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Mile High Sports

Knudson: Monfort is no laughing matter

This past Monday night wasn’t a good one for Colorado Rockies co-owner Charlie Monfort. We don’t know what happened earlier in the evening or why; we just know that sometime that night Monfort was arrested in Windsor, not far from his Greeley residence, on a DUI charge.

It’s not his first brush with the law that involved alcohol. As one close observer of the Rockies pointed out on Twitter, “This was absolutely no secret. Why wait until something like this happens to acknowledge the issue?”

Others on Twitter chose to take the opportunity to pile on by reiterating their displeasure about the way the Monfort family runs the Rockies, as if somehow baseball and what could turn out to be a life-and-death medical struggle are in any way intertwined.

Neither I nor anyone else on the “outside” is in any position to presume that Charlie has a problem with alcohol. We simply don’t know. But as the tweet referenced implies, and with this being a repeat offense, there is ample reason for concern about Charlie’s well being, which is what’s most important.

This is not about the Colorado Rockies team or organization in any way. This is not about how the franchise is run. This is not about needing more pitching or a more experienced manager or a better farm system or anything else baseball-related. This is only about it being possible that a good, decent man could be facing the fight of his life.

Most people who actually know Charlie Monfort personally like him very much. He’s one of those people who is hard not to like. I can’t recall a time I’ve spent with Charlie that he didn’t have a smile on his face. My family still gets a Christmas card from him every December.

Of course as a public figure, Charlie is open to criticism like everyone else. It’s very fair to criticize and critique the Monfort’s ownership of the Rockies. Not many – including me – agree with everything they do as they operate our local Major League Baseball franchise. While we should continue to give them credit for bringing (and keeping) Major League Baseball to Denver two decades ago, we have the right to voice our concerns and opinions on how they are running the team. That’s the nature of ownership in professional sports. It goes with the territory.

But at some point, there needs to be a line drawn between legitimate criticism of job performance and making light of someone’s possible struggle with the deadly disease of addiction. The two things are NOT linked. Just because you dislike the way the Rockies ownership handles the team’s payroll doesn’t mean this is the appropriate time to make jokes about “rehab camp.”

Some have compared Monfort’s situation to that of Von Miller or even Todd Helton, two prominent Denver professional athletes who have had similar situations arise in the last calendar year. Both Miller and Helton were the butt of hundreds of jokes and barbs after they were caught smoking too much dope (Miller) or having one too many glasses of wine (Helton) before getting behind the wheel. Miller paid a pretty steep price (six games on the sidelines) and Helton will have to live with that mug shot the rest of his life. Both men made bad decisions, but neither is seen as someone with a debilitating drug or alcohol issue moving forward. It appears that for both, these were mistakes they can rectify with good decisions in the future.

But when a situation is more than “just” a first time drinking-and-driving bust (thankfully no one was injured in Monfort’s case), when it becomes a pattern of behavior that can lead to the darkest of dark places – the disease of addiction – then any humorous part to the story vanishes. Addiction is a life-threatening medical disease that kills tens of thousands of people every year. It’s not funny.

Again, I don’t know if Charlie Monfort would be classified as an alcoholic or not. I’m not close enough to the situation to be able to say. All I know is that given what the public at-large knows and has seen to this point, the time for jokes about the matter has passed.

In a statement released by the club, Monfort stated that he would, “do what’s necessary to deal with my problem.” That’s an important pledge.

If you’ve seen the television show “Intervention,” then you know that the person afflicted has to be willing to get help before anything can change. It’s very possible for those around the addict to want that person to get help, but they remain powerless unless the person with the disease is willing. For that reason, criticisms of those around Charlie for not “doing something sooner” are also unfair at this point. We don’t know what the Monfort’s inner circle has done or will do in the immediate future about Charlie’s “problem.” All we can do is hope that he’s able to get the immediate help he needs and that he’s willing to continue to do everything that’s necessary to save his life from this day forward.

This isn’t a baseball issue. It’s a human issue. All of us, including unhappy fans, need to be able to see the difference.

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