Surely, Damon Evans noticed. He had to absorb the news at some point -- via TV, the Internet, newspaper or perhaps in casual conversation with his wife.
The death of Jordan Griner had to enter his consciousness.
And still the Georgia athletic director still got behind the wheel of a car last week with, Evans admitted in the police report, three martinis in him. Never mind, for now, the passenger seat of his BMW was occupied by a 28-year-old woman not his wife. Or that he had, according to police, a pair of red panties between his legs.
|Damon Evans announced his resignation as Georgia's athletic director on Monday. (AP)|
The sin of it all had to be that Damon Evans had to know about Jordan Griner, and still allegedly drove while intoxicated. Only 11 days before Evans' arrest, Griner had been the designated driver, taking friends home from a party in Atlanta when he was killed by an alleged drunk driver. Police say 26-year-old Christa Scott had about three times the legal limit of alcohol in her at 4 a.m. that day when she ran a red right and her 2002 Mustang hit Griner's own Mustang.
Let that sink in: The designated driver doing everything right vs. a reported .229 blood alcohol count.
Evans had to know because this is the kind of story that tears your heart out beyond the original headline. Griner, 24, was an up-and-coming intern in the office of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. He wanted to someday become a senator. He was headed toward a fellowship with the state's chief financial officer. Evans had to know because of the nature of the loss.
This one struck deep into the community. A bright young light in the state house was snuffed out. Evans had to know because Perdue is a good friend of Georgia president Michael Adams, his boss. His former boss, actually.
Evans was probably gone from Georgia, the moment the arresting officer hit his siren. The police report was enough with the red panties mention and Evans playing the do-you-know-who-I-am card with the cop. Coming so close to Griner's death, though, Evans' alleged conduct was devastating.
Both incidents occurred in Atlanta, a city full of loyal Dawgs. Griner was an '08 Georgia grad. Wonder if Jordan ever saw the Sanford Stadium PSA where the athletic director declared, "If you drink and you drive, you lose." During his drunk stop Evans amended that statement, telling the arresting officer: "We go through life and we all drink and jump in a car."
Amazingly, Evans still got in that BMW Wednesday night.
Luckily no one died this time, just a whole lot of embarrassment and bad choices. Monday was one of the darkest days in the University of Georgia's history when the school announced Evans' resignation, but it is much darker over at two nearby households.
"Now [the driver's] sitting in a jail cell and I've got to go pick out a box to put my son in," Griner's mother, Autumn, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the tragedy. "It just doesn't seem right."
Griner has since been buried. Scott is now out on bail awaiting a Tuesday preliminary hearing. She has been charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI and reckless driving. The former high school cheerleader with a business degree had been working as a waitress at a nearby club.
Did Evans pay attention to any of that? That's what hurts more. It seems to be another example of hubris and arrogance -- the attitude we get routinely these days from various athletes and politicians who believe they are untouchable, indestructible.
Stupid, too. Damon Evans threw it all away -- his job, his future, perhaps his marriage. But let's not limit doing something super dumb to the super rich and powerful.
Those of us foolish enough to have ever had a drink and driven are also part of the problem. It's just different degrees of guilt. We're free, but hypocrites, in a way, for admonishing others. They're in jail because they were caught.
Alcoholism is arguably a disease. Driving a car with a load on is a choice. Drunks can be treated in rehab centers. Drunks who drive? The statistics show that you can fix stupid. Drunk-driving deaths are down, significantly, in the past 20 years. Thirty-three states have some sort of designated driver program. We're getting it, it seems.
Except that the big picture doesn't matter much today. Georgia's governor mourns the loss of a talented intern. Two families have been ripped apart because of alcohol. Another man has lost his career because of bad choices allegedly involving booze.
It is not the state university of Georgia's best day, but don't cry for the Bulldogs. Your pity and prayers are better directed to the Griner and Scott families. The only damage done, in this case, was to the school's reputation.
And we know for sure that someday, for sure, Georgia will recover.