Wilson's Word: NFL didn't go easy on Irsay

Colts owner Jim Irsay's 6-game suspension, $500,000 fine was fair punishment for violating personal conduct policy.

When you’re rich, and I’m sure Colts owner Jim Irsay learned this a long time ago, you will always have your critics and they will never cut you an ounce of slack when you make a mistake.

I knew whenever the NFL handed down its punishment for Irsay violating the league’s personal conduct policy, it didn’t matter what it was, some people would be quick to say it wasn’t enough.

Save that for someone else, please. I might not be right on every opinion, but I stick to what I believe and you aren’t going to sway me on this one.

Critics looking to sound intelligent will say that Irsay’s six-game suspension and $500,000 fine was another example of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell being soft. I don’t see it that way. If you want soft, look at the two-game suspension given to Baltimore running back Ray Rice for domestic violence, a punishment the Commish has already admitted was a mistake, and the league has since instituted stiffer penalties for such violations. Six games first offense, lifetime ban for a second.

What surprises me is how insensitive and harsh the public can be when it comes to Irsay. It makes me a homer to write this, but I can tell you I’ve never met a more generous eccentric in all my life. And I know a few people who are wealthy. They don’t have to care about us, and most of them don’t.

But Irsay has always wanted to be connected to the fans. That’s why he’s enjoyed Twitter and built such a large following of 270,000-plus. For the record, that’s also part of his punishment. No comments on social media about the Colts or the NFL.

Aside from the Twitter give-aways and this man sharing his thoughts in tweets, just consider this before rushing to judgment on his punishment.

Irsay has been battling an addiction to pain medication for a long time. Some don’t see this as a disease, but I can tell you from having a wife pharmacist and a brother doctor that it most certainly is that.

Those who think it’s just a matter of not swallowing a painkiller are ignorant.

Maybe they live a charmed life, and don’t ever have to take anything for pain. Sorry, but I prefer to live without it as much as humanly possible.

When a tooth hurts, I take something for it. If the back flairs up, take something. Allergies? Take a pill. Diabetes? Take pills and shoot myself twice a day with insulin.

Irsay has been dealing with chronic orthopedic pain for years. He’s had a hip replaced after months of trying to gut it out and avoid the procedure. You can see his discomfort when he walks. He hasn’t looked well. And he hasn’t been for quite some time. He looks tired. How many times have you seen the man and thought, “He looks a lot older than 55.”

So go ahead, critics, take your shots. Many of you are hypocrites who forget how you need that little caffeine shot to start your day. Or you don’t recall how you took something the last time you were in pain.

Irsay’s affliction is very real and chronic, and he did what any of us normal people would do. He took something to manage that pain.

I’m not excusing him breaking the law. He screwed up when he drove a car that March night. He deserved to be punished, and now he has been. He’s admitted his serious error in judgment and apologized.

“I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere,” Irsay said in a statement released by the team.

What more should any of us want? Seriously.

Since Irsay was a 12-year-old Colts ball boy, he’s grown up in the NFL culture. It’s become everything he’s about. Aside from family, the Colts are what he loves more than anything. He’s never missed a game in more than three decades, so taking it away from him for six games is just punishment. The money doesn’t matter. His track record for donating to charities and helping people in need has been widely publicized — I’ve been asked not to write about some endeavors because he didn’t do the right thing for the publicity.

Now he must sit back and watch like most fans. That, make no mistake, will be painful.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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