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Ben Wallace deserves a less-flattering image, jail time

Think about Ben Wallace the basketball player: quiet, hard-working, tough, smart, disciplined.

Think about Ben Wallace the person: …

As is the case with most professional athletes, we don’t really know Ben Wallace. We think we do, and we make our assessment of his whole based on a snippet of his life.

I know that’s foolish, and you probably do, too. That doesn’t make any easier to stop ourselves from superimposing the side of Wallace we see onto the Wallace we don’t.

Of course, the singular image Wallace I created in my mind was torn apart yesterday when he was arrested for drunken driving and illegally possessing a firearm.

If the allegations are true, Wallace should – and will – go to jail.

He drew the same judge who sentenced Jalen Rose to 20 days in jail for first-offense drunken driving, according to Mike Martindale and Santiago Esparza of The Detroit News. District Judge Kimberly Small – rightly – treats drunken driving as a serious offense and sentences virtually every, if not every, offender to jail time.

Drunk-driving laws have flaws. Breathalyzers can be unreliable, and a .08 blood alcohol count is an arbitrary.

But if the allegations are true, and Wallace couldn’t stay in his lane, none of that matters. He was unfit to drive.

The gun charges are equally troubling. Martindale and Esparza:

Smyly said he noticed several rounds of large caliber ammunition in the closed middle console of the front seat and saw a backpack in the rear seat. He took Wallace into custody and advised another officer to look for a gun, subsequently found in the backpack.

In an interview room, Wallace told police the handgun belonged to his wife, was registered only to her, and he had placed it in the backpack for protection before driving from Virginia back to Michigan the day before.

He said he had “completely forgot the gun was in his backpack and when he got back to Michigan went out with his buddy and had some drinks …,” according to a police report written by Lt. Mark Paquin, who said Wallace said “if he had known tonight was going to end up this way, he would have done things differently.”

Forgetting about a backpack in a car is forgivable, but gun owners have a responsibility to ensure their weapons aren’t used inappropriately. Wallace, if the allegations are true, didn’t take proper care of the gun.

Nobody was hurt because of either of those two alleged mistakes, but the risk posed by both was substantially high. Wallace should, and does, know better. He told a police officer during the incident that he was a criminal justice major in college, according to Martindale and Esparza. I didn’t know that.

Like I said, we don’t know much about Wallace. But I know this: he is a role model. He has no choice in the matter. Thousands in Michigan and elsewhere look up to him.

His plans of becoming a lawyer after his basketball career were inspirational. His arrest will affect them, but I hope it won’t deter them. A night of mistakes doesn’t have to define him. A message that educational pursuits can be just as rewarding as playing sports could be his lasting legacy, but first, we must all deal with the consequences of his arrest, learn from it and admit our mistakes.

I thought Wallace was better than this. That’s my fault.

He’s not. That’s his fault.

57 Comments

  • Sep 30, 201112:40 pm
    by Jason

    Reply

    So your last few sentences.  Is this saying he is not better than this mistake? This mistake defines him?  Thought the article was good until that part.

    I agree people in the public eye should be role models as well.  But I disagree media should define what it is. Hopefully this is a bump in the road for him and his PERSONAL life is ok.

    Personally I think some of the critism is disgusting. Why do people like when other screw up. Its like some need to see this so they feel better about themselves. Or even superior to others.

    Just my two cents. His charges don’t really bother me cause I am very LUCKY to be raised well and understand everyone makes mistakes.

    • Sep 30, 20112:12 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      No, I don’t think Ben Wallace is better than getting arrested for drunken driving and illegally carrying a firearm. If he were, he wouldn’t have been gotten arrested for drunken driving and illegally carrying a firearm.*

      The arrest doesn’t define him, at least for now. More likely than not, it never will. And it doesn’t make him a bad person.

      But it’s troubling and disappointing.*

      *If the allegations are true

      • Sep 30, 20112:18 pm
        by Jason

        Reply

        That doesn’t make sense Dan. Sounds like you are defining him to that level to me.

    • Sep 30, 20116:37 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Jason, your second sentence is essentially re-wording exactly what Dan said in his post.

  • Sep 30, 20111:20 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    You are a stupid prig of a moralist.

    People like you shouldn’t be allowed to write about sports (or anything else for that matter)  

    Ben Wallace made a small error driving home (should have taken a cab) but you christian moralists have continually lowered the legal limit making it almost impossible to safely have a few drinks and drive home. Nor is there a public transportation system that people can utilize. 

    He made a huge error in leaving a firearm belonging to his wife in his car. I suspect he never even thought about it until he got pulled over but those are the breaks for a failure to be conscious.

    Does that make him a bad person? Did he shoot someone or rob somebody? Did he harm anything or anyone? No.

    You are a christian idiot.

    • Sep 30, 20111:47 pm
      by neutes

      Reply

      Whoa slow down my friend from the cloud. You’re a regular around these parts no need to go throwing out things like that. The title of the post is probably the biggest indignation going on here, but the article itself was fair. Wallace does deserve to criticized for this, but he’s still my favorite Piston of all-time.

    • Sep 30, 20111:57 pm
      by Jason

      Reply

      @detroitpcb

      Keep saying what you said I agree mostly.  Dan is not a good sports writer. I think he should switch to a different topic. 

      If you remember he also threw Rip Hamilton under the bus on ESPN.

      • Sep 30, 20118:51 pm
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        Again Jason, this is not a fanboy site. It’s meant to cover the team, good and bad. The fact is, this incident with Wallace is newsworthy. Agree or not with Dan’s opinion on it, it’s news, it happened and we’re not going to ignore something just because it’s unpleasant to talk about just like we won’t hesitate to post positive or fun news when it arises too.

        Dan is a fantastic writer. I don’t agree with everything Dan writes, just like I’m sure he doesn’t agree with everything I write. But he’s intelligent, he writes with voice and authority and, agree with his views or not, he’s always an interesting read. Based on the gibberish, poorly worded and grammatically incorrect comments you post half the time, you’re ill-equipped to make judgements on someone else’s writing ability. No one’s sitting over your shoulder here saying you must be a crappy accountant because you spend so much company time commenting on a Pistons blog during work hours, ya know? If you have a point, make it. But no one’s going to take your analysis of someone’s writing skills all that seriously.

    • Sep 30, 20111:57 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Didn’t you read the bit about .08 being arbitrary and not a great measure of anything? And the part about him not being able to stay in a lane? Being able to drive safely is much more important than not having much alcohol in your system. But this is a pretty minor transgression. A “he should have known better” moment, but not a “he is a terrible person” moment.

      Also, how do you know what Feldman believes on a religious front? Has that ever come up? Your comment was the kind of insulting, offensive drivel that ruins the give and take area of blogs. It is inciting and makes me want to call you an idiot (and then the whole comments devolve into a worthless jumble of insults directed at people the insulters don’t even know). I have no idea whether you are in fact an idiot or you just like making comments which reflect negatively on your ability to converse intelligently.

      • Sep 30, 20112:16 pm
        by Jason

        Reply

        @tarsier

        Its not about conversing intelligently. I don’t have time or don’t get paid to write on my OWN website. So I believe its ok to harsh and maybe a little rude when trying to make a point.

        Please tell what his these lines me that he ends with.

        “I thought Wallace was better than this. That’s my fault.
        He’s not. That’s his fault.”

        To me it sounds like he letting this incident define Wallace. Maybe he writes intelligently to YOU but to me his conclusion is not intelligent one bit.

        • Sep 30, 20113:20 pm
          by neutes

          Reply

          He means that Wallace should have been better than to drive drunk and carry a concealed weapon without a permit of his own. Simple as that. His first line obviously implies he looked up to Wallace. He did after all define the going to work Pistons. He was the culture of that team. He was a criminal justice major and has aspirations to be a lawyer. If you want to chalk it up as a mistake that’s fine, but driving drunk and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon are things that reflect poorly on anyone’s character, especially someone that should have known better and is in the public spotlight. Whether he has a duty to be a role model or not anyone in a public role knows his or her mistakes are magnified making them much worse. Wallace built a reputation, maybe unwittingly, maybe unfairly, but it was of a high character individual, and that reputation is now in question.

        • Sep 30, 20116:25 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          This incident, along with the rest of his life, does define Wallace. It certainly is not the only or the most important factor in play. But you can’t define him exactly the same as if it had never happened either. Otherwise, you are essentially punishing everyone who is better at keeping their noses clean.

        • Oct 3, 20111:52 pm
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          Well said, neutes and tarsier.

    • Sep 30, 20116:40 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      @PCB:

      I take it you disagree with Dan’s post, which is fine.

      I’d just like to point out that there is nothing whatsoever in your comment that expresses A. why Dan’s reasoning is off; B. which points he made that are unfair or C. Why, exactly, you disagree. That’s no different than most of your other substanceless comments, but I still thought it important to point it out since you felt the need to resort to a hilariously stupid rebuttal.

  • Sep 30, 20111:35 pm
    by Scott

    Reply

    It’s not so clear that Ben will go to jail.  Because he is charged with a felony (the gun charge), the entire case will go to a judge in circuit court for trial and sentencing.  In other words, Judge Small, the district court judge who sentenced Jalen Rose and who is handling Ben’s case while it is still in district court, will not be the judge sentencing Ben unless he somehow gets rid of the felony charge.  Instead, it will be a circuit court judge who will sentence him.  If Ben gets any jail in circuit court, and that is a big if assuming he has no criminal history, it will most likely be because of the gun charge, not the owi.

  • Sep 30, 20112:08 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    Being good at basketball doesn’t and shouldn’t make somebody a role model. This should be evident to any adult and most teenagers.

    • Sep 30, 20112:15 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Yes. But “should” obviously doesn’t always translate to how things actually work.

    • Sep 30, 20112:19 pm
      by Jason

      Reply

      I agree with both of you.  But think Dan would be someone who follows the leader and Laser who goes out on his own.

    • Sep 30, 20116:29 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      So true. I get sick of people expecting anyone famous to behave like a role model. So maybe they are role models for some. But those people hopefully have parents who are intelligent enough to tell them that being famous doesn’t make someone worth emulating. Ben Wallace is in a better position than someone like me to set a good example. But it is no more his duty to do so than it is mine.

    • Sep 30, 20118:42 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      He’s a public figure. It’s part of the deal. It’s maybe not fair to expect anyone to be a role model if they don’t want to be one, but everyone who is a public figure understands what goes with that. If you make a mistake, it’s going to play out publicly. Wallace should’ve been more conscious of that. Messing up doesn’t make him a bad person, but it was a poor decision that will hurt his image until he makes amends.

  • Sep 30, 20112:36 pm
    by Shane

    Reply

    I am upset about his drunk driving.. after knowing people who have had their lives ruined by drunk drivers I did expect a little more from him. He will learn his lesson and alot of others will learn too from his example. I do however think it is kind of a harsh call especially since the gun was his wifes and he forgot it was even in the car. Its not like he evaded arrest or anything.

  • Sep 30, 20115:15 pm
    by samuel

    Reply

    I am personally glad for this article.

    I do not make a lot of money in my job and am frankly quite resentful that these people are able to drive around at all hours of the night in expensive cars and with firearms.

    For all we know, he was brobably coming to kill us all in our beds!

    Don’t these people have any respect?

    They have their own president now, and still they keep  up with their behaviors.

    Thanks for finally acknowledging my anger and feelings

    /rant/parody

  • Sep 30, 20117:16 pm
    by ryan

    Reply

    Drunk driving is for sure a dangerous and stupid thing to do but it is not a malicious thing to do. Ben Wallace acknowledged that he was wrong in doing this and short of being smarter and calling cab that’s the best he can do. So I don’t fault him much there we all make mistakes, he and the other drivers on the roads that night were lucky, so learn from the mistake and move on.

    The other charge I find a very, very sad marker of the time we live in. Possession of a firearm should not be a crime, any more than possession of a car or samurai sword or a bow and arrow. We are supposed to be a nation with great personal freedoms and a nation with laws that make sense so why does a man who has his wife’s (legally registered) gun in his car face charges of any form??

    He didn’t do anything to hurt another person with it, he didn’t do anything to damage property with it, he didn’t do anything to hurt himself with it, he didn’t even hunt an animal with it so why is it that we’re taking offense? Why is it that we have a law that makes a person who has a gun one them a criminal?

    • Oct 1, 201111:44 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      possession of a firearm isn’t a crime. there are rules that you must follow if you possess one (like being registered,not having certain models, not concealing it unless you have  specific license for that etc) but having one is not a crime in itself.

      • Oct 3, 20112:01 pm
        by Dan Feldman

        Reply

        Exactly. Wallace is charged with violating some fairly moderate gun laws, not the more-intrusive hot-button laws.

  • Sep 30, 20118:34 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    I remember when Plaxico Burress shot himself in a night club a few years back. It was stupid and dangerous and a crime deserving of punishment.

    But what really bothered me about that incident was the focus on what could’ve happened. People focused on the fact that, because his gun went off in a public place, someone else could’ve been hurt. That’s true I guess, but for the purposes of trying someone for a crime, what could’ve happened but didn’t is irrelevant.

    I feel the same way about drunk driving. Is it stupid, reckless and potentially dangerous? Absolutely, that’s why it’s illegal. But the fact is, Wallace didn’t hurt anyone. If he would’ve, he’d be facing a much more serious charge. The crime he committed is not worse based on a hypothetical, so I do think it’s wrong to bring hypotheticals into any analysis of the situation.

    As for the gun, it’s pretty clear he had no intention of doing anything dangerous with it. It was in his car, but it wasn’t in a position for him to use it and although he didn’t have a permit, his wife does and since they are married, it’s conceivable that the vehicle is both of theirs, so some of her stuff could easily be in it. Whatever, I’m not overly concerned about that either.

    Ben Wallace is easily my favorite basketball player of all-time. This incident didn’t do anything to change my opinion of him. He made a bad decision and he’ll rightly receive some punishment for it when the legal process is complete. I don’t think it’s necessary to put much of any thought or analysis into this. But also understand: that’s my own personal frame of reference shaping my thoughts on this.

    It’s perfectly acceptable for people to be more passionately opposed to drunk driving than I am. Many people have lost loved ones or been affected by poor decisions involving drinking and driving. I can totally, totally respect why Ben Wallace drinking and driving would hurt his image in the eyes of some people.

    Frankly, I just don’t understand some of the comments in this thread. Dan obviously has a strong opinion that he expressed. It’s clearly an opinion piece, his name is on it and he’s an easy person to contact if Wallace or anyone else wants to get in touch with him to clear something up or have an opportunity to have their say. If you disagree, fine, disagree. But the stupidity of a handful of these comments, acting as if it’s ridiculous to be disappointed in beloved public figure who committed a crime that conjures up images of tragedy in the minds of many people, is mind boggling. I personally am not really disappointed b/c I’ve, fortunately, never had my life impacted by this type of crime. But if my circumstances were different, I’d absolutely feel differently about Ben Wallace and I see nothing that was unfair about Dan’s viewpoint, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

    • Oct 3, 20113:20 pm
      by Jason

      Reply

      @ Patrick

      You have your own fricken website. If you and Dan don’t like some of the comments then don’t allow us to make comments. The comments obviously bother you.

      Freedom of speech is a two way street.

  • Sep 30, 201110:04 pm
    by RyanK

    Reply

    Lets cut the crap.  Most adults posting here are just as guilty of drunk driving as Ben Wallace.  What separates you from them?  He got caught.  Most people on this board can thank their lucky stars that they didn’t get busted at some point.  How bad of shape was he in?  That’s really how you judge him and we don’t know what his blood alcohol level was.  If he comes in really high or just on the fringe is the criteria to judge this.
     
    The gun in the back…I don’t know what to think of that.  Maybe he had a CCW permit?  I do…  I’m sure it will all come out.

    • Oct 1, 20111:28 am
      by Mike Payne

      Reply

      “Lets cut the crap.  Most adults posting here are just as guilty of drunk driving as Ben Wallace.  What separates you from them?  He got caught.”
       
      Wow, I’m entirely impressed by your ignorant absolutism.  Here’s to hoping you get pulled over next time you do something that “most adults” do and are just lucky not to have been caught.  I’m seriously hoping that.  Like, hands together and praying and whatnot.
       
      It might be helpful to assume that, when you say something controversial and irrefutably ignorant in a public forum, you might just be insulting people when you do so.  In the mean time, it might be safe to assume that your anecdotal experiences with friends, family and drinking do not reflect the habits of the world we live in.  Not all of us decided to join a fraternity, RyanK.

      • Oct 1, 20118:02 am
        by RyanK

        Reply

        What color is the sky in your world?!?  You don’t have to be *%@!-faced to be over the limit.
         
        You’ve never been to a bar?  If not, it doesn’t surprise me that you have such a sheltered, naive view of the world.  If you have been to a bar, how did you get home?  Did you ever have a glass of wine or two with dinner while dining out?  Probably not, because people who enjoy wine with dinner tend to have more class than what you demonstrate in your posts.
         
        Seriously, you are living in a world of make believe if you think the overwhelming majority of people out there haven’t driven after drinking.
         
        I don’t know if I’ve ever been officially over the limit, but I and pretty much every adult I know has had alcohol and then gotten behind the wheel.  My understanding is it just takes one beer to fail the breathalyser.  That’s why I would like to know the number Ben blew…if he’s on the fringe, a big man like him might have had a couple drinks and is guilty of something everyone this board is…except you…ha ha ha!
         
        Mike Payne, you’re post does reflect a naive view of the world.  If you are one who hasn’t been behind the wheel after having a drink or two, congratulations…you deserve to be recognized and pointed to as a good example.  But failing to realize that almost everyone else has, shows you really have no sense of reality.

        • Oct 1, 201111:47 pm
          by Mike Payne

          Reply

          @RyanK:
          “You’ve never been to a bar?”
           
          Actually, I am struggling with alcoholism, have been for many years.  My only crime when drinking, however, is losing tact and saying distasteful things on blogs written by people I respect.  Have I ever driven drunk?  No.  Have I driven after having a drink?  Only if I had a drink with a meal and have spent enough time to ensure I’m at least half-way lower than the limit, at best.  By this, I mean I’ll have a 12 oz. bottle before my meal arrives and will be in the car over an hour later.  If I got pulled over, I’d probably blow a .02 (having tested this theory scientifically, I might add, with a breathylizer my roommates and I owned in college).  Normally, however, I walk to dinner or take a cab, having carefully picked a neighborhood where I don’t need my car.
           
          “Seriously, you are living in a world of make believe if you think the overwhelming majority of people out there haven’t driven after drinking.”
           
          I think that the majority of people who do drink do so casually, and with respect for the law.  I think that the majority of people who attended a major university, or grew up in an environment where binge drinking is commonplace– yeah, the majority there have likely driven over the limit at least once.  But that’s an isolated group, a large group, but not the majority.
           
          Your comment didn’t suggest isolated incidences, it suggested on-going behavior.  That’s what I took issue with.  It’s downright clowny to believe that the majority of the world hasn’t been pulled over for drunk driving because they’re “lucky”.  It’s even more clowny (nay– dickish) to suggest “most of us here” are guilty of said crime.  The majority of us, even those who drink too much including me, have enough respect for the rest of the people on the road not to cross the line.
           
          “My understanding is it just takes one beer to fail the breathalyser.”
           
          Your understanding is incorrect, an inaccurate absolute statement.
           
          “if he’s on the fringe, a big man like him might have had a couple drinks and is guilty of something everyone this board is”
           
          Ben is a large man indeed.  He also has extremely low body fat, a characteristic which would help a normal human absorb alcohol.
           
          “Mike Payne, you’re post does reflect a naive view of the world.”
           
          I’m saying this to be a dick– it’s “your”, not “you’re” :)
           
          On the contrary, my opinion is quite educated.  My mother was a probation officer for four years in Oakland county before retiring.  My father spoke to a weekly class of DUI offenders in Dearborn.  My brother is an EMT and firefighter in the Detroit area who is called to far too many accident scenes to count.
           
          I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the problem of drunk driving in the United States and I think our laws are entirely FUBAR’d.  I’m glad that Ben caught the case where he did, because Judge Kimberly Small will throw the book at him, celebrity or not.
           
          “Mike Payne, you’re post does reflect a naive view of the world.”
           
          I’m pretty confident that I have a strong grasp on the subject, actually.  I’m not guilty, however, of making blanket statements about the behaviors of commenters on PistonPowered, suggesting they’re mostly law breakers and we should “cut the crap” about hiding it.  Might wanna read what you write before hitting that “submit comment” button.

    • Oct 1, 20119:36 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I would love to be observing in a courtroom where someone uses, “everyone totally drunk drives, broskis,” as their legal defense.

      “Mike Payne, you’re post does reflect a naive view of the world.  If you are one who hasn’t been behind the wheel after having a drink or two, congratulations…you deserve to be recognized and pointed to as a good example.  But failing to realize that almost everyone else has, shows you really have no sense of reality.”

      Ryan, what data do you have to back this up? Anecdotal evidence based on your experience is not evidence. Unless you can cite statistics that suggest “almost everyone” has drank and drove, then your claims are unverifiable. A significant number of people I know never touch alcohol, so if I were to base data on my own personal life experiences, I could say something like “almost no one drinks and drives.” This, of course, would be false, because there is data out there that shows otherwise. But unless you have data that shows “almost everyone” does it, then your assertions are just as false.

      • Oct 1, 201110:43 am
        by RyanK

        Reply

        I swear this board is just a place where people come to argue.  How can anyone say the majority of people haven’t driven a car after having a couple drinks?  Having a couple drinks doesn’t make you slur your words, but it might push you up around the legal limit…  Do they serve alcohol in bars and restaurants?  How are those people getting home?!?  Lets not make an argument just to argue…lets look at the world for what it really is.
         
        I’m not going to waste my time looking up a study on driving after having a drink or two.  Reality is what it is and your argument shows why a study wouldn’t be accurate anyways.  People deny it if you ask them if they ever get behind the wheel after a drink or two.  I and I’m willing to bet both Patrick and Mike Payne have had a drink or two then drove home…unless you don’t drink at all, I’ll take that bet.  You don’t have to admit it.
         
        I make no assertion that most people get falling down drunk and then drive their car.  I have never done that and I think it’s probably rare.  Are you over the .08 limit with that second beverage?  I don’t know, but I sure I would be nervous if a police officer pulled me over and asked me to take a breathalyser.
         
        Again, if you don’t drink, good for you.  But if you do enjoy a beverage once in a while I’d be shocked if you some how avoided being behind the wheel at some point.  I can believe someone who says they have never been wasted while driving, but never to have had a drink or two…

  • Sep 30, 201110:32 pm
    by Tom

    Reply

    Patrick, your last post – or at least the first four paragraphs of it – makes no sense.

    You state that drunk driving is illegal because it is “reckless and potentially dangerous”, then you make the claim that hypotheticals have no place in the discussion. Potentially dangerous is by definition a hypothetical. Plaxico and Wallace created potentially dangerous, ie hypothetical, situations. We as a society make it a crime to place others at an unreasonable risk of hypothetical harm. If that harm actually occurs the crime is greater, but we judge the mere creating of the risk – creating of the hypothetical – to be unacceptable and worthy of punishment. In a host of crimes ranging from attempted murder to drunk driving the injury is only hypothetical but the risk is too high and it can not be justified or tolerated. 

    It’s a Friday night and perhaps you threw back a couple, but your argument just doesn’t make any sense.
     

    • Sep 30, 201110:54 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Drunk Driving is a crime because it is potentially dangerous, yes. But Wallace’s DD charge was relatively minor b/c he was cooperative, didn’t hurt anyone, etc. My point is that it’s unfair to say things like “he could’ve hurt someone” if he didn’t. I’m talking more court of public opinion. He drank and drove. Bad decision, he got caught, he’ll get punished just like a lot of people who make that bad decision. What could’ve happened doesn’t make what he did worse if it didn’t actually happen, ya dig?

      • Oct 1, 20111:36 am
        by Mike Payne

        Reply

        I’m 100% with Tom here.
         
        “My point is that it’s unfair to say things like “he could’ve hurt someone” if he didn’t.”
         
        When getting behind the wheel after drinking four beers, he took his own life and those upon the road near him in jeopardy.  He made that decision, and got lucky.  So did those around him.
         
        If I shoot a gun in a crowded room and hit no one, I’m lucky.  I’m still guilty of putting my neighbors’ lives in jeopardyby pulling the trigger.
         
        Drunk driving laws are entirely built upon the calculated risk factors that result from drunk driving.  In my opinion, they are less than just.  In this example, Ben didn’t harm anyone, but he should be treated as if he took his neighbors’ health into his own hands by getting behind the wheel.  That’s precisely what he did, and he should be judged accordingly.

        • Oct 1, 20119:17 am
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          “When getting behind the wheel after drinking four beers, he took his own life and those upon the road near him in jeopardy.  He made that decision, and got lucky.  So did those around him.”

          Wallace shouldn’t have drove his car that night. He’s a millionaire and was at a bar or restaurant in an area where restaurant staff are used to catering to the state’s rich politicians/athletes/celebrities. He could’ve easily got a cab and should have.

          But I would prefer to see what his actual breathalyzer number was. Four beers in a man who is 6-8/260 may very well be enough to get him over the .08 legal limit, but I also think there are flaws in our drunk driving laws and that number is pretty arbitrary. I don’t know if just barely over the legal limit is enough to severely impair Wallace.

          Why was he swerving? Maybe he was legitimately impaired enough to not be driving. Maybe his cell phone rang. Maybe he spotted a cop following him in an area where people routinely panic about cops following you. There just aren’t many details other than he was swerving — was he speeding? Did he fail roadside sobriety tests? Was he coherently or incoherently answering questions?

          Ben Wallace shouldn’t have drove that night, and if he was over the legal limit then a crime was committed and I’m not arguing otherwise. But there hasn’t been enough evidence released to suggest that he was some sort of terror out on the roads that night. I just prefer more details before making a sweeping conclusion about Wallace’s actions.

          • Oct 1, 20117:21 pm
            by Packey

            “Four beers in a man who is 6-8/260 may very well be enough to get him over the .08 legal limit, but I also think there are flaws in our drunk driving laws and that number is pretty arbitrary.” 

            Actually, four beers in a man of that size would be less likely to get him over the .08 legal limit. People with less body fat and weigh as much as Big Ben will be less affected by alcohol. If he blew over the limit, I’d venture a gamble that he had way more than “four beers” over a two hour period.
             

    • Sep 30, 201111:10 pm
      by DSV

      Reply

      I have to agree with Tom a bit here, Patrick. I wouldn’t call your last response “insensitive” because you did account for the fact that those who have been impacted by this crime may feel differently, but I don’t agree that it’s ok to disregard the “hypothetical” outcome. I mean this specifically in relation to the drunk driving aspect; the gun situation is a different story to me because I don’t know enough about it and any “hypothetical” in that situation doesn’t really have any evidence behind it (to my knowledge). Driving drunk, however, has serious documented repercussions that I think are worth considering and being focused on. As others have said, driving drunk is unfortunately something that occurs far more often than it is disciplined, and I cannot speak from higher grounds on that front. Luckily for myself, I have never, nor have any of my family or friends (knock on wood) been involved in any serious repercussions from such an incident. But to say that because Ben Wallace didn’t hurt anyone should make us view it any different light… I can’t say this is something I agree with. 

      I do agree that this has produced some comment that have been rather… well let’s just call them “odd.” But I guess it’s reflective of the various opinions on how professional athletes and others of the like should approach being in the limelight and inevitably becoming a role model for the many younger and impressionable fans. Having been a fan since the Grant Hill era, I’ve been as appreciative as any for Ben Wallace’s impact on the Detroit Pistons culture. Based on the number of off court interviews and the general persona he caries himself with, I have to believe that Ben has some self awareness to realize how this affects the light in which people view him, and I have only positive hopes that he will respond accordingly. 

      PS: a long time ago I posted as “metaphor” to give my what version of what turned out to be a simile describing the relations of PistonPowered writers and commenters. I used a pseudonym because I didn’t want khandor to ask me to provide evidence as to why I made that statement. It is now that I take claim to that 5 minutes of fame (I do accept virtual pats on the backs). Also, I have posted here before, and have always been D S V. I’ve noticed someone else posting with D V S… confusing initials I suppose! But I’m not him/her!

      • Oct 1, 20119:48 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        “I wouldn’t call your last response “insensitive” because you did account for the fact that those who have been impacted by this crime may feel differently”

        It might be insensitive. That’s fair. Full disclosure here: I’ve had a couple of people close to me with severe, in-need-of-help alcohol problems, so I’ve seen the system and alcohol laws from that perspective, which can be cruel, unforgiving and a hindrance to people getting help that they need. So sometimes that clouds my view of how we legislate drunk driving/alcohol with cynicism. I tried not to let that get in the way of my post, but like I’ve said in other comments, our experiences shape our reactions. I certainly meant no insensitivity or offense to people who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers. There’s absolutely a reason for the laws, even if I don’t always think they are applied effectively.

  • Oct 1, 20118:00 am
    by jayg108

    Reply

    Good, honest post.  There is a lot of truth in this in that we either like or dislike players on the minimal exposure we have of their lives.  The driving drunk charge was more dangerous than an unloaded gun.
     
     
    Would this have happened if there wasn’t a lockout?  I’m not defending Ben, I just want to blame Stern for something.

  • Oct 1, 201111:35 am
    by MrHappyMushroom

    Reply

    Of course, we are assuming that Ben Wallace had four AND ONLY four beers that night.
     
    And we’re assuming that the gun was his wife’s and he had absolutely forgotten it was there as THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH.
     
    And both of these stories may, in fact, be true.  On the other hand, in potentially horrible pickles like this, people have been known to lie.  In fact, I’d argue that if a) he’d had six or seven beers and/or b) he knew the gun was there and carried it just in case he ran into trouble, there’s every chance that Ben would have lied.  I suspect most of us would have.
     
    Finally–PCB…get over your stupid attacks on religion.  Ya know, I’m arguably the least religious person I know.  But when I disagree with someone, I wouldn’t never call the person a stupid Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever.  Whether or not Dan Feldman is, in fact, a Christian is unbelievably irrelevant to this matter.  You come off as a bigot.

    • Oct 3, 201111:48 am
      by Murph

      Reply

      Ummm…Mr.HappyMushroom…with a handle like that, you lose credibility when it comes to moralizing on legal matters.  Last time I looked, possession of psilocybin mushrooms was a criminal offense also. 

      Or perhaps you were just making reference to shiitake mushrooms…because you enjoy them in your stir fry.

  • Oct 1, 201112:28 pm
    by Tom

    Reply

    @Patrick: You’re still trying to have it both ways. You concede that drunk driving is a crime because of the potential danger then you say what could have happened doesnt make what Ben did worse. How do you define the term “potential danger” if not including what could have happened?

    Two larger points I would like to add. 

    People seem fixated on this idea that .08 is arbitrary and not indicative of being particularly drunk. While I agree with those statements they miss the point. Having even a drink reduces your reaction time and makes driving more dangerous. Anyone who drives has undoubtedly had multiple instances in their life where, through either the fault of themselves or others, had to slam on the brakes or swerve at the last second to avoid a potentially deadly situation. Even one drink reduces the chances that you react quickly enough to avoid that accident. Society has made the determination that to reduce your ability to deal with that situation is unacceptable. The risk to society is high and your benefit, ie getting to drink and then drive, is too low to justify the risk. Your on notice every time you touch alcohol that if you drive you might be committing a crime so if you have more than one you better be damn careful and error on the side of not driving.

    In Ben’s defense, sort of, I think it is far from certain he should have been pulled over in the first place. I don’t know if it was a local cop or a state one, but I know that Michigan cops in some places have quotas for the number of dd arrests they have to make. That causes them to pull people over at night for no reason other than the odds say that if they do that enough they will get someone for dui. Further, the fact that he is a black man in a fancy car can’t be ignored. The fact that a cop says he was driving erratically means nothing. Talk to any public defender or prosecutor and they will tell you that is the standard line when someone is pulled over, it means nothing. It is a completely arbitrary standard and no proof is required or even possible, so anytime a cop pulls someone over and ultimately finds a valid reason to arrest them all they have to do to justify the initial stop is say there was erratic driving. That being said, he clearly drank too much and shouldn’t have been on the road, I have no sympathy.

  • Oct 1, 20111:53 pm
    by Danny

    Reply

    I dont know how anyone can call driving while intoxicated a small offense. The reason people constantly do it is because they can get away with it. There are a bunch of driving offenses, which dont directly endanger lives that carry a bigger fine than a DUI, at least here in GA. Not to mention, you can be a 6 time offender and still not receive jail time, as I personally met a guy who did just that. This society is way to forgiving for crimes that endanger lives IMO. Im not saying Ben needs to have the book thrown at him, (although that still wouldnt mean much) but I do believe even first time offenders need a minimum of a month or so in jail.

  • Oct 1, 20112:20 pm
    by Murph

    Reply

    Unlike Feldman, I’m not morally superior enough to know whether Ben Wallace “deserves  jail time”.  That’s for the courts to decide.

    Personally, I hope Wallace avoids going before Judge Kimberly Small, and recieves probation for a first time offense.

  • Oct 1, 20112:51 pm
    by khandor

    Reply

    1. What exactly is the “flattering image” you believe Ben Wallace has to this point in his life, on and off the basketball court? … other than being a very good defensive Center who could once rebound and block shots effectively for the Detroit Pistons.
    2. It’s presumptuous to assume that anyone somehow “deserves” jail time, without first knowing all of the facts involved in a specific person’s case.

    • Oct 3, 20112:20 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      1. I think most Pistons fans view him in a very positive light.

      2. I thought I included enough “if the allegations are true”s in the post, but one more just in case: ”if the allegations are true.”

  • Oct 1, 20113:40 pm
    by samuel

    Reply

    well, I do not care what anyone else may say,  harsh things, however true, like

    “this is a deliberately inflammatory post to generate page views, hits, and all the things web people like”

    or 

    “it is sure to generate at least a few racist comments or at least ‘overpaid thug’ (which is not racist, since anyone who earns millions in a billion dollar entertainment industry is overpaid, unless they are Justin Beiber or simon cowell or anyone else rich -and only coincidentally white”)

    I also personally like Judge Kimberly Small, although all the ”Kimberly’s”,  I’ve known have been strippers, I really dig her strong, no tolerance stance on drunk driving, which fortunately does not extend to her own daughter, for whom she wrote a special letter to plead for clemency (granted).

    Blood is thicker than water, and most beers, so I am perfectly fine with that. :)

    The only thing is, I am worried for the future of this blog, since this is the only article I ever clicked on from here.

    What will I do when this argument has run it’s course?

    ( As of 4:30 Pacific time yesterday)

    I am joining for the clamouring crowd for more hard-hitting journalism such as this…In a nature short of morals, we need more moralistic fatwas!

    • Oct 3, 20117:58 am
      by Murph

      Reply

      “I also personally like Judge Kimberly Small, although all the ”Kimberly’s”,  I’ve known have been strippers, I really dig her strong, no tolerance stance on drunk driving, which fortunately does not extend to her own daughter, for whom she wrote a special letter to plead for clemency (granted).”
      Blood is thicker than water, and most beers, so I am perfectly fine with that.”

      Funny stuff.  Good post.

  • Oct 3, 201111:26 am
    by Chris

    Reply

    A couple of things:

    1.  A .08 isn’t an arbitrary number.  Many studies, including ones commission by that National Safety Council, have determined that everyone in impaired at a .08.  That’s the definitive line in which people failed enough elements of motor skills tests in order to sufficiently say they are impaired.

    2.  .08 is what’s called a per se statute.  If there is scientific data that survives defense challenges in court that says the defendant has a BAC (or breath alcohol concentration) above a .08, then the defendant can be convicted of DUI regardless of proving loss of motor skills.  It’s a default measure where if you are measured at a .08, the court can automatically determine that you are impaired, regardless of any video evidence is presented. 

    If under a .08, the prosecution can still charge someone with DWI, but they need to prove through standardized field sobriety tests and interactions with the officer that the driver was indeed impaired at the time of driving.

    3.  Breathalyzers are indeed reliable.  I think you are getting confused with two types.  One is a portable breath testing unit (PBUs), which are inadmissable in court in most (if not all) states.  That number can only be used as probable cause to make an arrest, but that number cannot be used to get a conviction in a court of law.  Breathalyzers (in many states, they use the Intoxilizer) that are admissable in court cost about $100K and require yearly operating training in most states.  These instruments are routinely calibrated and they have triggers for interferents, such as excess mouth alcohol or acetone (from untreated diabetics)- which renders the test void.

    • Oct 3, 20112:31 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      .08 is arbitrary in the sense that it’s the same standard applied to everyone. Someone at .081 faces the same charges as someone at .33. Obviously, one is a much larger risk to society.

      And there’s certainly another side to the reliability of breathalyzers:

      http://www.carlcederlaw.com/Intoxilyzer-5000

  • Oct 3, 20112:18 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Ryan, you’re arguing two different things as if they’re one. Many people have driven after drinking. Much fewer have driven while drunk.

    Mike Payne made that distinction very clear, and he fits into what I’d guess is the most common crowd: those who manage how much they drink when they know they’re driving.

    Ryan, I suggest you look at this chart to see the huge middle ground you’re missing.

  • Oct 3, 20113:30 pm
    by Jason

    Reply

    Next time all you drive tired remember Ben Wallace. Assuming his level is not like over .25 driving tired is just like driving drunk. Or what about driving and talking, texting, smoking and even changing the radio.

    Drunk driving is wrong without a doubt but to me its a mistake not a defining moment in someones life.

    Maybe a should rething my what I think of my Grandparents cause I bet everytime they get behind the wheel is just as dangerous and Ben Wallace was the other night.

  • Oct 3, 20113:32 pm
    by Jason

    Reply

    Damn spelling.  I meant “Maybe I shoud rethink what”

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