A year ago, young Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras drank five times the legal limit that the Dominican Republic allows drivers, got into his sports car with his girlfriend and went for a drive on wet rainy roads. It’s a bad decision to drive during a thunderstorm or during a serious downpour. It’s even worse if the driver is impaired, under the influence or swimming in the influence.
It’s almost like the tale is already concluded wen the engine gets turned on. Taveras crashed his car. In the process, Taveras died and so did Edilia Arvelo, who was just 18 years old. Forget baseball here. Put it away. Put the idea of what a supremely talented Taveras could have done with another 5-10 years. It’s not important. As much as fans try, sports can never touch life and death yet only exist as a comfortable metaphor and detour.
That’s why his death struck me especially hard. A 21 year old and 18 year old died. A one year old kid was left without his father. Their lives finished, tied up, stamped and thrown away due to one mistake. A mistake that could have been avoided. If someone could have grabbed the keys from Oscar or told him driving wasn’t a good idea in his state or with the weather, two kids would still be alive.
There isn’t a single person on this planet who hasn’t driven under the influence or knows someone that did. It happens after baseball games and after parties. It happens after a rough day at the office. Someone hits the whiskey hard and tries to drive home. Far too often, they get into that car and don’t come out of it. Sometimes, they make it home in one piece. I often wondered if they placed a breathalyzer of some kind outside a stadium for fans to take before they drove home. How many would exceed the legal limit? How many lives would be saved in the process?
Remember Oscar Taveras by the mistake he made. Not what he could have been on a baseball field. Make smart choices, ladies and gents.
In the weeks following Oscar and Edilia’s deaths, all I could think about was Oscar’s one year son. A kid who doesn’t understand why daddy isn’t around or will ever be. A kid who will have to grow up with his friends and enemies reminding him what his dad did. All this weight that will be saddled onto the shoulders of Oscar Yadier Taveras, a kid with a name that links him to one of the greatest catchers of all time and one of the most brutally bittersweet Cardinals of all time. That’s all I think about. The loneliness that kid will feel and does today, now two years old and still without a clue as to why dad is still on “that never ending road trip”.
Beyond the baseball ramifications of Oscar Taveras’ death lies the reality of it all. Arvelo was an 18 year old woman in love with Oscar who trusted him. Oscar was a 21 year old with a legend growing in his hometown and a family that couldn’t help him that night. With one simple mistake, two people died and many more are affected. We are all flesh and bone, and make the same mistakes. What if there was a way where drinking and driving couldn’t be one of them? How many lives would be saved? What if people took more responsibility?
People made a big deal about Lamar Odom’s three day binge at a brothel that put his life in danger. While I frowned on the national support for a guy who snorted everything but the ceiling dust, it pales in comparison to what Oscar Taveras did that day. He didn’t murder anybody. There are dumber things to say on social media, but not many more than that regrettable statement. Murder is premeditated and intentional. Oscar Taveras isn’t a murderer. Just a dumb kid who made a mistake thousands of others make. He paid for it and so did Arvelo.
So, if you want to remember Oscar in a noble way, don’t drive and drive. Don’t let your family or friends drink and drive. If you see someone at a bar try to do it, don’t let them. Drive them home. If he or she is a Cubs fans or someone who loves disco, do it anyway. Save a life. Treat a life to more years of life. You won’t be a hero. You will be someone who is taking an unfortunate incident and paying it forward in the right way. You will be helping not only that person who is about to make a mistake but the families who he or she leave behind and the people they may have an impact on later on in life.
I drank and drove once. I had too many before/after a Blues game and decided to drive home from Kirkwood to South St. Louis. A friend had dropped me at my car and I could have simply went into the warehouse I worked at and slept it off. I didn’t. I wanted to go home. It was a 10 minute drive. No big deal, right? I got into my car and immediately saw the dangers of my decision. It was right there in front of me. I turned on the engine and pulled out of the parking lot. Headlights on the highway seemed larger than usual, like a hulking ghost spreading over my eyes. Every bright light hurt my eyes. I made it home. Walked inside and collapsed. My stupidity didn’t get the best of me. This time. A year or so later, my wife gave birth to our son.
Right there and then, I told myself. No more stupid decisions. It’s just not a good idea. I am responsible for someone now. The wild days are over. The risks have to be limited. Everything that matters is Vincent Daniel Buffa and his future. You see, when you have a kid, the importance of your life doubles. Maybe it triples. They need you and good times have to be reinvented in less threatening ways. In order to preserve another life, you have to take care of yourself. Oscar didn’t do that a year ago.
He had a kid and made a dumb move. It cost him and another life. A kid will now grow up without a father and and it’s not due to illness, serving his country or saving a life. It happened because he drank and drove.
Ladies and gents, remember Oscar Taveras by making better decisions from this day forward. You never know. In doing so, lives could be saved.