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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Defense of Wisconsin...From Illinois

The Journal Sentinel got the ball rolling on Wisconsin's 'drinking problem'. The New York Times picked that ball up and ran with it. Now, an Illinois columnist yells, "stop!"

The Times explained that a parent must actually hand a beer to their minor child, and further, that Wisconsin law allows absolute discretion on the part of bartenders and owners to refuse to allow a parent to hand the minor the drink. This scenario may be a possibility under Wisconsin law, but it is a warped representation of tavern life in the state. One might think Wisco-born babies are given Miller Lite intravenously in public hospitals - with their parents' permission - and that the drinking age is a staunch 24-hours-old. Religious health care institutions in Wisconsin probably shun baby-imbibing and draw a hard line, refusing children drink until they are old enough to compete in lawn darts at their first church picnic.

Well, you need a few drinks before lawn darts. It numbs the stabbing pain of errant throws. But seriously:

Here's the skinny: Wisconsin bartenders do not freely serve parents and their minor children in bars. I know. I was a bartender there. I took the state-required class in which state-certified teachers scared the beer-stained pants off of us about liability. Wisconsin drunks do get OWIs (Operating While Intoxicted) and lots of them. After the second one, it can land them in jail. It's not the free-for-all the Times article or the university culture police would have us believe.

I say, leave Wisconsin alone with its beer. Call it a bastion of drunkenness if you want. Maybe it's a center for vice, like Vegas for gambling or Nashville for country music. And maybe there's a reason Chicagoans flock there every weekend.

Look, we aren't perfect in this state, but we aren't quite as alcohol addled as the Journal Sentinel or the Times make us out to be. It is good for us to look inwardly at our drinking culture from time to time, but this is getting a bit out of hand. If you want proof Wisconsinites aren't as bad as your media portrays us, get a load of those Chicagoans at your local tavern, lake, or ballpark some weekend.