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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Weekend soccer players' drinking endangers public

Friday, March 17, 2006

I thought there was a law against being in public with open containers of alcohol.

Well, there is -- it just depends where you are when you are doing it.

The reason this comes up is the terrible mess that's present on Monday mornings in a soccer field next to the golf driving range on Wartrace Pike where the game is played on the weekends.

While it wasn't as bad as previous times, this Monday morning the field was once again filled with empty cardboard containers of several popular brands of beer and discarded glass bottles.

They litter the ground because trash drums are already packed to capacity with bottles and packages bearing the names Bud Light and Corona.

There's a sign at the entrance stating no alcohol is allowed on the property, but this is obviously being ignored. A quick stroll around the area proves that many, many cases of beer are being consumed in the open and in violation of the property owner's wishes.

According to Ed Craig, Shelbyville's city manager, the property in question is in the county's jurisdiction, not the city, where there is a law against boozing it up in public.

But after speaking with Sheriff Clay Parker, I've learned there is no state legislation barring someone from drinking in the open, which is the law he must follow. There's a law against it in Shelbyville, but once you're outside the city limits, it's Miller Time.

Parker said he went to the state legislature about 10 years ago on this very topic, but objections were made at the time that ruled out applying the law to taxis, limos, and party buses, where lots of drinking goes on before college football games.

As it is now, Tennessee's Open Container Law only applies to the driver of the vehicle in question.

The organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers [MADD] calls it a "pass the bottle" loophole, where a driver can just hand off the fire water to a passenger or toss it into the backseat to avoid violating the law. "Open container laws reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities by 5.1 percent," MADD claims. Tennessee is one of only 11 states without open container laws.

With the field right next to Wartrace Pike, all someone has to do is get on the road and they're fair game for Clay and his boys or Shelbyville cops if they are driving while intoxicated.

But unless they are obviously drunk or causing a disturbance, there isn't anything that can be done about the public drinking, Parker said.

Seeing how much beer is probably consumed there and then looking at all the DUI and public intoxication charges in the police blotter, one might come to the conclusion that there could be some sort of a connection between the two.

Nah ... ya think?

Now before someone accuses me of singling out any certain group of people, [and we all know which bunch we're talking about here] I'd like to point out that drunken stupidity is completely color-blind. You can be white, black, brown, yellow or pink with purple polka dots and still behave like an idiot.

Also, I'm not against someone going out and having a good time, as long as it is done responsibly: All the major beer and spirits companies stress this in their advertising.

But given the sheer amount of trashy evidence left behind, it is obvious that this is not the case. At least when someone has too much to drink in a tavern or nightspot, the bartender can cut them off.

However, there's nothing from stopping someone from showing up at soccer practice with a 18-pack of beer and getting totally hammered.

If you are determined to drink yourself into unconsciousness or acute alcohol poisoning, for goodness sake do it at home where there isn't a danger of someone getting hurt -- aside from you and your liver.

The sheriff suggested that the county commission could pass an ordinance stopping the practice of drinking in the open like this if they wanted.

It certainly would be a good idea and might even save some lives down the road. It sure beats opposing the revised version of the Sunshine Law.

But while we're on the topic of the mess, I also thought there was a law against littering too ...