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Quick Inside Slant: Week 14

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

On the rare occasion I’m out at a bar watching football, inevitably someone will ask me about my NFL affiliation. I’m an Eagles fan, I’ll say, but that I’m more of a fan of the sport than one team and I tend to channel my rooting interests through causes I perceive as worthy of a national focus. By this time, whoever had asked me the question has long since stopped listening to me. They just wanted to know if and how to talk trash or they want to take my seat because it’s closer to the TV with the Steelers game on it. (EDITORS INTERJECTION: It’s okay that Dustin is an Eagles fan. Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, we still love him, forgive him and don’t judge him for it.)

However, despite considering myself an Eagles fan, I haven’t gotten a new Eagles jersey since the Westbrook jersey I got over 10 years ago, largely because they haven’t gotten a player I want to represent with their name plastered on my back. For some, all it takes is a contract with the local team and decent stats. But I don’t want to wait in line like all the other Ray Rice fans when things go south. Hey, you bought the guy’s jersey knowing nothing about him, you should have to keep it. But there is one person in the league I’d be proud to represent (besides Devon Still), and he’s not an Eagle. You know, in case any of you out there haven’t figured out what to get me for the holidays yet.

Brandon Marshall is a great football player and incredibly unconventional at the same time, but in a good way.

Brandon Marshall is a great football player and incredibly unconventional at the same time, but in a good way.

Last week, Brandon Marshall fractured two ribs and collapsed a lung during a Thursday night loss to the Cowboys. His season is over, but football is not who he is – it’s just his job. And it isn’t even his only one. He’s also a correspondent for Inside the NFL, the first time a show has ever had a current NFL player as a regular analyst. And it’s pretty awesome on his part to fly in on Tuesday – his one day off – to shoot the show, and it provides for some previously untapped, unique perspectives on the game. But as cool as that is, it isn’t why I’m willing to represent this guy with his name on my back.

Last year, Marshall wore lime green shoes during a Thursday Night game in October. The significance of this is two-fold. First, he was supposed to be wearing pink shoes to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month like the rest of the NFL. Thus, he was fined by the league for disregarding their dress code. Second, he did it because lime green is the color of Mental Health and this also happened to be Mental Health Awareness Week. And in doing so, he did exactly what he set out to do, which was to bring awareness to mental health.

Marshall suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I don’t know much more about it specifically, but I know that it has to do with the inability to control one’s own emotions, specifically when dealing with rejection in some form, and that one in ten people diagnosed with it end their lives in suicide. In a community where group meetings are held on a weekly basis about exploiting an individual’s weakness – and nothing is necessarily out of bounds, so to speak – Marshall stood up and told the world that he was not right in the head and he needed help. And that takes real courage.

In 2010, I thought we were on the verge of a societal breakthrough when Ron Artest thanked his psychiatrist in his post-game interview after winning Game Seven of the NBA finals with the Lakers. I rewound the DVR to make sure I heard what I thought I heard, and then I smirked a little grin for the way the sporting world would be changed for the better the next day, with people unafraid to be vulnerable. And then the same people who bashed him for running into the stands in Detroit six years earlier turned around and laughed at him for thanking his psychiatrist for making him into a better person.

In a world where the media, athletes, and the consumers feed off each other in this flux capacitor of death that can’t seem to ever break free from its axis, I believe it’s going to take an athlete bigger than the media to lead any cause to impact change. As happy as I am that Artest came out and lead off in this game, Marshall is the perfect amount of articulate and charismatic to be the face of mental health awareness. And he’s not nutty enough to change his name Metta World Peace or The Pandas Friend every other year.

Marshall speaks openly about his ongoing struggle with his temper and about his brain fitness coach. He keeps a journal on the sideline during games where he can write down things he is upset about to clear them from his mind. DURING A FOOTBALL GAME! When most people are talking about coverages and audibles, he’s writing down things that made him sad or mad so he can move on. And not only is it ballsy to do, but it’s really ballsy to tell a bunch of macho dudes who get paid to hit people for a living that you’re doing it.

Marshall was not always a boy scout, which is what makes this a real success story. He has a history of domestic violence, but does not run or hide from it. Rather, he legitimately hopes that people can learn from his mistakes. He refers to his textbooks on BPD as his “playbooks.” He lives with this disorder, for which there is no medication, by attacking it with knowledge about it. He believes that if he can learn more about what is going on inside his own head, he can understand it, and if he can understand it, he can beat it. And it appears as though it is working. And this is why I would be proud to brand his name on the back of my jersey. Because if I’m going to champion a cause, trying to become a better person seems as good as any.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Quick Inside Slant: Week 14”
  1. Larry says:

    I can see why you would be a fan of his. Like you, I hope Marshall’s actions inspires others to be more aware of mental health issues and positive actions.

    • Thanks, Larry. And like a bonehead, I neglected to mention in the article that he donated $1 million to help with Mental Health Awareness when he signed his new contract with the Bears. Hopefully he is helping as much as it feels like he is.