I don’t particularly mind when someone does something monumentally stupid but only hurts him or herself. Not that I wish harm on anyone. But in those cases, only the idiot behind the action suffers the consequences of the stupidity.
Just don’t take somebody else down with you. And that is my problem with Robert Hopkins.
Hopkins qualified for the Bills’ Wall of Fame, Idiot Division, at Sunday’s game in Orchard Park. He slid down a third-deck railing, flipped over the edge and plummeted feet-first into the seats 25 feet below. Authorities tell me that he admitted to Bills security people that – no surprise – he was drunk. Hopkins was barely hurt in the fall, video of which blew up on social media.
The guy he landed on, a 29-year-old social studies teacher at South Buffalo Charter School, was not as lucky. He is banged up with head and neck injuries but is expected to recover – and is considering a lawsuit.
“His spirits are not good, and he’s ticked off,” said Charles Desmond, the victim’s attorney. “He’s sitting there drinking a soda, and next thing he knows, he’s lying on the ground half-dazed, strapped into a backboard.”
There are plenty of things we expect to fall from the sky; a human being isn’t among them. The teacher could have been killed, which would have meant a tragedy instead of a travesty.
Hopkins is 28, lives in Lackawanna and – in the fallout from the fall – was fired from his public relations job. He was charged Wednesday with assault and reckless endangerment, misdemeanors with punishment ranging from a conditional discharge to a year in jail. District Attorney Frank Sedita III bypassed a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, explaining that Hopkins “caused physical injury, which we believe constitutes recklessness.”
I have no problem with authorities throwing the book at Hopkins, given his advanced level of idiocy – authorities say he slid down the railing four times before falling – and the larger message the crackdown sends to blotto fans. Someday, someway, the drink-till-you’re-stupid culture surrounding Bills games has to change.
I’m not kidding myself. I don’t think that going after this guy will dramatically change the drinking culture at – and before – Bills games. But it might shift it a notch. I like tailgating and the pregame social festival. I can’t stomach the minority of fans who think drinking-to-oblivion is part of game day.
In recent years, society’s attitude toward drunken driving has done a 180-degree turn. Behavior once condoned is now condemned. It would be nice to see the same sensibility-shift with NFL Sundays. I went to two games this season and saw numerous stumble-drunks, two people vomited on, drunken fights and a couple of 20-something women passed out in their seats. Worse, you have drunks driving home after games and, last year, the presumably drunk guy who after a night game drowned in a shallow creek.
I don’t blame the Bills, who in recent years buckled down on security, pat down everyone entering the stadium and stop beer sales after halftime. People have to act sanely and – beyond that – discourage buddies from getting stink-faced. Seriously, a little peer pressure goes a long way.
Looking back, I bet Robert Hopkins wishes that somebody had gotten in his face. So does the poor guy he landed on.