Yep. You heard it right. After being pessimistically distant from any good expectations out of ‘da Bears - much less happy about who they ARE as people – I am now rooting for Brandon Marshall the way I did Tim Tebow last season.
Unlike some fans who only root for winners regardless of how immoral, crude or unlikeable their sports heroes are – I’m ain’t one of ‘em. Having a likeable or loveable player isn’t MORE important to me than winning, but, it is a requirement for my affection. For instance, I could never root for Mike Tyson as long as he derided common decency no matter how dominant he was in the ring.
I officially entered NFL fan free agency last year when my Bears couldn’t even lose without blaming everyone else on the team or looking like spoiled brats. Cutler DID begin to show some sportsmanship and leadership toward year’s end but – as noted in this video – I wasn’t the only one to find him as one of the 5 most annoying players in the NFL. Thank God for Devin Hester. Tom Waddle dissing Pastor Joel Osteen and the supposedly Christian Coach Lovie Smith making overtly racist campaign commercials for our infanticide loving President made me feel like I was married to Janet Napolitiano. Yup. Sick to my stomach. I may still love my Chicago Bears – but I didn’t like them or the company I was keeping in rooting for them.
The apologists on both national and local TV played the same old liberal violin with regards to Matt Forte’s contract blaming “the man” (who happens to be a woman) without ever acknowledging that Forte himself turned down an extremely lucrative contract to play last season without a net. The Bears are a business, and like Chris Harris during the walkout, they somehow felt that the NFL teams owed them the right over business decisions without those players taking any fiscal risk and responsibility themselves. Call it – Occupy NFL. Finally, my favorite Chicago media scribe that I have bipolar opinion on – the love/hate David Haugh – said what I have been saying since LAST year. Forte’ is a petulant prim Madonna. Hardly worth looking forward to no matter how many games he play without getting inevitably injured as he is since arriving.
I’ve written about the terribly dishonest and non-objective reporting of the Chicago sports media at times (and more than once), but Jared Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune has written an amazing piece on former Denver Bronco and Jay Cutler teammate Brandon Marshall that may be some of the best sports writing I’ve ever read. Only one small angle at the end rubbed me wrong, and my addressing that observation by Mr. Hopkins, is the ONLY thing I could possibly add to this well told story.
Career NFL statistics as of Week 17, 2011
Hopkins interviewed Marshall’s homeys in his old hood of Pittsburgh which prompted a call from Brandon himself:
"You want to understand me? Come and stay with me."
The Chicago Tribune reporter landed a plumb opportunity by actually living with Marshall and his wife for 3 days so that he could better “understand” him.
Hopkins points out that Marshall is the best receiver the Bears have ever had, even before he plays a single down in a slightly different shade of Burnt Orange and Navy from those hanging in his closet from Denver. And despite Bear’s history from Tank Johnson to drug runner Sam Hurd, Marshall could also compete as the worst off field head case. Hopkins contrasts it in two paragraphs showing two extremes:
The numbers suggest Marshall is already the best wide receiver the Bears have ever had. Since the team was founded in 1919, only one player has caught 100 passes in a season. Marshall did that three years in a row from 2007 to 2009 — an accomplishment matched by only four other players in NFL history.
But since the Broncos drafted him in the fourth round in 2006, Marshall has become known for more than his stats: Arrests for domestic violence and drunken driving. Arguments with coaches. Acknowledging he suffers from a mental illness.
So how does extreme (but hip) Jesus freak, PolitiJim dare to put Bad Boy Brandon in the saintly Tebow sphere of fan worship? The same reason that the Apostles Peter and Paul means more to me than the Apostle John who was the “good son.” Like the vast majority of Americans, I am only too aware of my shortcomings. I have no illusion that after I made 5 years old, I have never been on the Catholic Church’s short list of priestly prospects. The “perfect people” who never make mistakes are not only annoying to me, they keep reminding of me what I can never be. When I “backslid” as a young Christian, many in the church pretty much said, “Well, God will forgive you but He can no longer use you the way he could have.” It was clear. I could NEVER be Tim Tebow.
Nor could the Marshall-man. At 3 years old, Brandon Marshall saw his Dad coldcock his mom in the front seat of their car, stop, go around to the other side and do it again. He saw hate, violence and who knows what other form of trauma and abuse before he was five years old. He ended up repeating what he saw and was taught. Slum survival, hood hustling or street smarts, he did what would not get him killed and bring him even a momentary shred of happiness. And yet despite excelling physically and professionally into the NFL – he wasn’t happy, fulfilled or even enjoying his amazing accomplishments.
But he also met Jesus. And for the first time in his life, even while he struggles with his “flesh” (as they say in religious circles), he is showing his family how to receive the grace of God and enjoy life. I can relate to this guy much more than Tim Tebow, despite being a white, Christian conservative who lives in the former Rebel territories.
As I’ve gotten older and actually READ the Good Book for myself, I found out that the “sin once and you’re done” theology was that not true. Former Christian murderer Paul and the lying, God-denier Peter, prove that those Christians still trying to make people be “Perfect” are theologically ignorant and unhelpful to REAL life. Don’t believe me? Then let’s do a little test.
Name a brand of Christianity (Methodist, etc) that is dead set against drinking. Go on, I’ll give you a second…. Most of you likely said “Southern Baptists” and you’d be correct. Yet, Southern Baptists have the highest reported incident of alcoholism among all denominations. Why? The prodigals like me can tell you – the more you tell someone what they can and can’t do, the more likely they are to fail.
I’ll never forget going to TGIFridays after a church softball game with a Dallas Baptist church I had just joined and ordering a pitcher of Miller for the table. (I was politely asked not only to do that again, but uninvited me from leading the bible study the next week.) Their reaction did nothing to make me like them, much less want to be a judgmental teetoatling Baptist. I personally never had a problem with drinking (I did it quite well thank you), but I was a male slut and a terrible liar.
For a long time even AFTER I was a Christian, I had to admit, I didn’t even want to be a Timmy Tebow type because it seemed like you were giving up all the fun of life to go sit in a church with old ladies and drink bad Hi-C all Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. When God began to do miracles in my life, I suddenly found out three things:
- There weren’t nearly as many killjoy rules as I thought, (drinking itself wasn’t a sin),
- The “rules,” like not being a drunkard were actually beneficial physically, emotionally and relationally, and,
- Because of all the cool stuff God was doing with, through and in me, I ended up WANTING to do good things for Him.
I wonder if I can sue the Christian church that got me saved for false advertising or malpractice? I guess I could, but Lord knows I too have passed on bad advice to too many others to face that Karma.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Tim Tebow and wish I had matured enough when I was younger to never get messed up with all the bad stuff I did. But once you screw up – Tebow offers me very little hope except a reminder of what I fell short of.
Tell me, which is more heroic to you? An athletically gifted runner who wins every race by a mile, or the scrapper who has one last chance, falls behind and miraculously comes from behind to win the only Olympic gold he or she ever will see? Give me the 1980 Olympic Hockey team over the perennial Championship Russian National team any day. Give me 5’ 6” Rudy Ruettiger (RUDY) over Albert Haynesworth; and Seabiscuit over Secretariat every time.
We certainly want our kids to idolize Tim Tebow over O.J. Simpson. But for those of us for whom it is too late to qualify for the Mother Theresa Lifetime Acheivement award, Josh Hamilton and Brandon Marshall show us that our future can succeed no matter how bad our past.
Brandon Marshall and his wife (the same one who was charged with attempted murder on him following his stabbing over a year ago) now go to church and even couples counseling.
"Me and my wife, we were doomed from the beginning because of the relationship I got out of," he says, a reference to Watley. "I wasn't vulnerable to her."
During my visit, the couple's time together is tranquil. They lounge in his theater room, watching television. They stroll along the docks after dinner, arms interlocked.
The (stabbing) incident in 2011 came two months after they devoted their lives to Christianity at an elaborate retreat for pro athletes. Two photos in the kitchen chronicle the process. Now Marshall says grace before meals, listens to gospel music.
"I didn't read my Bible every day like I do now; pray every night, every morning, throughout the day; go to church every day — because I was in the world, just like a ton of people out in the world, chasing worldly things instead of godly things," he says one day while driving.
"You get caught up in all of this" — he waves out to the cars on the highway from his Mercedes — "which is nothing. That's what consumes you. That's your god. Money becomes your god. Girls become your god. Cars become your god. Houses become your god. Clothes become your god. You start caring about what other people say about you.
"It doesn't matter. There's only one person who can judge you. There's only one person that you have to answer to, and that's God. None of these people — not you, no media, not ESPN, no coaches, no Roger Goodell. I don't have to answer to them."
He says he never thought about why his parents weren't churchgoers in Pittsburgh. He pauses. "You go into some of these areas, man, at-risk areas, poverty-stricken areas, and there's not a lot of God there," he said. "On Sunday people are watching football instead of being in church."
And this is where I have a minor issue with the writer Mr. Hopkins. He closes his Pulitzer worthy piece this way:
At times he has created order in his life, keeping his family and his past — the chaos that produced him — behind a boundary. He wants to be seen as living in the moment — a family man, a follower of Christ, someone who gives back to the community, a man in transition.
But he cannot seem to escape trouble.
He goes on to cite an allegation by a 24 year old woman that Marshall slugged her in the face. Scribe Hopkins then makes an observation that Brandon’s famous BEAST moniker was on his dress shirt cuffs in church and Marshall commented that “we are trying to phase that out.”
The reader can reach no other impression that Marshall is STILL grappling with his demons and could blow at any time. It makes for a very dramatic and foreboding effect – surely aimed to excite his literary agent.
But it’s not the truth.
He wasn’t alone hanging out with thugs as the whole “nightclub” story would seem. He wasn’t trying to pick up chicks. Marshall’s own wife was hit with a bottle as they were leaving the New York Nightclub. Hopkins conveniently left that part out. In fact, if you read Marshall’s estimation you get an entirely different vibe:
Prior to the incident, Marshall said he often rationalized his attendance at nightclubs as "what you're supposed to do to enjoy life."
"Before this situation, I thought, hey, I'm still young. I want to enjoy life," Marshall said. "We have no kids yet. So let's enjoy each other. This is my wife's and my conversation prior to this incident.
It's, 'Hey, let's enjoy each other before we have children. We're finally on the right page. So before we bring children into this world, let's enjoy each other. So when the children come, we can focus on them.' "
"After this, I turned to my wife, and this is spiritually. I even talked to God, and I'm saying, 'What are you trying to tell me here?' " Marshall said. "In every situation, we learn something. We contribute to every situation. But we also learn from every situation. And in that, my wife turned to me and said, 'Maybe it's time for us to stop walking in slippery places.' "
Traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Bears in March, Marshall also described what he considers somewhat of a "tug of war" between professional athletes and their desire "to enjoy life."
"What I would say in a worldly answer is there will be a tug of war between, you know what, there's fame, there's money. This is what you're supposed to do to enjoy life, you know?" Marshall said. "That's kind of the environment, so to speak, that NFL athletes or professional athletes we put ourselves in. That's supposed to be the lifestyle."
Marshall said he and his wife weren't actually partaking in some of the elements of "the lifestyle" when the incident occurred at the nightclub.
"In this incident, it wasn't a party," Marshall said. "It wasn't something that was we're out clubbing or drinking or things like that."
And despite the very prejudicial disclaimer the reporter added, that:
Charges are not expected; no charge of violence against Marshall has ever stuck in court.
He doesn’t come right out and admit that an investigation WAS PERFORMED by the NYPD and that they announced they would not press charges. Nor have any witnesses come forward to corroborate the story of the 24 year old chick who waited over a day to report the incident. I guess that gold is not just dug in Denver, huh?
And I get it. Christians are easy targets of hypocrisy. How can you preach goodness, peace and love and 2 months later attempt to kill your husband with a knife. Or be involved in a nightclub incident?
It’s not like we haven’t had examples from Swaggert to Haggard to prove that those that preach holiness don’t always practice it. And there certainly are many people who intentionally use the “Christian” label for PR.
But is the implication then, that since no one can tell truth all the time, we shouldn’t teach it? Would you rather someone give up on TRYING to do good because they weren’t perfect at it yet?
This type of coverage comes from ignorance of the “born again” experience. Was King David any less of true God-lover because he slept with a married woman and murdered her husband? Of course not. When you accept God as not just the One who will save you from troubles but also as the Boss of your life, only your SPIRIT becomes perfect with Jesus. Your mind, will and emotions have to be trained and disciplined. And God is ALWAYS willing to forgive, whether you still have to take care of the mess you made here on planet Earth.
I know this because I accepted Jesus in my teens to bail me out of all kinds of problems I was in. When, in 24 hours, all my problems were still there, I went off and stole a car to take matters into my own hands. I was so used to relying on my street wits – that when God didn’t show up when I wanted Him too, my fear doing nothing overcome my very new and tender belief that God really was WITH me and would direct me.
Brandon Marshall and his wife’s attempt to LEARN from mistakes of their past, and to let God change them, is FAR more inspiring to me than a Pastor’s kid who was brainwashed from birth to live by the Good Book.
I don’t mean to disparage Tim Tebow, or to diminish his temptations and trials about which we don’t know. The truth is that Tim Tebow himself admits he’s had advantages AND that he’s not perfect. The truth is that it is easy to sit back and judge people like Brandon Marshall because their sin is either more visible or more graphic than ours. The truth is that Jared S. Hopkins himself, if all he did was pad his expense account or cheat on his taxes, is no less guilty of Marshall’s “sin” in God’s eyes or the other taxpayers he screwed over. Just as it is with every person on the planet. In fact, if you THINK you are perfect – and have done no wrong – that is a lie and a sin too. It’s called Pride. (The bad kind.)
It’s not that there are “troubled” people and “good” people. The Bible couldn’t be more clear that EVEN BILLY GRAHAM’S BEST work, was like old, soiled Maxi-pads. (That is LITERALLY what the original Hebrew scripture translates into.)
Those of us that know God (it ain’t exclusive – you can too), know that the only righteousness that exists is a FREE GIFT that comes by trusting, leaning on and believing in the Messiah. Once you come under His authority – God sees you as if you are as perfect as Jesus – no matter what you do. And you find yourself no longer alone, and no longer guilty. You start to stop doing destructive things not because you HAVE to – but because you WANT to.
For the other 99% of humans that are trying to overcome the temptations of everyday life – Brandon Marshall is a stud. He is the guy I am rooting for. He might not just may resurrect my beloved Bears, but has already resurrected his own life.
This is the guy I long to see miracles from - not just on the field, but off.