honest, I feel this incident is going to blow over. I heard on local radio in Phoenix today, that Todd Graham, Jim Mora, and others will use this for negative recruiting against the USC program, but if it isn’t one thing, it’s another in that realm. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden has some experience with this; it wasn’t long ago that he was suspending his basketball coach at the Pac-12 tournament for a drunken incident with University of Arizona (where Kevin O’Neill served as the interim head coach before getting the nod at USC) boosters, but don’t expect him to follow suit with Sarkisian.
Though if this remains an isolated incident, you can file it under ‘no big deal’, there is something that resonates with me. He was asked if he had a drinking problem, and responded, “I don’t believe so, but I’m going to find that out. I’m going to treatment.”
Good for him. He added some comments, per Stewart Mandel at Fox Sports, that might have been an attempt to mitigate his actions, about mixing meds and drinks, but ultimately acknowledged how irresponsible he acted on Saturday night. Now, I happen to know, not first hand, that some combinations, like Tanqueray and Allegra, can lead to blackout drunkenness and unwanted bowel movements while clothed. I know we’ve reached a point in society where physicians warnings are often taken with a grain of salt, but they’re very accurate when they tell us this should not be taken with alcohol.
Now, I know that people who have never felt their drinking has been out of control might have a tough time understanding how someone could not know if they have a problem. It’s almost as if, if you have to ask, you definitely have a problem. In a large percentage of cases, and I’ve conducted no study of my own, they’re probably right about that, but some people just need to hit the brakes.
About 11 years ago, I had to hit the brakes, and it was almost just to make sure they still worked. I was burning the candle at both ends, working two jobs and partying my ass off when I wasn’t at either of them. The end result, an inebriated mess of a 26 year-old, bawling his eyes out after his friends pulled him out of a busy street to thwart an idiotic suicide attempt.
When I came to, the police were escorting me to the county hospital. I blew a .32 (that’s 4 times the legal limit to drive, which I wasn’t doing on that night) a few hours after my last drink. I couldn’t provide an honest answer, as to why I wanted to die, nor could I recall getting to that place. I was released a few hours later, and instead of taking a 3-hour nap before the Monday morning grind, I decided to call the fight. I’d like to note that energy drinks also mix poorly with alcohol, in that experience and at other times.
Deep inside, I think I knew I didn’t have a problem, but the evidence against that claim was pretty damning. It took me a few years of sobriety to learn enough about myself to know that I was misbehaving, not that I was diseased or POWERLESS over the sauce. There’s a big book and a world-wide organization dedicated to those who are, and they need it.
Looking back, I understand that I was an outlier. That pattern of behavior (there were similar incidents that did not end as poorly for me) was unacceptable. Not only would I have lost my job, which was my biggest concern back in 2004, I’d have lost my life, and I can say it is a wonderful life. Now, I can tell you that maybe I didn’t need to dedicate myself to sobriety in the manner that I did, but I can honestly say erring on the side of caution did not negatively influence my life in any way.
As far as Coach Sarkisian is concerned, what’s he done to this point, other than humiliate himself in front of a room of friendlies, and ultimately for a not-so-friendly court of public opinion. Ignoring the potential indirect fallout in his now-dry locker room or on the field in 2015, this basically amounts to a victimless crime, right now. He understands he has to right the ship, and committing to not drinking at all during the season, he has taken the first step.
If he wants to explore who he is and find out what he is, I commend the decision. I don’t know what he’s going to learn, and without speaking to him, I’d say it’s a good bet he doesn’t either. In the present, it’s safe to assume this guy doesn’t need a lock and key rehab facility, but by seeking treatment, he shows us his devotion to getting right, even if he’s just getting right with Steve Sarkisian.
None of us have all of the answers, even to questions about who we really are.