There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy. And though I’m sure no one is laughing in the Indianapolis Colts’ front office today, most would have to admit, the story of Pat McAfee taking a drunken swim in the pre-dawn chill shortly before 5 a.m. this morning in the Broad Ripple canal has its humorous elements.
Like McAfee telling police he was wet because it was raining. But it wasn’t raining, and McAfee’s shirt was in the canal. Certainly the Colts’ second-year kicker isn’t an accredited meteorologist. He’s not even a very good liar. Indianapolis is darn near in the midst of a drought for crying out loud.
Of course, no one would be laughing if McAfee had died of hypothermia, which is a distinct possibility if he had stayed out much longer soaking wet in the 43-degree air. It would have been equally sobering had the 23-year-old gotten into a car, driven drunk and hurt someone. For the record, McAfee told police he was waiting for a cab or a friend to pick him up. Then he asked police if he could walk home.
Indianapolis’ police reported that McAfee’s blood alcohol content was .15, well over the .08 designation for being legally drunk.
While McAfee’s behavior doesn’t rise to the level of beating up a girlfriend or firing a weapon in public, most would agree drinking alcohol to the point of making really stupid decisions is no laughing matter. And when you’re a public figure who plays a game watched by countless youngsters each week, that makes the matter even more serious.
This isn’t the first time a Colts player has run afoul of the law. The team has at times distanced itself from such players. Other times, they’ve given their scofflaw team members a second chance.
He obviously doesn’t mean as much to the Colts as Peyton Manning or Dwight Freeney, but McAfee is a promising, young kicker. Colts owner Jim Irsay and President Bill Polian have an interesting decision to make this week.
We’ll see how Colts fans will react. Winning has a way of soothing city residents’ ire over such incidents. But make no mistake, a number of high-profile misdeeds by professional athletes in this city has made sports followers hyper-sensitive to such things.
While the fans might forgive—as long as the team is winning—they won’t soon forget. A bevy of bad will simmering just below the surface of a Super Bowl contender could come back to bite the team when they’re not so good.
One thing is certain. Irsay and Polian know how hard it is to build a team’s image, especially in a relatively conservative city like Indianapolis.
And you can bet they won’t be laughing this incident off.