A "Zest for Life" is a Path to Death
Earlier this spring, a 13-year National Hockey League veteran was killed when his pickup truck "went out of control and rolled." Initial accounts on the sports pages mentioned that "teammates and family members" remembered the player as having a "zest for life." For those who don't understand sport- speak, having a zest for life is a euphemism for what would be called a drinking problem in other quarters. Life j also frequently engage in other death-defying behaviors.
Sure enough, when the toxicology report came in, the defenseman was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.27. For those of you who are not familiar with blood alcohol terminology, it might be instructive to examine what these numbers equate to. A normal-sized Notre Dame male student consuming 3 to 4 drinks over a several- hour period, while munching down a medium pepperoni pizza, should safely blow less than a .08 — which is becoming the new presumptive standard for intoxication.
Once above .10 (called point-one-oh in copspeak), a person enters into that phase where he thinks he is REALLY funny/attractive to women/macho/adept at driving fast/better able to call plays than Coach Davie/ etc. This is the dangerous zone, especially when combined with a fast moving automobile.
In the case I am writing about, this guy's blood alcohol was at 0.27, a place otherwise known as "where Rod Serling hung out." This guy was no longer zesting for life — he was on an inexorable path to the end of his life.
As if our life zester wasn't treading on unsafe enough ground, he decided that he was too tough to need a seat belt. No police officer in America will be surprised to learn that the next zest our boy felt was the exhilaration of being airborne. These out-of-truck landings seldom end well for the humans involved, since most objects which break their fall (e.g. roads, trees, vehicles, etc.) are relatively immovable and will usually break lots of body parts instead.
Four times during the past two years, Notre Dame student security workers have done surveys of campus seat belt usage as part of a federal study. The compliance with Indiana law (and respect for the laws of immovable objects) is pretty good among the Notre Dame family. We're generally between 70 and 75 percent at our test locations (although varsity athletes seem to be lower, with football players having the most zest for life).
The saddest\ part of the news accounts of the puckster's death was the mention of his children, aged 7, 4 and 2. They will grow up with only dim memories of their father. When they are old enough to understand, I bet they will wish that their dad had MORE zest for their lives and less zest for Budweiser.
Not long after I wrote the above, another NHL defenseman died when he fell out of a boat and was struck by its propeller. According to press accounts, the player was accompanied by "a local woman identified as Michelle Monroe, who had met the player on the beach" and "alcohol was consumed by the boating party." There was no mention of "zest for life," but I presume that's one of the reasons he brought along Michelle Monroe (Nominal Determinism: Kim Dunbar's best friend).
It takes courage to resist peer pressure surrounding drinking. Pro athletes and college students often have trouble resisting these urges. Once entering the "zest for life" zone, few people have the capability to think and act reasonably. The only explanation why MORE persons aren't killed and maimed by excessive imbibing is the presence of good angels looking over them.
In a recent Ann Landers column, a reader wrote that he had learned his lesson after causing the serious injury of two persons as the result of a DUI with felony assault. He wrote that his blood alcohol level was .330 (a little bit shy of comatose). He stated that he has lost his license, job, fiancé, home and self-respect. His final statement was that he will take a taxi the next time he has too much to drink. Yep, I'm sure of it. After he belts down his eighth shot of Yukon Jack, he'll be very clear-headed, while he looks for Michelle Monroe to go for a boat ride or play hockey.
Within days of finishing this column, a veteran NFL football lineman suffered the "near amputation" of his right arm, following a car accident. The driver was going at a fast rate of speed (surprise No. 1) and the two injured players were NOT wearing their seat belts (color me shocked!) and were ejected from the car.
The next time you're at an event where alcohol is present, please exercise some restraint. Think of your future children. You don't want to be in an Ann Landers column! And, whether inebriated or not, PLEASE buckle up!
Cappy Gagnon,'66, is the Coordinator of Stadium personnel. He often went without wearing his seat belt, until his 10-year-old daughter, Marnie, asked him to buckle up.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 6, 1999