New Zealand cricket April 1, 2013

Ryder assault had everything to do with alcohol

Soon after news of Jesse Ryder's terrible injuries made the news, we were assured by the NZCPA and Cricket Wellington that the violent assault on him was 'not an alcohol-related incident.'

In describing this incident as not being 'alcohol-related', NZCPA and Cricket Wellington are misspeaking © Getty Images

Soon after news of Jesse Ryder's terrible injuries made the news, we were assured by the NZCPA and Cricket Wellington that the violent assault on him was 'not an alcohol-related incident.' I presume that we are being reassured that Ryder was not drunk and he did not start the fight, so that those who remember his previous alcohol-infused altercations will not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions.

I have to admit though that I am a bit nonplussed by that statement. The fight started in a bar, a commercial establishment where, among other things, alcohol is served. I presume Ryder was drinking a beer, perhaps his first of the night, perhaps not. It is also a reasonable conclusion that his companions were drinking as well. One of them might have taken on designated driver duties for the night. And lastly, one can reasonably surmise that those who attacked Ryder were drinking too. Alcohol, as a drug that impairs judgment, and produces interesting psychological and physiological effects in those who consume it, was in the mix all right.

It is a sad commonplace that bars require bouncers not just to check IDs but to, you know, 'bounce' the unruly, aggressive, and hostile out on their rear-ends, through the bar door. And an anthropologist from Mars, if brought in to conduct a field study or two on Earth, would, if his investigations ran long enough, surely report back to his grant agency on the Red Planet that the males of the human species have a strange habit of congregating indoors to drink copious amounts of amber fluid, an activity which is often followed by several varieties of verbal abuse, aggressive posturing and physical conflict.

Alcohol doesn't just result in embarrassing sexual encounters and unplanned pregnancies; quite often, it results in fist on jaw or nose, or boot on head. It often makes the meek presumptuous and the formerly passive aggressive into the actively so. Without having been in the Christchurch bar that night, it would not be an absurd conclusion to draw that the fight began because someone, his lips loosened by the brew, said something a little edgy, which was found to be objectionable by someone whose sensibility had been acutely sharpened by the alcohol consumed that night. Call this conjecture if you like, but like I said, it is not an absurd abductive inference to draw. It is also not absurd to speculate that Ryder was picked on precisely because the media coverage of his past had emphasized his drinking ways.

David Hookes' death was alcohol-related--an incident bearing shocking parallels to Ryder's case - as was Tom Maynard's. In the latter's case, the presence of ecstasy obscured the simple, tragic fact at the heart of that story: people on ecstasy do not stumble onto train tracks but drunks frequently do

I appreciate NZCPA and Cricket Wellington's attempt to ensure that Ryder's name is not besmirched, that insult is not added to injury. But in describing this incident as not being 'alcohol-related' they are misspeaking. This had everything to do with alcohol. There is a reason why we do not hear with such monotonous frequency of similarly violent encounters in fish and chips establishments or Amsterdam coffee shops.

David Hookes' death was alcohol-related--an incident bearing shocking parallels to Ryder's case - as was Tom Maynard's. In the latter's case, the presence of ecstasy obscured the simple, tragic fact at the heart of that story: people on ecstasy do not stumble onto train tracks but drunks frequently do. If driving while drunk is dangerous, so is walking. (Maynard apparently drank four beers, two shots and ten glasses of vodka and Red Bull that fatal night.)

The modern cricketer is subject to severe sanctions if he indulges in recreational--but not performance-enhancing drugs like marijuana or cocaine while alcohol, if I'm not mistaken, continues to be welcome in dressing rooms and as part of post-game celebrations. Meanwhile, his media profile ensures that he continues to present an inviting target to drunks in public venues like bars. Perhaps the time is not too far when cricketers will only be able to drink in public while accompanied by bodyguards.

In the meantime, let us not fool ourselves about the extensive correlation between alcohol consumption and violence. Cricketers would do well to brush up on the relevant statistics the next time they sally out to the nearest bar counter.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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