Adam Benovic

Brandon Marshall: The Only Reason I Root For Chicago 14 Games A Year

Created on Jul. 20, 2014 5:00 AM EST

First off, I know. It's a bit tacky to be saying that I root for the Chicago Bears only 14 games a year, not counting the playoffs of course. But by now, the majority of you know that I’m actually a Detroit Lions fan who happens to write and cheer for Chicago. The fact that I root for a division “rival” -- I can’t really say rival in good conscience because the Lions haven’t put up too much of a fight lately -- is astounding in some circles. Here I am, though. And at this point, the majority of my decision is because of WR Brandon Marshall.

You see, the Bears are one of the most well-known teams for their philanthropy. I would be shocked if at the end of the year when the league is announcing the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, at least one Bears player was not nominated. I mean, the award is even named after potentially the best Bear to ever play the game. Lately, it’s been Charles “Peanut” Tillman that has been taking up the duty of helping his fellow man. But I look towards Marshall, one of the most vocal and active members on the team. He just doesn’t get recognized in the same way that most players are, and it’s potentially because of the cause that he supports.

You see, Marshall for years was known as an incredibly talented player who just couldn’t get out of his own way. For years, people were questioning why he was constantly getting himself in trouble. After some time, though, we the fans, as well as Marshall himself, would discover why he was acting out despite his success on the field. It turned out that Marshall was suffering from undiagnosed and untreated Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). For those interested in researching BPD, you can check the National Institute of Mental Health’s blurb on the illness here. If you don’t want to do the research yourself, it essentially equates to a person being unable to create stability in their relationship, actions and thoughts.

Since being diagnosed, Marshall has attempted to make himself the face of mental illness. Often because the symptoms are mental, friends and family can’t really comprehend that these things can’t just be snapped out of. It’s not about getting a grip on things, and Marshall has done a great job of bringing this to light. By putting a face and a name to mental illness and showing how it can drastically affect a life, Marshall has shown that people with mental health issues need help as much as people with physical illnesses. Most of these diseases are very treatable if a person is willing to get help.

That is possibly one of the greatest things that Marshall has done. Since being diagnosed and entering treatment, Marshall has turned his life around. He no longer is that rebellious young man. Instead, he is a leader on his team, a founder of an organization and a role model.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that he has always been successful. One of his most famous “failures” is a former Lion, Titus Young. After numerous head injuries, Young was no longer the diva-ish but talented wide receiver that Detroit drafted. He started making strange decisions and descended further and further into his illness. After noticing the symptoms, Marshall contacted Young, reaching out to try and help the clearly troubled receiver, but Young never responded. Since then, Young has been cut from the league entirely and had multiple run-ins with law enforcement, including an assault arrest as recently as early July. Sadly, Marshall could not help Young. But to me, that doesn’t matter. At least he tried. He went out of his way to help someone whose life was clearly derailing.

How does this affect me, though? And why does this endear me to Marshall?

Well, to be truthful, it isn’t just professional athletes who suffer from mental illnesses. One of my closest friends suffers from Bipolar Disorder, and I have multiple friends with diagnosed anxiety disorders.

Even I have had to deal with mental illness. See, that’s part of the reason that I write -- because I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for years, and writing helps me cope. Now, don’t be mistaken. This isn’t a plea for pity. The point is that you can’t necessarily tell. Sometimes, the people who need help will act perfectly normal. And that’s partially because our society puts such a stigma on mental illness. Employers are less likely to hire you if they find out that you have a mental illness. People look at you funny if they know you’re seeing a therapist or are on mental illness medication like anti-depressants.

But to be honest, I’m proud of my fight against depression. There are definitely times when it can get the better of me, but because I’m willing to seek help, I’m actually winning this battle. Chances are that you know someone fighting the exact same battle. They just hide it because society tells them that they have to.

And that’s why I root for the Bears. Marshall has made it clear that having a mental illness does not make you less of a person. It doesn’t mean that you should be treated differently. You can still be successful. It’s not like you can tell a person with cancer that they should just stop having cancer. That won’t help. Seeking real help, being open with your friends and family, talking about it in a real and constructive way; that is how we truly make a difference.

So thank you Brandon Marshall. I will forever root for you and everything that you stand for. Well, when you aren't facing the Lions, that is.

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