Bob Nightengale has a good article up today talking about the culture of alcohol in the clubhouse:
“I lived a lifestyle like 90% of ballplayers,” Proctor says. “You sat around and had six beers after a game, went to dinner and had another six, and then guys are calling you to a bar where you’re drinking more.
“That wasn’t right. I know it wasn’t right for me. But as far as guys talking about the game over a few beers, I really think baseball misses that.”
That excerpt pretty much groks the entire nature of the thing. An alcoholic noting that the old ways of teams abiding heavy drinking among ballplayers are all but resigned to history, noting that it’s for the best, but also noting that something has been lost as a result.
The article itself doesn’t go into it, but obviously good things are gained too. Things which far outweigh that loss of beery camaraderie. Like fitter athletes who do not drive while drunk at rates that their predecessors likely did. Indeed, Nightegale points out something I hadn’t noticed: we’ve only had one DUI incident this spring training, involving a minor leaguer. Seems like most years we have many more. Perhaps players are starting to get the message.
Something else I like about the story is how Proctor and even Mark Grace, who is currently serving time in jail for drunk driving, don’t make the change in clubhouse drinking culture out to be some stark good vs. evil thing. Rather, they acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, even if they are necessary. I know that there are many ways to sobriety and responsible drinking for those who have trouble with alcohol, but sometimes I wonder if casting drinking into a stark good/evil light like some people do make said sobriety and responsibility harder for some folks, especially those who aren’t equipped to handle self-criticism and self-examination that they feel may force them to deny a part of their past was a mixed bag even if they were on a bad path. I’m sure Scott Proctor has some good memories of his drinking days. It seems healthy to me that he can look back fondly on some of them even if he knows he can’t ever relive them lest he risk everything.
Sorry, I know that was a bit of a tangent. But I tend to like stories where the moral is kind of ambivalent like this. Given how complicated most things in life are, there should be more of them.