Commentary

A bright person, a very foolish thing

Hopefully, Taurasi can turn extreme DUI charge into learning experience

Originally Published: July 15, 2009
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

The WNBA's leading scorer wasn't voted into the All-Star Game as a starter, and it seems rather unlikely she'll be named a reserve by the league's coaches, either. But with the trouble Diana Taurasi is facing, potentially missing the midseason showcase of the league's top players is certainly not the biggest thing she's worried about.

[+] EnlargeDiana Turasi
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty ImagesDiana Taurasi faces three drunken driving related charges, including extreme DUI, for a July 2 incident. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent.

The All-Star contest was supposed to be just another spotlighted stage for Taurasi, who is averaging 20.6 points per game for the Western Conference-leading Phoenix Mercury. And a particularly grand stage, since the game -- set for July 25 -- will be played in Connecticut, where she played for UConn and is a folk hero.

But Taurasi allegedly made a very poor decision that has taken away some of the sparkle that typically surrounds her. Even in Connecticut, she has lost some fans and left others extremely disappointed.

The Phoenix police released a report Tuesday that said Taurasi's blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, after she was pulled over July 2 in that city. She was cited for extreme DUI and speeding.

It remains to be seen how the case will be settled -- whether Taurasi will serve any jail time and how long a suspension she might receive from the league. Her next court date is July 22.

There's no way Taurasi should be an All-Star, and the league must take as harsh a stance as its guidelines allow in terms of punishment.

If she indeed does not play in the All-Star Game, her absence will be conspicuous. And that's a shame, but that shame is all on Taurasi herself. She is the first truly high-profile WNBA player to get in any serious legal trouble.

Considering what a popular, visible and vocal presence she is for her franchise, the league and the sport of women's basketball, this is as much a worst-case scenario as the WNBA hopes it ever has to deal with.

There's no way Diana Taurasi should be an All-Star, and the league must take as harsh a stance as its guidelines allow in terms of a punishment.

Because the real worst-case scenario, of course, is that Taurasi, if driving under the influence, could have killed or severely injured herself and others. There aren't any excuses for that behavior, and Taurasi now has a mark on her reputation that will never come off.

Can it fade a bit? Yes, if she works hard at making it happen. But it never will go away entirely. Nor should it. That's the nature of life's having consequences.

None of this means she can't eventually get some positives out of the situation, starting with the necessity of examining what changes she might need to make in her life to avoid anything like this happening again. And she could end up using this experience to counsel other players or younger athletes.

When you take actions that put yourself and others in harm's way and you're lucky enough to escape with no one getting physically injured, you need to look at it like you just got a second chance at life.

Taurasi is a very bright person who allegedly did a very foolish thing. She should spend some time thinking about just how much more nightmarish this could have been and be thankful she was spared those consequences. And many of her peers need to do reality checks in their own lives about how alcohol use and abuse might affect them.

It is, in fact, a topic the All-Stars should discuss privately with each other when they get together in Uncasville, Conn. They know how little margin for error there is in regard to personal behavior potentially having a devastating effect on not just them individually, but the whole league. Taurasi might not end up on the All-Star roster this season, but she should be on the All-Stars' minds.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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