I know so many people who don’t understand my passion for sports, especially football. Until you have been in a locker room, laced up pads, and gone to fight with each other it is hard to understand. I never lost a teammate like the Dallas Cowboys did yesterday. The closest I come to it was in high school, our team manager had leukemia and died from it. But that was a year after I graduated and just a few weeks before he was supposed to throw his mortar board hat in the air himself. At the end of his life, he was begging for the morphine shots and his Dad knew the shots were hastening his death, but knew Phillip wasn’t going to recover.
Those emotions still get to me. I lost it when they gave him his degree posthumously. Genuinely lost it. Had to leave so people didn’t see me crying. Even now as I write this it hits me. Phillip was a team manager. A guy who taped our ankles and squirted water in our mouths on the sidelines or in the huddle so we could stay hydrated. He threw us towels to wipe the sweat off our faces. He was our Gunga Din. Not someone who got out there and pounded on the other guys with us, and as I said it was a full year after I had already graduated.
That is how close emotionally a team can be. Jerry Brown was a Practice Squad player. He wasn’t a star any more. He was an NFL version of Rudy; a guy who was there to work the active players into a frenzy and hone them, sharpen them, and through busting his butt maybe get his own chance to run out of that tunnel with a star on his hat, and have his family scream with delight.
Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett talking about Josh Brent’s joy and endorsement of acquiring Jerry Brown hit me like a ton of bricks. I can hear him and see him jumping up and down, “That’s my boy. That’s my boy. He can play.” Contrast that to his emotions right now. That’s still his boy, but his boy can no longer play. Just like Phillip is still my team manager. He wasn’t the only guy who ever taped my ankles, squirted water into my mouth, or threw me a towel, but he’s the only one I remember. Mostly because we all knew what he was facing. We admired him. Admired his sense of humor and his zest for life.
From all accounts so far Jerry Brown had that too. Dallas Quarterback Tony Romo said he had personally told Brown that if he kept working as hard as he was that he was going to see the chance of his dreams come. Now, he never will, and the best friend he had in the world has to live with that for the rest of his life.
Often I wish I had the opportunities that these guys do to live my dream of playing for the Cowboys. I wonder how they could be so stupid and ruin their chance. Right now, there is no way on this earth that I would trade places with Josh Brent. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the trials and penalties he may be facing. It has to do with what he has to live with. I can’t fathom it. I can’t wrap my head around how you live with that.
Many years ago I was driving my car on a 3 lane street. I was in the right lane and it had very little traffic. The two lanes to my left had lots of it, and at one point I was passing several cars who from my vantage point had stopped due to the traffic ahead. There was a very small gap and it was right at a crosswalk. I could not see the girl carrying a violin case who stepped right in front of me as I was passing them.
I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could. It was too late to stop before I would hit her. Luckily for me she sensed the danger and ran just enough so that I missed her by probably less than 3 inches. It is the closest I have ever come to potentially killing or crippling a human being. I pulled my car into the parking lot and drove back around to her to make sure she was really okay. It scared both of us. She admitted she should have looked to make sure no cars were coming in the open travel lane and I admitted I should have noticed the crosswalk and wondered if someone might be there. To this day I can’t fathom how I could have lived with the guilt if I hurt or killed her, and I was alcohol free.