Irsay opens up regarding addiction, agrees to random drug testing

Sean Gardner

Irsay: "These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases,"

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star was granted an exclusive interview with Colts owner Jim Irsay recently. This sit down was the first Irsay had engaged in with a member of the media since his embarrassing arrest on March 16th for driving while under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.

The interview is revealing in that Irsay admitted:

  • That he often drives around with a large suitcase of cash
  • That he has agreed to random drug testing with the prosecutor's office, and that the results of that testing will be shared with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
  • That despite turning the team over to his eldest daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, while in rehab, Jim was still involved in team operations during that time.

Irsay also spoke abut the dangers of addiction and how the disease of addiction is treated with less seriousness than illnesses like cancer.

"These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases," Irsay said during a two-hour interview in his office Monday. "People shy away from seeking help because it's viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they've lost their way. I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you're talking about alcoholism and addiction; it's not like you're battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that. But even in 2014, there's still this stigma.

Like most diseases, alcoholism and addiction can run in the family. For the Irsay bloodline, this is an unfortunate and sad truth:

My grandfather and father both died of the disease, and you realize you've spent a lot of time on this path. Certainly, I have. But with the disease, surgery and pain management can be very tricky waters."

Overall, the interview is interesting and provides some insights into Irsay's personal demons. However, despite granting Kravitz two hours of his time, Irsay did not use any of it to issue a simple apology to fans, the city of Indianapolis, or the NFL for his embarrassing arrest that will, likely, make him lighter in the wallet after Commissioner Goodell issues his final punishment under the league's personal conduct policy.

Irsay will also likely receive a suspension, and, unlike while Irsay was in rehab, when Goodell suspends Irsay he will be 100% cutoff from any decision-making pertaining to the franchise.

Here's Kravitz on Irsay not apologizing:

I asked him if he felt he needed to apologize to Colts fans, to the league, to anybody.

"I don't think that's something I'll address right now," he said. "There are certain things I want to say that I can't say. We need to let the process go forward and I'll address that later. I'm a human being; if there's something I have to apologize for, I would, but at this point it wouldn't be appropriate. It sets me up, like if you don't say you're sorry, then why aren't you saying your sorry, and if you say you're sorry, then you must have done something wrong."

Chris Burke of SI had the strongest salvo launched at Irsay after the 54-year-old owner refused to say "sorry" for his arrest.

There is a way to say "I’m sorry that this happened" without burying himself in the eyes of the court or casting himself as a villain. Players are held accountable when they slip up. Coaches, too. Irsay is not exempt of those expectations simply because he stands in a position further up the totem pole.

When does it become fair to expect him to react as such?

Obviously, we all want Jim Irsay to stay sober, be healthy, and be happy. However, while many fans sympathize with Irsay's plight, the reality is that he chose to overuse his medication and he chose to get in a car and drive while impaired. People with cancer or bi-polar disorder did not choose their diseases. While addiction and alcoholism are indeed inherited illnesses that should be treated humanly like other deadly diseases, anyone who has taken part in a twelve-step-like program knows that the first thing an addict needs to do to get sober is to choose to stop using.

It is from that simple, yet agonizing choice that recovery begins.

Making amends is another part of the recovery process, and it seems that Irsay isn't ready to do that just yet. It's a shame, and I honestly don't disagree with Chris Burke's strong take on the Colts' owner right now.

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