It wasn’t so much the poor judgement Braylon Edwards demonstrated this week, when D’Brickishaw Ferguson, V. Gholston and he apparently decided to drive under the influence of alcohol that made me wince. It was the reckless vanity. When I read the account of how his arrest went down, I was fixated with what most people would probably say was an insignificant fact, and that is above his Michigan license plate in two-inch chrome letters were his name and number.
That ‘look at me’ license plate is perplexing. Is he trying to make sure everyone on the road knows who’s inside, even law enforcement? And if they do, is he untouchable? Unfortunately it’s probably a trait that affects many more in professional sports than just Edwards. It feels pretentious. But maybe I’m jealous and projecting what’s really lurking deep inside me. I hope not.
I was taught early in my career the power and burden of public awareness. In 1973 I grew the Mohawk haircut which could be construed as putting my name and number above my license plate. The truth was, I was rebelling against a perceived lifetime of restraint of self-expression, i.e. conformity. But after a couple of back page photos of me in the New York Post and Daily News I was stupefied by the sudden rise in my recognizability. I had grown up in a town of 500 people or so, and not surprisingly everyone knew my name there. But, now I was in New York City, population 14 million, and it seemed many knew my name just like the people of Centralia, Kansas.
This was a sobering moment for me (I appreciate the play on words here by the way), that made me realize notoriety wasn’t necessarily my friend. Fame, like alcohol, intoxicates. And, again like alcohol is best, when used in moderate ways and for social purposes.
If Edwards has found contrition, we’ll see it immediately, by the way he comports himself on and off the field. I know from my indiscretions, I felt intensely stupid and small, because we all think we’re better than that, and it stings when we find out we’re not. The same thing can be said for his two accomplices, because from my vantage point they are as guilty as he is, when it comes to poor judgement. Even though Edwards was the wheel man, his teammates showed the same disregard for the public’s and their own safety and should share in the accountability.
It has occurred to me, drinking can be a team sport, as it may or may not have been in New York City early this past Tuesday morning. But at the very least, his teammates owed it to Edwards and themselves to not let him drive, and find another way home.
We’re all responsible for each other, when it comes to the insidious nature of driving under the influence, and we should start thinking of it that way. Bar owners and bartenders are being held responsible, why shouldn’t passengers? It’s time to raise the ante. To paraphrase a Willie Nelson lyric, “Braylon needs your prayers it’s true, but save a few for D’Brick and Vernon too, they only did what they had to do.”