April 1, 2013

New Zealand cricket

Ryder assault had everything to do with alcohol

Samir Chopra
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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Keywords: Drinking, Drugs

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Posted by Clyde on (April 4, 2013, 16:07 GMT)

A lot of us have a glass of wine with dinner and this is thought of as civilized and wine is something to read about in coffee-table books. We don't think of getting up and hitting someone. Are we to think there is a different kind of glass of something alcoholic that can sometimes have a connection with violence? Or are we to understand pub drinking is a cover for violence, just as afternoon tea can be a cover for having a pleasant rest and a chat? I am not sure the judgment in the forthcoming court case will reflect the nature of the 'relatedness' of violence and alcohol. If light is thrown on this at Cricinfo, I cannot see the objection on the grounds that it is not cricket.

Posted by True-Analyst on (April 3, 2013, 9:54 GMT)

Off course it is cricket related, because NZCPA is trying to defend the incident being non-alcoholic to bypass the ICC and other cricket governing bodies to take action against a player. I think still we are stuck to cricket here. Indeed a nice article.....

Posted by soumyas on (April 3, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

combination of violent mind and alcohol is dangerous for sure, i wish jesse recovers completely to be fit enough to play. but looking at his past records...he is no saint.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2013, 19:39 GMT)

Thugs don't need alcohol to be thuggish, who's to say whether the thugs in question that night were drinking or not? Even if they had there's a fair chance that played no part in the incident, as it has been said alcohol does not stimulate violence. What if Jesse and his team mates had one or two? It was after the last game of the season, understandable I think.

Posted by SeamingWicket on (April 2, 2013, 14:25 GMT)

Why are people nitpicking over this article? Perhaps they feel that the author is suggesting a ban on drinking Alcohol does not directly make someone violent But it sure helps create the conditions inside the persons body There is no need for scientific evidence and data for this Its common sense We all know it We all see this nonsense unfold all across the globe

Posted by njr1330 on (April 2, 2013, 10:54 GMT)

Samir, you are medically and psychologically wrong. Alcohol is a depressant and a disinhibitor. The alcohol does not make you violent. The alcohol takes away the barrier which usually exists between your violence and the world: people hit others because they are psychotic, not because they are drunk; it is simply that the one often exposes the other.

Posted by py0alb on (April 2, 2013, 9:47 GMT)

"let us not fool ourselves about the extensive correlation between alcohol consumption and violence"

No lets not fool ourselves, because the scientific data is overwhelmingly clear: there is no such correlation. The actual physiological effects of alcohol are to reduce aggression.

Please try and get your facts in order before resorting to ignorant scaremongering.

Posted by sharidas on (April 2, 2013, 9:25 GMT)

Good article for general reading. I would prefer not to read too much into the assumptions. Sportsmen or not Alcohol in excess always invite trouble. As per the reports there were three people in this incident - two commoners and one player. Had it not been for Ryder's involvement, this matter would not have attracted much attention. Mind a bar even a teetotaller could get involved.

Posted by TheCricketeer on (April 2, 2013, 8:31 GMT)

Is this a cricket site or a platform to pronounce our personal moral views. This article has nothing to do with cricket or the Ryder incident. The fact that I agree with most of what you said is kind of irrelevant. Can we stick to cricket here?

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Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra is professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He blogs at His collection of essays on cricket, Eye on Cricket: Reflections on The Great Game, has been published by HarperCollins. @EyeonthePitch

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