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So when the news came out that Howard Bryant, the excellent ESPN.com writer and someone I consider a friend, was arrested on charges of domestic assult and battery, I Tweeted the following:

jeffpearlman

@jeffpearlman jeffpearlman
I believe in Howard Bryant 100%—a good friend and good person.

•••

The response was pretty nasty. You support someone you know while damning Jeff Bagwell? How can you back a guy who hits his wife? Etc … etc.

Here’s the thing: I’m not saying whether Howard is innocent or guilty, right or wrong—though I have an awfully hard time believing the story told by the police is the 100-percent accurate account. What I am saying is I believe in him. In his character. In his decency. In his history. If he did this, well, obviously it’s a problem. But knowing him as I do, I find it hard to fathom. I really do.

A quick story about Howard that, I believe, says something. Years ago the two of is were talking at the Cubs’ spring training facility in Arizona. It was about an hour before a game, and we were standing in a concourse, minding our business. A man comes up, holding two tickets, taps Howard on the shoulder and says, “Can you tell me where my seats are?”

The world’s most awkward silence ensued, and then Howard said, “Do I look like an usher to you?”

The man slunk away. It was perfect. Dead-on perfect.

But that’s the thing. Because it’s 2011, and because we have an African-American president, people seem to think racial issues are no longer racial issues. That black-white isn’t black-white. I’m not saying Howard and his wife, who is white, were victims of racism. But it’s certainly far from unfathomable—black man, white woman, argument, iffy state.

What can I say? I believe in Howard Bryant.

I do.

Jeff Pearlman is a writer.