Perhaps you’re going to the Wake Forest football game Saturday. If so, be prepared to show some ID and take note of another little turn in our culture It’s more consequential than it looks.
Wake is the first major college in North Carolina to sell beer and wine at its games alongside soft drinks and snacks. The sales began with the season opener Sept. 1.
They’re opening up college games across the country to alcohol sales. Eighty years after the end of Prohibition and 40 years after our previously dry communities here in the hometown began the widespread sales of alcoholic beverages, one more dry bastion is falling. Expect other colleges to follow quickly. Can high school games be far behind?
Drinking has gone from lingering in the shadows during the dry years to being celebrated in recent times with community festivals and media advertising. A third-generation ABC store going up in North Elkin following a wet vote in Jonesville in 2014 is a testament to the change here.
One time not so long ago tobacco was celebrated and drinking scorned. Now look at how that has flipped-flopped. Saturday, try lighting up while you hold a beer in your hand at the ball game and see how far you get.
Voices decrying the abuse of alcohol in colleges by underage students have grown muted and silenced. Basketball legend the late Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – no bastion of sobriety, by the way – used to speak out against beer advertising during college games on TV.
But that was one contest in which Smith was badly outmatched, as beer ads have come to dominate TV even more than Smith’s teams used to dominate on the court. How horrified he would be at the thought of widespread drinking now at the games.
While announcing the move last month, the Wake athletics director conceded that resistance to alcohol remains in this conservative, religious state.
“There will be some who are concerned about it,” said director Ron Wellman, as reported in the “Winston-Salem Journal.” He cited a survey showing fan support of alcohol for the move.
Then the newspaper published a fluff piece that quoted fans at the season-opener who said how great was the alcohol.
About four in five college students drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And about half of college students abuse alcohol with binge drinking, according to the institute.
Some other numbers from the institute:
Nearly 2,000 college students a year die from alcohol-related deaths. There are more than 690,000 assaults, 97,000 victims of sexual abuse, nearly 600,000 injuries and more than 150,000 who develop health problems due to alcohol.
About a quarter of students miss classes, suffer dropping grades and have other academic problems due to drinking. Up to 1.5 percent report trying to commit suicide.
The young people who will see drinking modeled at Wake’s BB&T Field in Winston on Saturday will have no idea of the intense debate that raged here for generations over drinking. They do not know about a time not so long ago when the alcohol did not flow so freely.
There can be no question now about who won the old Prohibition debate, and it’s up to the young people to deal with the resulting plagues of intemperance, abuse and alcoholism.
The plagues will not be in much evidence at Wake football, basketball and other games. They’re beefing up security, for instance, to keep a lid on drunken fans.
However, it will be after the games that the plagues will strike with fury, in the bars, Greek houses and dorm rooms where the real drinking will begin.
Our colleges should not encourage it. Should they, coach Smith?
An apology: Last week I made a wisecrack about Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting hit by a football. At the time of writing, reports said Junior would miss two races due to concussion and return to the track. Since, we’ve learned that Junior’s out for the season. I regret making light of a serious injury.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.
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