He may not realize it yet.
Being arrested in the middle of the night, charged with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance, and then being hauled off to jail, is the sort of event that can provoke a wide range of emotions.
Anger for feeling victimized.
Shame for being in that situation.
Fear of what’s going to happen next.
But the deeper truth of Irsay’s saga is that if the charges prove true, he should seek out the officers that pulled him over, shake their hands and express his gratitude.
They may well have saved his life, and quite possibly others.
This is not Irsay’s first brush with trouble, when it comes to addiction. He admitted to a problem with prescription painkillers more than a decade ago and sought treatment.
In an investigation of Irsay’s issues at the time in 2002, WTHR reported Irsay underwent substance abuse treatment at least four times, and suffered overdoses from prescription drugs three times in 2000-01.
Much time has passed since then but the problems apparently lingered.
In recent years, we’ve watched as Irsay’s physical appearance declined dramatically, giving him the look of a man much, much older than 54, and wondered what was the cause.
We’ve read the occasionally incoherent and often baffling posts on Twitter and wondered about the impetus.
We’ve heard the long, rambling answers to simple questions that have occasionally created their own controversies – like the time last season he was asked about the Colts’ victory over Seattle and responded with a lengthy, controversial missive that indirectly criticized Peyton Manning for only winning one Super Bowl in his years with the team – and wondered why he has never been able to develop a verbal filter.
Now comes the arrest early Monday morning in Carmel.
In addition to the legal issues, Irsay faces the possibility of punishment from the NFL, because the league’s drug policies extend beyond the locker room to the front office. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended 30 days and fined $100,000 after a DUI conviction in 2010.
As for the Colts themselves, the franchise issued the following statement Monday morning:
“We are gathering information at this time regarding last night’s incident involving Jim Irsay. The team will issue additional statements when the facts are sorted and we are aware of the next steps to this process. Many fans have reached out to express their concern and we appreciate their support.”
Then came this followup statement in the late afternoon, after Irsay was released from custody:
“The Club continues to fully support Mr. Irsay but must refrain from commenting further at least until formal charges have been filed. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday, March 26.”
This is much more about Irsay than the franchise he owns. Though it is a public relations challenge for the Colts, the trauma is personal, not professional. The front office will continue to operate as it has and the players will be largely unaffected, as long as the checks don’t bounce.
Irsay, on the other hand, cannot continue conducting his personal business as usual. This is more about salvation than punishment. Fourteen hours in a jail cell should open even the most cloudy eyes to the need for help.
Irsay’s night could’ve ended up a whole lot worse, had police not intervened.
So, yes, he is a lucky man.
Luckier still if this event helps save Irsay from himself.