When asking young people what they plan to do on any given weekend you might hear everything from biking. canoeing, shopping, or planning a marathon movie watching event. But there is also a segment when asked that question who will respond “going drinking”. People actually label drinking as the event. Not having a beer after canoeing or biking, but making drinking the event itself.
I started thinking again about our drinking culture in Wisconsin this weekend. Many events spurred my mind down the same path. There was the rousing football game Saturday on the UW-Madison campus where double the students from last week were kicked out of the staduim in part due to excessive drinking.
Spirited Green Bay Packers took to the field as tail-gate parties and bars state-wide poured the amber-liquid-ritual one after the other. In too many bars some patrons will have been served more than they should have consumed, and will hit the roads after the game.
Then there was the very special and wonderful bride in a beautiful dress along with the groom this weekend who entered the reception hall on what everyone agrees is a most memorable day. Held high in the hand of the groom was a cup of beer. Others in the wedding party brought their beer bottles, none concealing the fact they had been drinking a great deal. While guests had waited for the reception to start, the wedding party was drinking and arrived almost an hour late.
On Sunday in Madison a victim of drinking while boating was pulled from Lake Monona. Last week he and a friend thought swimming was a good idea while intoxicated. The owner of the boat was ticketed for OWI after making it back to his vessel. Search crews finally pulled the victim’s body to shore about 3:00 P.M. today.
I do not want to come across as puritanical or less than a very fun-loving person. No one can paint me as conservative, and those who know me can attest to the fact I like to laugh and have a darn good time. But after this weekend I am wondering where is the joy in drinking so much that a college game is missed, hangovers start a new life together, or for others the beginning of a work week is headaches and sluggishness? What about the loved ones from the drowning incident? I know it may sound absolutely absurd to a large percentage of the people but I pose a few questions.
Might the frequency of drinking, and the amount consumed by the typical Wisconsinite be a topic that should merit more attention from our society as a whole? I know the State Legislature is seeking remedies to drinking and driving. The UW-Madison has ended commercial contracts for radio advertising of beer during college sporting events. But what about the larger social question of asking whether collectively we just drink far too much? Do people really have so much fun doing it, or is it an easy cover for a wide variety of problems that would be better addressed through some honest introspection?
If anyone cares to have a dialogue about this matter I would be happy to ‘listen’ here.