Busted Barkley: Sir Charles’s DUI

This past New Year’s Eve, while most of us were gathered around the fireside munching on cheese and crackers and sipping apple juice, Charles Barkley found himself in the unenviable position of being arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona under suspicion of DUI. While this incident certainly is not Sir Charles’s first run-in with controversy and may not come as much of a surprise to sports fans, it represents perhaps the last straw for many who have previously allowed Barkley to get away with brushing his well-documented drinking and gambling problems under the table. Following the incident, Barkley was forced to take a leave of absence from his role as an NBA color commentator for Turner Sports, and as of today, no clear return date is in sight. Additionally, T-Mobile has decided to pull its popular advertisements featuring Barkley and Dwyane Wade off the air.

Yet, it is not these particular issues plaguing Barkley that are most alarming, rather it is the utter senselessness of his actions in light of his considerable ambition and influence that have proved to be most shocking. After running through a stop sign, Barkley, in his heavily intoxicated state, apparently believed that telling the officer on duty that he was in a rush to receive oral sex from a female acquaintance would serve as an adequate excuse. One would think that with the ten million dollars he estimates he has lost over the years due to a gambling addiction, perhaps Barkley could have hired a chauffeur to accompany him during his New Year’s Eve festivities. Similarly, while most of us would consider losing $400,000 to a single Vegas casino in 2007 to be bad enough, Barkley apparently lacked the prudence to pay off his debt in a timely manner, consequently making this embarrassing information publicly available.

While at the very least Barkley’s latest incident proves that he is not a hypocrite — after all it is clear that his actions have provided more evidence to support his controversial assertion that professional athletes should not be role models — the fact of the matter is that Barkley desperately needs to get his life together. While over the years he has frequently alluded to his desire to run for governor of Alabama, in October of last year he officially announced his candidacy for the 2014 election. In July of 2006, Barkley discussed his intentions in running for office, declaring, “I’m serious. I’ve got to get people to realize that the government is full of it. Republicans and Democrats want to argue over stuff that’s not important, like gay marriage or the war in Iraq or illegal immigration… When I run — if I run — we’re going to talk about real issues like improving our schools, cleaning up our neighborhoods of drugs and crime and making Alabama a better place for all people.” Unfortunately, it remains unclear how seriously Alabama will take him if he does not get his personal issues under control. Such strong statements seem to suggest that maybe Sir Charles could have put the ten million dollars he squandered to better use, whether that be by donating it to fix some of the problems he would like to see ameliorated, or in support of his own campaign in 2014.

So for a man admired for his honesty, humor, and candid reflections on basketball and America, it is time for Sir Charles to look at himself in the mirror and come to terms with reality. While the first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is a problem, in the past Barkley has stubbornly insisted on lingering in a state of denial, responding to media attention in 2007 by declaring, “Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem but I don’t consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble.”

Although I strongly believe that electing Sir Charles would be a breath of fresh air for American politics and for the state of Alabama, it is obvious that he needs to recognize the seriousness of his issues. And in addition to my concern for his personal well-being, I have a more selfish reason for hoping that Barkley gets his life together. For many avid sports fans, he is far and away the most entertaining color commentator around, and by the time the NBA playoffs roll around in April, cable TV coverage will not be the same without his presence on Inside the NBA. So Charles, please take your own advice and stop acting like such a knucklehead.