Oct 21, 2011

Underage Drinking And The “Over Aged”

Alcohol Awareness Risk Management
Underage Drinking And The “Over Aged”

By Adam Ritz

I’ve been asked to write a few articles and blogs since becoming an alcohol awareness speaker.  I always find I do my best writing in the airport.  So hello from Denver International!  I don’t know if it’s the 12 dollar wraps, automatic flush urinals, or the 9 passenger horn-honking golf carts that inspire great writing.  Or maybe it’s the fact that this is the only time that I can focus with absolute 100%  concentration without the distractions of everyday life.  When you have a 3 hour layover in Denver, what else are you gonna do?

As an alcohol awareness speaker, I am constantly following the news wires and national media to discover bad decisions resulting from the use and abuse of alcohol.  One of the more interesting stories of late involved a group underage drinkers.  Underage drinking is against the law, and right from the start, has a tendency to produces negative consequences.  Duh.  I don’t know if you are in the know on this one, but you have to be 21 to consume booze, a fact that used to really bother me until January 1991 when I turned 21.  It’s funny how every person under age 21 is an enormously aggressive advocate for changing the drinking age.  You know the whole argument, “I can die for my country in battle, I can vote, but I can’t drink a beer.”  then something magical happens… You turn 21 and you don’t care at all anymore about the drinking age laws.  There is a 5 year window when you want the drinking age changed.  Age 16 to age 21 is the demographic of this social movement.  Not enough people in this window to change the law, even with 97 University Presidents that agree with the law change because they see 19 year olds dying of alcohol poisoning.  Surely the 19 year old would drink less if it were legal.  At least they wouldn’t have a criminal record for something they are going to do anyway.  Then you turn 21 and you can drink;  so you let the 16 year olds worry about it.  Not your prob anymore.

So anyway back to the underage drinkers.  They were charged with underage drinking, minor consumption, and open containers.  Yes, they were in the car, which means one of them got a DUI.  He was pulled over for nearly hitting a pedestrian on campus.  Oh boy could this have been worse for this young man.  Hitting a pedestrian, causing bodily injury or death, can change lives in a second for so many people involved.  19 year old drinking.  Underage DUI.  Sounds like any weekend at any university in any city.

Okay here’s the kicker… The driver of the car was a 19 year old football player being recruited to play football at the University of New Mexico.  The car he was driving was the SUV of the Head Coach of the football team at the University of New Mexico.  He was driving the coach’s car, drunk, on a Saturday, to the the stadium, on game day.

Just a few bad decisions here, huh?

It took less than 24 hours for the university to fire the head coach.  This was the final straw that the university needed to sever ties with him.

Every time I see a story like this, I try to put myself in the shoes of the people involved.  I imagine all of the scenarios where I could possibly put myself in a similar situation, and think about how I can ensure that I NEVER make the same mistake that they did.  We really can learn from other people’s mistakes.

Let’s put our fraternity shoes on for a moment.  There are so many parallels between this example and the fraternity world. A big brother purchases alcohol for his little brother; an executive board purchases alcohol for a rush party; an alumnus purchases alcohol for a tailgate before the big game. Any “over-aged” person – from a 21 year old member, to a member of the executive board, to the chapter advisory board, to a random alumnus – that enables any underage member of the chapter to drink, is putting himself, the student, and the chapter at risk. The “Coach” and the “Player” are putting their futures and the chapter’s future in jeopardy.

When an underage person is caught drinking, the first thing the police do after that initial arrest of the minor in possession, is find out who helped the young man obtain the alcohol, and then they arrest that person as well.  Don’t be like the coach in New Mexico who enabled his player to drink underage, drive while intoxicated, and almost commit vehicular manslaughter.  This coach is lucky he is not facing a murder trial.

Every decision has a consequence even if it initially seems harmless.  Think before you act, especially when that decision impacts others directly or indirectly.  You always need to keep in mind that you will be held accountable not only for your own decisions but for the decisions of others that you’ve enabled with your actions.

Adam Ritz is a media personality and keynote speaker.  Follow him on twitter @AdamRitz

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