Friday, February 15, 2008

'About Half the Population Would Be Dead by .48'

Last week, former Detroit Tigers radio broadcaster (and major league pitcher) Lary Sorenson added to his utterly sad accumulation of drunken driving episodes when he was found by police on the roadside of a metro Detroit highway. Upon being taken to the hospital, Sorenson was found with a blood alcohol level of .48. Go ahead and read that again; it's not a typo.

Pardon the tactless pun, but Neal Rubin wrote a sobering column in today's Detroit News that followed up on the story. .48 is eight times higher than the limit for drunk driving convictions in Michigan. It's an astounding number, one that makes you wonder what exactly Sorenson was trying to accomplish. Maybe suggesting that he actually had something in mind other than drinking himself into a complete stupor is giving him too much credit.

Anyway, Rubin found someone who could answer the same question most of us would have after looking at that number: How in the hell do you get that drunk?

[...] the alcohol in Sorensen's system represented 24 drinks.

That's two dozen beers, shots, 5-ounce glasses of wine, or some combination thereof. And we also know this: That's only what was left in his system when he was treated at St. John Macomb Hospital for alcohol poisoning.

He had actually guzzled even more.

That last sentence is a stunner. The expert Rubin talked to estimates that the typical person burns off about one drink (or .015) an hour. It's unclear how long Sorenson had been in his car when he was found, but he had likely been there for a while.

Consider these two sentences, also:

Many people would be unconscious by the time they hit .35. About half the population would be dead by .48.

Of course, Sorenson's story draws more attention because of the celebrity status that comes with a being a former major league ballplayer and radio personality. Other people do this sort of thing and it doesn't warrant a write-up in the newspaper, let alone a follow-up column. Their problems and the consequences wreaked upon their families are suffered quietly.

I suppose this story got under my skin a little bit because of my personal experiences with people over-medicating themselves to the point of becoming nearly comatose. And it just leaves you with questions. Does a person do this to avoid the reality of what his or her life has become? To avoid feeling anything and just sleep through it? Is it a form of escape? Of entertainment, as twisted as that might sound?

As I asked earlier in this post, what exactly is the goal here? Or maybe the answer is obvious, and I'd just prefer not to put it into words.