Jim Irsay comes clean
After a life of alcohol, drugs and excess, the Colts owner shares his tale of addiction with HBO's Andrea Kremer. Trust me when I say this: It's a must watch. Tonight at 10. You won't be sorry.
The first time I met Jim Irsay in 2000, he was – as the kids say – high as balls.
I have no idea what drugs he was doing that day, but it was painfully apparent. First, he showed up in his office almost an hour and a half late for our interview, and once he did, he would repair to the restroom every half hour and emerge 10-15 minutes later in a more advanced stage of intoxication. We would talk and talk – check that; he would talk and talk, one run-on sentence after another, stream of semi-consciousness rambling that I found both amusing and slightly troubling. I had been given the heads up – “If you have to interrupt him, do it,” I was told – but this lasted almost two hours, Jim talking and talking and heading to the restroom and talking some more.
Despite his addled state, I found him utterly fascinating. We talked about a lot of our mutual interests, namely rock ‘n roll, the beat poets, Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road,” our shared love for Hunter S. Thompson’s work. We even talked about drugs, at which time he was fairly forthright about things and I willingly shared the fact that I was a cannabis enthusiast. (Yes, I’m a terrible person). We’re also roughly the same age (he’s 64 now and I’m 63) and after my family moved from New York to Chicago when I was a high school junior, Jim and I attended high schools that sat roughly two miles from one another. (He went to the private school; I did not).
He says he hasn’t had a drink since 2002, but as he liked to tell me, “I’ve spilled more than you’ve ever drank.”
(I think it would be a close call.)
Over the years, we would develop a great, fruitful relationship, even if there were times, many times, when I was deeply worried about his mental health and addiction issues.
So, like almost everybody in town, I knew.
Should I have outed him, revealed to the world that he was in the throes of addiction? I’ve often wrestled with that question over the years. I didn’t think it was necessary – who didn’t know? -- but I told Irsay’s people the following:
“Unless he publicly embarrasses the organization or get crossways with the law, I’ll keep my observations under my hat.”