I was at Keith Urban’s concert at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield last weekend, when scores of young people were arrested and dozens more taken to nearby hospitals where they were treated for alcohol poisoning.
It was disturbing but typical, I was told by a concessioner. “It happens every time. It’s disgusting the way these kids act.”
I’m not a concertgoer. I prefer my music soft and low and in a lounge where the lyrics can be heard. But there I was, the music so loud that if you didn’t know the song, you could not decipher the words, waiting for a break from the noise.
The break came at intermission. That’s when I wandered to the exit and in the process, into a chaotic scene of police and EMTs yelling, “Get back! Get back! Coming through.” Lifting, carrying, supporting one young person after another out the gate and into an ambulance.
And that’s when I talked to the concessioner.
Almost all of us, at one time in our lives, have had too much to drink. For many, it’s when you’re young and don’t know the cumulative effects of alcohol. I’ve been there. I live in a glass house, so I try not to throw stones. But . . .
There were so many people drinking and drunk or high on something at that concert. Not just the 50-plus escorted out, but so many who stayed, staggering around bumping into things, passing out in the bathroom, sitting on the ground, too unsteady to stand, pale and glassy-eyed, just minutes away from vomiting.
Two days after the concert, an 18-year-old from West Roxbury was charged with raping a 17-year-old on the lawn at the outdoor amphitheater. “While the allegations are disputed, police say the only certainty in the incident is that both the defendant and the girl were drinking at the Xfinity Center during the concert Saturday night,” the Attleboro Sun reported Monday.
People come to these concerts and their bags are checked for alcohol. You can’t even bring an open bottle of water into the Xfinity Center. But prior to walking through the gate, anything goes. Thousands set up shop in the parking lot and drink all day. They party. They eat. They play games. But mostly they drink.
Then it’s night and the concert begins, and they drink some more. Some pass out drunk and get arrested. Some do things they would never do if sober. And some get in their cars and drive home.
And when parents get a call saying their kid is in a hospital or in jail? Or when someone who has never been in trouble before rapes or is raped? Or when someone is killed driving home, there is always a cacophony of “How did this happen?”
It happens because places like the Xfinity Center, like Gillette Stadium, like all the venues that look the other way while people get drunk or stoned — function halls after an open bar event, country clubs after a wedding — do not do enough to stop it from happening.
It’s not just an underage drinking problem. It’s a societal drinking problem. Adults drink all day and night. Young people do the same. Adults play tailgating drinking games. Young people play their own games with maybe a little more alcohol and some pills to help the buzz along.
The boy I saw held up by an EMT last week? The girl I saw with the shiny dark hair crouched on the ground with her face in her hands? A few years ago, they were just children.
“It’s disgusting the way these kids act,” the concessioner said.
It is disgusting the way they act. But what’s more disgusting is the way we act, as if there is nothing we can do about it.
If police were authorized to set up a roadblock and conduct sobriety tests after every concert or ball game where there was tailgating, or after every alcohol-fueled function, people would either drink less or go to jail.
It’s that simple. Kids, just like adults, know they can drink and drug and get away with it. So they do.
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