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Sympathy after arrest fine, but what if Irsay was a player?

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Double standard.

That thought just won’t go away as I listen to people weigh in on the DWI arrest of Colts owner Jim Irsay.

The empathy and sympathy are real and profound.

“He needs help.” “A sick, sick man.” “Hope Irsay continues to get help.” “(He) has his demons like so many of us.”

The clips from tweets, blogs and columns offer an array of understanding and support.

“Jim Irsay has done a lot of good for the Indy community over the years. Hope folks can show a little compassion for someone with some issues,” a central Indiana columnist wrote.

That is just as it should be.

We all — certainly me included — offer our heartfelt prayers that Irsay finds his way back from what appears to be a longtime battle with addiction.

And, we hope that support makes a difference.

What I am about to say next takes away none of that.

Irsay deserves all the prayers and karma sent his way.

But why does this reaction seem like the exception, not the rule?

Where is all that sympathy and support when it is a player who is behind the wheel during an DWI arrest?

Why is indignation, not insight, the immediate response?

“I’m seeing a lot more forgiveness and ‘I hope he gets help’ tweets for Jim Irsay than I’ve ever seen for a player who gets arrested,” said Michael David Smith, managing editor of Pro Football Talk.

He’s right.

All too often, drug problems among athletes are a topic for public derision and ridicule. “How could he/she?” we decry, ticking off all the advantages to playing a game that pays millions.

We clamor for punishment more than perspective. We worry about maturity. We cry for consequences. We plead for an example to be set.

Remember the string of four Colts players with DUIs over the summer of 2010, punctuated by the canal dip of punter Pat McAfee? Our concern then was a lack of discipline, clubhouse chemistry and players who were not good role models.

Too often, athletes are fungible parts; if one has a problem, simply replace it with another.

In essence, we are eager to assess blame and worry about everything but the person.

Now, with Irsay, we see a reversal. Fans and pundits alike have responded with support and earnest well-wishes for the Colts owner.

That is as it should be.

“Deepest thx to family, friends, fans, colleagues for the messages of support, thoughts and prayers. Impossible to tell u how much this means,” Irsay tweeted before going into rehab.

It is going to take that support from those around him to get him through a reported decades-long battle with addiction.

Certainly, that support will come with consequences as the NFL determines how to fairly apply its substance abuse policy to an owner.

For now, though, the issue is Irsay’s health. Get help and get better. You are a person first and a team owner second.

Next time a player falls into the depths of addiction, let’s hope the standard is the same.

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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