By now I’m sure most of you have seen the video of Tom Lewand’s traffic stop, and subsequent arrest.
In college, I pursued an unusual major: Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy. The theme of the curriculum was justice; the study of what it is, what it means, the nature of a just government, and lots of other boring stuff like that. As a side effect, it developed my inner Scales of Justice—my sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, what is just and what is unjust.
Usually, when I hear a news story, I have a swift and strong opinion on it. Sometimes, though, there’s no easy answer . . . and it stresses me out. I have to learn more, to know more. I read. I have to read. I have to keep researching, keep digging, learn more, know more. I talk. I talk to my wife, to my friends, to my family, to myself in the car, over and over and over nobody wants anything to do with me. I have to bounce everything off everyone until I know what is right. After several days of this, several mental fuses blown, and several false starts on this post, I’m still not sure what is right in this situation.
First, and possibly foremost, Lewand admitted he is a recovering alcoholic. Everything I think, every angle I take, every “take” I come up with, keeps coming back to this. He has a problem, he’s seeking treatment—and not because he was ordered to, but because either he, or those who love him, realized it. Watching the video, I wonder if his inexplicable, ridiculous denial that he’d had a drop to drink wasn’t a symptom of his addiction.
Second, what he did was extremely dangerous—not just to himself, but to others. The current series of PSAs with the tagline “buzzed driving is drunk driving” have a point—but .21 BAC is not “buzzed driving” or “drunk driving,” it’s completely tanked driving. He, and those who shared the road with him that night, are incredibly fortunate that no one was hurt . . . or killed.
Third, this episode is incredibly embarrassing for him, his loved ones, and—yes—the organization. Not only is this a personal tragedy for Lewand, it’s a professional failure, too; it’s a black eye for the business of which he is President. Lewand’s primary task is to set a tone of class and professionalism for the organization—and instead, the Lions are again a national punchline.
Given his previously clean record and reputation, his incredible work in getting Ford Field built, and the exemplary way in which he’s handled contracts and salaries, it’s no surprise that both his employees, and his employer, gave him immediate votes of confidence. Apparently, his problem was known within the organization; to them this was a setback, not a shock.
When the headlines said he’d been arrested for suspicion of DUI in Roscommon County, my first thought was “Up north, the weekend after minicamp? Drinking all day at a lake, or while golfing, I bet.” Sure enough, he was at a charity golf outing. In my experience, these events are thinly veiled, or not veiled, excuses for everybody to get lubricated and goof around. I can’t speak to what happened that day by Houghton Lake, but if someone with a drinking problem was in an environment like most golf outings I’ve seen . . . well, the temptation would be extreme.
Of course, he’ll be prosecuted under the law, and will face discipline from the league under the Personal Conduct Policy. There are those who’ve called for Lewand to be fired, but, right now, I don’t think that’s the right thing for him, or for the Lions. He’s clearly been performing the duties of his job at a high level—he’s continued to ink draft picks left and right since the incident—so one mistake shouldn’t spell the end for him.
At the end of the day, that’s what this was—a mistake. A terrible, dangerous mistake, but a mistake. I hope Tom Lewand continues to seek help, and be supported. With that, plus strength and dedication on his part, this mistake ought to be his last. I’ve been searching my heart to see if I’m just giving Lewand a pass because he’s affiliated with the Lions, but I don’t believe I am. Were it I who made the mistake, I’d pray for a second chance, and I’d like to think I’d deserve one. Could I ask for that grace for myself, without extending it to everyone else? I don’t think so.
We, the Lions-watching public, aren’t “owed” an explanation, or Lewand’s head on a platter, or anything else. But for his sake, his family’s sake, and for the sake of the organization, I hope he makes the most of this second chance, which I believe he deserves.
. . . I think. Ask me again tomorrow.