Break out the face paint, people: The Bears snagged Brandon Marshall, their first bona fide stud wide receiver since…well, ever.
No more Mark Bradley. No more David Terrell. No more Ron Morris. No more [insert-wideout-you-thought-might-be-good-but-deep-inside-you-knew-was-a-bum]. Now the Bears have Marshall, a fast, 6-foot-4 All-Pro who caught more than 1,000 yards of passes each of the last five years.
Jay Cutler is so happy he almost smiled.
No, seriously, it’s great. Surrendering only two third-round draft picks in the deal, the Bears have given their offense a huge boost.
There’s just one problem: Marshall comes with more baggage than a Samsonite showroom.
It’s not just his arrests, although they are many. Whether it’s assaulting a police officer in 2004 or driving under the influence in 2007, Marshall has spent more time with the police than Sting’s tantric sex adviser.
The bigger problem is that several other incidents have allegedly involved violence against women.
He was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence in 2007 (charges were dropped), and was also arrested for disorderly conduct for allegedly fighting with his fiancée in 2009 (charges again were dropped). Just this week, he was accused of slugging a woman during a fracas outside a bar. And this is to say nothing about the fact that his wife stabbed him in the stomach in 2011. Hey, love hurts.
Look, we’ve all clutched our pearls about athletes and their transgressions. It’s easy to tsk-tsk about athletes’ off-the-field exploits. “Think of the effect on the children,” some sportscaster will dramatically intone, and then the hand wringers are off and wringing.
But any smart sports fan—especially in Chicago—knows these guys have clay feet. By many accounts, Michael Jordan is a jerk. Scottie Pippen is said to be a lousy tipper. And then there are the wacky hijinks of former Cub Milton Bradley.
Hell, I met my childhood idol, former Dallas Cowboy (and, briefly, Chicago Bear) Golden Richards, and he overdosed on pills in front of me. So I know some of these guys are overgrown kids with million-dollar arms and five-cent heads. I don’t have any illusions that we’re worshiping golden gods come down from on high.
It’s what they do on the field that counts…for the most part..up to a point…unless….
When it comes to a guy like Marshall, do the Bears think the somnambulant echoes of Lovie Smith’s voice and his lectures on family values will keep Marshall in line?
If so, that’s naïve. There’s a reason two teams have bailed on a guy with these talents. Maybe the Miami Dolphins heard about this latest incident and just said, “Enough. We’re done.” Or maybe they were more mercenary. Maybe they thought Marshall hurt their chances of signing Peyton Manning.
To his credit, Marshall has been open about his battles with borderline personality disorder, saying “I’ll be the face of BPD.” Great. Love it. Take some responsibility. If you’ve got issues, treat them.
Yet the trouble keeps coming. Are we supposed to shrug and say, “Well, as long as he catches touchdowns, it’s all good”? Or does there come a point at which Bears fans find that a player’s conduct is so reprehensible there’s no reason to cheer?
We may soon find out.
So on a purely football level, should the Bears have signed Marshall? Of course. No-brainer. But Bradley looked like a perfect fit with the Cubs. Bad guys have a way of bringing down their teams. And based on what we’ve seen, Marshall certainly seems like a bad guy.
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JOEL REESE often refers to himself as a “recovering journalist”—15 years of writing, reporting and editing for publications such as Spin, Details, Deadspin, Mediate, Texas Monthly, and Chicago magazine. He was a National Magazine Award finalist and had a story published in “The Best American Sportswriting” series. Learn more about Joel at www.joelcreese.com, and follow him on Twitter @joelcreese.