Josh Brent's trial set for September

The case of Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent remains a terribly sad one all the way around. The greatest sadness is, of course, over the loss of the life of teammate Jerry Brown, who was killed in the Dec. 8 car accident for which Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter. The news Monday that Brent's trial has been set for Sept. 23 brought it all back, and serves as a reminder that the impact of Brent's terrible decision that night will continue to be felt for a while.

There's a football component, which seems small by comparison to the real-world aspects of the Brent case, and that is that Brent obviously isn't going to be playing for the Cowboys again any time soon, if ever. This robs the Cowboys of a promising young player who would have offered them depth and flexibility on the interior of their defensive line in their new 4-3 alignment. Had Brent been available, if would have been easier to release Jay Ratliff (who idiotically and inconceivably got busted for drunken driving just six weeks later) and clear some needed cap room. But Brent is not available to them and likely will not be.

Because the likelihood is that Brent will have to go to jail for this. His charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and even if that's just a worst-case scenario, he's still confronting a very serious penalty. This is not Brent's first drunken-driving offense, and there appear to have been witnesses. At the age of 25, Brent is confronting the premature end of his promising pro football career and the loss of a significant chunk of his prime to prison.

And that is sad, and infuriating, even if it's the kind of thing the casual fan forgets with time. And that's why you keep writing about it, even though you know your readers would rather read about the draft and free agency and which teams have how much salary-cap room left. You keep writing about it because it's an important thing not to forget. Because if any good were to come out of an all-around rotten situation like this one, it would come in the form of a lesson learned by those of us on the outside. It's not just the NFL or other professional sports leagues that fails to take this selfish, stupid, completely avoidable crime seriously enough. It's our society as a whole. And as sad as Josh Brent's case is, all you can hope is that the fact that it's so public helps the lesson sink in and convinces somebody, some night, somewhere to call a damn cab.