This hasn't been a fun day to be a Colts fan.
It's really not that I'm embarrassed as a fan of the team, and it's not that there might be repercussions for the franchise, either. The reason it has been a hard day to be a Colts fan for me is because it's a day where Jim Irsay's struggles became public and it has really weighed on me today that he needs help.
Late Sunday night, Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay was arrested in Carmel, Indiana, for driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance. He spent several hours in jail before being released this afternoon, and his preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 26. He faces four felony counts of possession and one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Overall, the fans and media have been pretty good about the subject, desiring to see Irsay get better. Still, there were some comments and jokes that were distasteful, and it is clear that right now we don't need to be making jokes or comments about the Colts owner but rather lending our support and our prayers.
In 2002, Irsay publicly announced that he had undergone a month-long stint in a rehab facility to overcome an addiction to painkiller drugs and alcohol. He said last fall that he hadn't drank since then, and indeed that might be so - he wasn't legally drunk and instead was believed to be under the influence of pills when arrested late Sunday night. According to the Carmel Police Department report,
"During the inventory of Irsay's vehicle, multiple prescription drugs were discovered in pill bottles. These Schedule IV prescription drugs were not associated with any prescription bottles found in the vehicle. He was also charged with Possession of Controlled Substance (I.C. 35-48-4-7 (A) /D-Felony, 4-counts)."
One thing is clear, and that is that Irsay needs help. He has a drug problem, and as the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz wrote in a very well written article on Irsay this afternoon,
"That doesn't make him a bad man, just a troubled one, one who has been in and out of rehab on multiple occasions, one who needs to get himself some help again if he wants to be alive for the Colts next Super Bowl.
"This is not written in anger. It's written with compassion - although if he'd hurt someone while driving, it would take on a different tone. This is a man in the throes of addiction, a disease he's been fighting for years and years with mixed results.
"Now comes the wake-up call."
That's what I sincerely hope this is - a wake up call. His actions are inexcusable, no doubt. What he did was dangerous and could have killed or badly injured someone, and there is no excuse for that behavior. At the same time, however, his actions currently are dangerous to himself and they could end up killing or badly injuring himself if he doesn't stop it and get help.
Sometimes the turning point is when something like this happens, and I sincerely hope that is the case for Jim Irsay. It has been clear for a while that something wasn't right. Irsay is a man who has had many troubles and trials recently, including hip surgery, a divorce from his wife Meg (although they hadn't been living together for some time), and now this. All along, it was clear to anyone paying attention to Irsay that there was something wrong. He lost, as Kravitz said, 70 pounds, going from 235 pounds to 165 pounds. The 54-year old didn't look great when we saw him, and I received many questions about what was wrong with him. I wasn't going to say anything publicly about it because it's not my place, but let's just say it wasn't a huge secret that Irsay needed help. The Colts were trying to get him to get it, and hopefully now he finally will.
Before the Colts played in the Super Bowl in 2007, Irsay opened up about his past addictions. He had a long-time addiction to painkillers before going into rehab in 2002, and his father Robert also had a history with an alcohol addiction. In 2007, Irsay was willing to talk openly about his past and he said that,
"It's a lifelong thing. It's something you deal with every day for the rest of your life. For me, it's been tremendous, because when you overcome a potentially fatal disease, it gives you such gratitude. It gives you such appreciation for different things. It gives you a lot of humility and you root for others who have to go through it."
Irsay is a genuinely good guy who has some demons that have risen up again. He has been a great influence in the city of Indianapolis and has developed a tremendous reputation for helping people. Now, however, it's time to help himself. Under the NFL's personal conduct policy (which applies to owners, too), the league has the right to force a violator to undergo treatment, and however it comes about I sincerely hope that Irsay gets help.
It's not about being around to run the team - there are plenty of capable people who can step in and do so. His daughters, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt, and Kalen Irsay are all vice chairs/owners of the team and have continued to have a bigger role in running the team as time has gone on and will eventually take over for their father. Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward could also help run things, and Jim Irsay has always been great to let his football people do their jobs, so Ryan Grigson could continue to do his job as general manager. The Colts would love to have their owner around, but right now that's not the first priority - they want to make sure he's around for as long as possible, including, as Kravitz wrote, their next Super Bowl championship.
It's time to get some help, whether the NFL forces him to or not. The Colts have been trying to get him to for quite some time, and perhaps this arrest will finally be the thing that convinces him to do so. We can certainly hope that is the case. There are plenty of questions surrounding the football side of things, most notably how harshly and to what degree NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will come down on the issue - it's almost guaranteed that there will be at least some consequences. But while there might be a time for that and while those are unanswered questions, hopefully this arrest is an answer for Jim Irsay that it's time to get some help.
Jim Irsay is a tremendous NFL owner and a good guy who made some mistakes but more significantly is struggling with another addiction and is battling his personal demons once again. I'll continue to offer him my support and my prayers, and I sincerely hope that he gets the help he needs. As hard and not fun as this day might have been as a Colts fan, it's much better to be a Colts fan because of Jim Irsay and what he has done and I hope that he gets the help he needs so that he can continue to be around for a long time. Hopefully, the hard events of this day will serve as a wake up call for him.