WWE superstar Jack Swagger has been busted for driving under the influence and carrying weed.
My initial reaction was "Dumbass." After all, he was resurrected from creative purgatory, paired with a volatile mouthpiece named Zeb Colter and pushed into a main event title run that was widely expected to culminate in a big-money match at this year's WrestleMania.
That's a lot to lose.
I used to be a 'firing squad' type of guy. If somebody stepped on their own dick, fuck 'em, they should've watched where they were walking. I had a zero tolerance policy for mistakes, as well as for poor choices. Why can't everyone be as perfect as me?
It even cost me a job.
Not one I already had, mind you, one I should have had. With a college degree and time spent in the armed forces, I was on the fast-track to big things in the world of corporate security and a recommendation from a top name in the industry didn't hurt.
I interviewed with a national corporation for a high-level position and after an intensive round of interviews, including one in front of a three-member panel, I thought I nailed it. You can imagine my surprise when my resume was put out to pasture.
Despite my credentials, I was still missing something.
During the interview process, the department director told me about an employee that had been with the company for many years. He was given a big promotion and over the past few months, his work began to decline. One day, he was caught sleeping at his desk and was subsequently drug tested.
In addition, drugs were found in his desk and he nearly cost the company a major account because of his addiction. The director asked me straight up, how I would have dealt with this employee, who had what amounts to an open-and-shut case.
"I would have terminated him immediately," was my response.
That's why I didn't get the job, I later learned. I didn't get the job because, in his words, I had all the skills to become a great leader and a fantastic addition to the organization. What I didn't have, was compassion. I understood the security business, but I didn't understand the people business.
He was right.
I didn't understand how this employee would have lost more than his job. How he would have lost his medical benefits for his children and the ability to pay his mortgage, all because he went off the rails somewhere along the way. Had the company pushed him too hard? Were the working conditions conducive to this type of behavior?
To understand the problem, we have to understand the person.
Truth be told, I probably should have known. My dad was an alcoholic for most of his adult life. I spent the first 20 years of my life being afraid of him. I spent the past 20 feeling sorry for him. I thought he drank because he was a loser who couldn't get it together.
It never occurred to me that maybe it was the only thing that kept him from eating a bullet.
The old man had fucked up and gotten his girlfriend (mom) pregnant at 18 and was forced to take a job with the phone company. A utility? A union? Isn't that a good thing? Sure, until you climb a telephone pole in high wind when it's 20 degrees below zero (winter) and descend into a dank manhole when the mercury hits 102 (summer).
It was a grueling, thankless job.
No skills, no education, no nothing. He was trapped and didn't know how to cope. Alcohol was his answer. How he made it 30 years without crashing his utility truck and killing someone is one of life's great mysteries. It's also a mystery as to what prompted Jack Swagger to self-medicate and get behind the wheel.
So too, is the best way to handle the promotion's response.
What's missing from this story is not Jack Swagger the wrestler, it's Jack Swagger the man. Was the former champion acting like a frat-boy douche, sucking down shots and blowing rings of smoke up some hooker's ass? In that case, throw the book at him.
But what if...
What if Swagger is afraid of failing. What if he realizes this is his big moment and if he fucks it up, he's going to be future endeavored, relegated to high school wrestling gyms or shoving matches with Virgil over how much to charge for autographs.
Maybe he doesn't know how to cope.
In that case, WWE needs to reconsider its next move. Is it irresponsible to leave Swagger in the big picture or trivialize his offense by incorporating it into a storyline? Perhaps. We're not talking about the recreational use of drugs and alcohol at a friend's bachelor party.
We're talking about driving under the influence, which leads to more deaths than just about, well, anything.
And let's not forget this is an industry decimated by tragedies that all stem from -- yup -- drug and alcohol abuse. That's a continuing problem and one that can't be whitewashed by an arbitrary wellness policy. I don't know what the right move is going forward and judging by this recent poll, a lot of other Cagesiders don't, either.
We can't possibly have all the answers all the time and I don't believe in a "one policy fits all" type of disciplinary program. Some guys are just jerks who don't care about anybody but themselves. Other guys want to do the right thing but don't know how, or have already succumbed to addiction.
But you can't save everyone.
My personal opinion is that Swagger -- assuming he needs real help and isn't just a schmuck -- should be replaced by Mark Henry on the road to WrestleMania, to allow him the opportunity to get clean and give it one more go. The chaotic world of pro wrestling, which manufactures as many addicts as it does champions, owes him at least that.
That's a fact, Jack.