Josh Brent's presence on the Dallas Cowboys' sidelines in Week 15 was a surprise to many, but the team's support of its troubled defensive tackle is the right choice no matter who disagrees.
Sorry critics, you'll have to get your pound of flesh elsewhere.
Brent is currently out on $500,000 bail after being charged with intoxicated manslaughter. On the morning of December 8, Brent was driving under the influence of alcohol when his car hit a curb and flipped over. His passenger, Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown, was killed. Brown and Brent have known each other since college and were out together at a private Dallas club.
The presence of Brent on the Cowboys' sideline does not condone his actions, nor does his presence at team facilities this week.
I don't condone his actions either; I find them despicable. Drunk driving is never a victimless crime, even when no one is hurt. The prevalence of drunk driving exacerbates the issue and continues the circle of stupidity until people are hurt. It is never a question of "if?" but rather an issue of "when?" and "who?"
Brent's presence on the sideline didn't go unnoticed for long:
Am I the only one that is wondering what in the world the Cowboys are thinking with Josh Brent on the sideline?— Boomer Esiason (@7BOOMERESIASON) December 16, 2012
The problem, of course, is that Boomer Esiason doesn't get to decide when and where to forgive Brent, and he doesn't get to decide how to exact revenge, if at all.
If anyone does, it is Stacey Jackson, the mother of Brown. She was last seen walking into Brown's funeral—arm in arm with her son's killer. Yes, you read that right, even if you or I cannot fathom a mother responding that way. It goes against our every inclination. It isn't the way people act.
Maybe people should start acting that way.
Brown's death was not an accident. That isn't the narrative here. Brent made a willful, stupid, criminal decision to get behind the wheel. Perhaps Brown's decision to get in the car was stupid as well, but his decision wasn't criminal. No, he is a victim here, and Brent will get what is coming to him in a court of law.
As for the Cowboys and Ms. Jackson? Vengeance is not their aim, even if it might be theirs to seek.
One young man is dead; why lose another? What good does it do to cut Brent off from his support system and everything he loves? Is the end of the destructive cycle found through more destruction?
On his own, Brent will be adrift in a corrections system that has shown itself to be woefully unprepared to correct anything. Who has more resources to help Brent than the Cowboys? Who can better help Brent cure his demons than the Brown family and their open, forgiving arms?
Forgiveness isn't about pretending everything is OK. It isn't about acceptance, and it isn't about forgetting. Rather, it is about redemption—the healing of wounds that look utterly incurable.
If Brent's story becomes one of redemption, the Cowboys (along with Ms. Jackson) should be hailed as heroes. It's not that Brent deserves a hero, but that his lack of merit makes their actions so much more admirable—more admirable, by far, than the worthless words and tweets of their critics.