Time to end the 'madness' around sports

Thursday, March 10, 2005

"Don't do as we do, do as we say." That argument doesn't work with a college student any better than it does with a 2-year old.

The problem, as interpreted by the listener, is the mixed message. It's OK for a parent to do ____ (fill in the blank), but the child better not try it.

Smoking is one issue that poses an obvious problem for indulgent parents. Not only are they a bad example for their child, but second-hand smoke is a direct threat to the health of their children.

Drinking is another issue. After lowering the legal drinking age in earlier eras, Nebraska and most other states have raised it back to 21 under pressure from the federal government. Drivers under the legal drinking age face serious consequences if they are caught with the slightest trace of alcohol in their bloodstreams.

Yet, alcohol companies look the other way when it comes to pursuing market share. Studies have shown that the 10 magazines with the highest youth readership account for almost one third of all magazine alcohol ads. For every million more readers a magazine has in the 12- 19 age group, it will have 60 percent more ads for beer or liquor.

Television is no better, with the average young person exposed to 245 alcohol ads in 2001 alone. Those ads portray drinking as a fun, sexy, young thing to do.

And, the effort is "paying" off, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In fact, 25 percent of all alcohol sold in the United States is consumed by those under 21, and a full 35 percent of wine coolers sold in the U.S. are consumed by middle and high school students.

Of course, the problem is magnified in college. Ask Patti Spady, whose daughter, Samantha, died at Colorado State University last fall after a long night of drinking.

Ask Dr. Phil, who hosted the Nebraska couple on a recent program about binge drinking.

Enough is enough, say U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, who has reintroduced a resolution calling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its member colleges and universities "to uphold their commitment of discouraging alcohol use among underage students and other young fans by ending all alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of collegiate sporting events."

He notes that alcohol is the leading health problem on college campuses, resulting in assault, date rape and, in the case of some 1,400 college students each year, death.

As a former big-time college football coach, Osborne knows the pressures and temptations faced by athletic programs at that level. But he is joined by several of his peers in introducing the resolution in time for March Madness.

No one is naive enough to believe such restrictions will be enough to totally eliminate underage drinking. But if it has even the slightest effect, hundreds of lives may be saved.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: