With the MLS playoffs underway, our domestic league will be getting a lot of attention over the next few weeks. Will a squad with a designated player finally lift the MLS Cup? Can a disappointing season from the New York Red Bulls, made only palatable by a late, solid run of form, be turned around in time for a championship run? Will we have another long shot like the Colorado Rapids beat the odds? Will the Rapids repeat? Is the credibility of the MLS playoff structure called into question when a 4th overall FC Dallas squad is forced to play a winner take all play-in game? While each of these questions could be covered in great detail, a recent MLS story has slipped through the cracks on both blogs and major media outlets like the four letter network. One of the squads that will not be participating in the MLS Cup Playoffs is DC United, which of course means former USMNT darling Charlie Davies will be getting early rest. Apparently the extra time away from the pitch will help Davies focus on his multimillion dollar lawsuit.
First a recap. Roughly two years ago Davies was involved in a horrific car accident on the George Washington Parkway in DC. The man we loved to call Chuck D escaped with his life, but not without suffering multiple broken bones in his face, ribs, elbow and legs, a lacerated bladder, and severe bleeding in the brain. For two to three days, he clung to life before finally reaching “stable” status.
Tragically, another passenger in the vehicle, Ashley Roberta, a 22-year-old University of Maryland student, lost her life. Chuck D’s fight through rehabilitation was well documented during the lead up to the World Cup in South Africa, with many USMNT fans hoping he would be back to form before the tournament. Bob Bradley was even vilified by some for not bringing Davies along, even though after the World Cup it became clear Davies wasn’t even close to ready for competitive soccer, let alone the rigors of the world’s most prestigious sporting event. Davies was discouraged, but not beaten. He kept fighting. And even though he did not make the World Cup squad, the story seemed to come full circle as Davies returned to Washington D.C on loan with United.
Fast forward a year, and the story has taken another ridiculous turn, and in this writers opinion, one without question for the worst. Last week Charlie Davies filled at $20 million dollar lawsuit against the nightclub he was attending the night of the accident, The Shadow Room, and the organization hosting the party, Red Bull North America. The lawsuit has been brought on the grounds that the establishment and party organizers continued to serve alcohol to the driver of the vehicle in the accident, Maria Alejandra Espinoza, even though she was visibly intoxicated. Removing some of the legal jargon, the complaint essentially alleges negligence on the part of the host and the night club for continuing to serve alcohol to people who had clearly had enough that evening.
Now let’s add a disclaimer. I am not an attorney, and I have no idea how to predict exactly how things will work out, but to this writer, the lawsuit can be described in one word: sickening. Just what the hell is Davies thinking? Just a year ago he was talking about how great it was to be alive and how much closer to God he has become through this experience. A year later he is trying to pick up $20 million. I just cannot understand how and why this is happening now. From everything I have read about Davies the human being, this lawsuit seems completely out of character. Forget for a moment that this involves Charlie Davies. Let’s assume, for purposes of argument,
that it involved any athlete beset by this sort of tragic circumstance. Sickening would still come to mind.
I have a huge problem when individual John and Jane Does, athletes and celebrities alike look to shift blame from themselves to something or someone else. Maybe I am naive, or maybe I just don’t understand what “emotional pain and suffering” really means, but this lawsuit just stinks of, “It was not my fault, the bar is responsible for my injuries.” This is whitewashing, plain and simple, of an individual’s poor choices and the legal system, while controversial on both the criminal and civil end, is better than an instrument utilized when one simply wants to actively scapegoat others.
This lawsuit has really got me infuriated because of the rhetoric used by Davies’ attorney, Jon Pels, in attacking the bar owner and event planners. Here’s the quote—you all are bright enough to decide for yourselves: “This is yet another example of how drinking and driving can kill and injure. Bars must accept responsibility when overseeing an event such as this.” You know what? Maybe. It is true that states have saloon statutes that make bartenders and club owners culpable for overserving certain patrons. But typically they don’t extend the arm of their culpable negligence to the choices one makes when one leaves the bar or club. That’s precisely what Davies and Pels are trying to do here.
Using bars as scapegoats in accidents such as these is nothing more than a lazy misplacement of anger and regret. It is the abdication of personal accountability and responsibility—and as noted above—that doesn’t resonate well when you consider the attitude of Davies in the past year. Wasn’t the entire comeback about his own fortune to be alive—his desire to make amends for his own choices—and his decision to make the most of every second—seconds Ashley Roberta never got? It was a second chance. And that’s the stuff of American dreams. This lawsuit—it’s the stuff of cowards and crooks.
As a frequent visitor to a bar and pubs alike, never have I felt the bar was responsible for my well being on the trip home. It all comes down to personal responsibility. You go to a bar to drink alcohol and meet people. The amount you drink is completely up to you, as well as whom you decide to jump in a car with. No matter what Pels wants to say, Davies made the decisions to get in the car with Espinoza and Roberta.
Pels plans to argue that Davies did not know the two ladies had been drinking when they met in the lobby of the club and he agreed to let them drive him home when leaving the party. Let’s just suppose that’s true—again, for arguments sake, or, as an attorney would say- in the light most favorable to Charlie Davies. One question becomes glaringly obvious. Charlie—why the hell did you get in the car? That was the decision that ruined your chances of playing in the World Cup, cost you two years of your prime, a starting spot on a solid French club and nearly your life. It wasn’t the choices Espinoza made when she decided to drive. It wasn’t even the choice Roberta made when she fatefully agreed to ride with Espinoza. The bartender didn’t make that choice. Red Bull North America didn’t either.
As an up and coming national star, getting in the car with two women you just met, while understandably tempting for a young, attractive man, was the wrong decision. It was the wrong decision and it wasn’t as if Davies didn’t have options. As a striker, recognition of options is part of great attacking football. Pass here, pass there, shoot here. Options create chances and the choices you make about those options dictate outcomes. It is, in fact, no different in life.
There is this amazing invention in every major city called cabs. You call one up and they take you wherever the hell you want to go for a set rate based on the distance they went. Davies had that option. In fact, forget about calling a cab, as a potential breakout star for the Red, White and Blue, a single phone call to anyone with the USMNT changes everything. Maybe they send a car; hell– maybe a trainer gets out of bed and picks your ass up– anything but getting in a car with two women you just met.
Charlie, you were at a bar drinking. Use your head. It is probably safe to assume these ladies were doing the same, not sitting in the corner sipping Shirley Temples and playing Candy Land. I just cannot understand how $20 million dollars is going to make Chuck D feel any better about missing the World Cup, and possibly derailing his entire international soccer career. Sure the money might help out for a while, but if that 2014 roster is announced without his name on it, what exactly will the $20million do then? My guess is nothing. And then he’ll be back at square one, with only his own personal choices to blame.
Puck is a Senior Writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can and should follow his Tweets on pop culture, soccer, and other things of human interest on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.