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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Brandon Marshall Saga: Your Media Coverage is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad

Earlier this week, Brandon Marshall made a somewhat unprompted remark about how he's still not feeling 100% after his offseason hip surgery. He said he's still searching for his place in this new offense, and that he feels like he's not where he wants to be, nor is he where the team wants him to be, with his recovery.

Shortly thereafter, he was "given four days off for personal reasons." The news media, not just the Chicago crowd but everyone, immediately lost their shit. That is not a phrase to be thrown around lightly in this context, people were legitimately saying that Brandon was on the verge of relapsing to his old ways. Multiple arrests, assaulting police officers, beating up people in nightclubs... everyone was already boarding the "team cancer" train.

The most heinous offender, at least in my mind, was CBS Chicago's own Dan Bernstein, who pushed out a real pipe-clogger called "Needy Marshall Makes Himself the Story." My initial plan was to fisk that column, as I have so often in the past. But Dan, though the worst of the bunch, is far from the only one who went down that road. And they all deserve every bit of ridicule they receive for this.

See, there were just a couple of extremely major details that all the reporters writing these columns completely ignored or didn't even look for when press time came. Details that totally change the picture. Details that only one man, Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times, bothered to wait for and provide. Sadly, Jahns didn't or couldn't deliver the news with the amount of sass it deserves. Luckily, sass abounds in this place.

So first off, the idea that Marshall was "given four days off" was bullshit in the first place. He was given exactly one day off. He missed yesterday's practice. Tonight is preseason game four against the Browns, a game in which all of the starters are intended to take literally no part. There is a casual team lift, but no organized activity, on Friday. And the entire team has Saturday off, with a round meetings on Sunday.

So Brandon missed one practice, not four. And yet, the reporters went straight for the bigger number because it sounded so much more dire. A guy missing a day is no big deal. A guy missing four days, this close to opening day, must be going through some serious shit. And even though every single one of these sensationalist pricks had easy access to that information, only one of them cared to include it in his comments.

 Because the rest of them are bad people who wanted a chance to go at Brandon Marshall. Bernstein straight up says a colleague from Miami told him "Enjoy year two with Marshall," and hinted that Brandon is a con man who tricks you into liking him and then shits in your pool. Bernstein was excited to have the chance to make a run at Chicago's golden boy, just like Morrissey and all the rest.

Next comes the fact that Brandon was not excused for anything relating to his comments about finding his role. Trestman flat-out said the absence had been planned since the start of the offseason, but he left it at "personal reasons" to defer to Brandon's judgement on how much to say.

It turns out those "personal reasons" were a doctor's appointment to check on the hip he got scoped in January. Again, information that was probably not that hard to obtain, at least for a reporter on a first-name relationship with the guy's agent. But instead of looking a little more into it; instead of taking a moment to see what was happening; instead of waiting even a single day to see how everything shook out, the vultures descended on Brandon's "personal reasons."

And boy, did they go straight for the worst. Words like "needy," "diva," "meltdown," and "funk" were thrown around with an eagerness generally reserved for particularly friendly dogs. I haven't seen so much speculation about a single, intentionally vague occurrence since Inception came out.

And let's just forget, for a moment, that it was even a doctor's appointment. Let's pretend Brandon just needed a day off to get his head right. That everything they were saying happened was actually what happened. Brandon Marshall has a Goddamn disease. He suffers from a mental condition that triggers impulsive actions and feelings of abandonment or victimization. All of which would perfectly describe his actions at that press conference.

Hell, Bernstein even described the disease and its effects in full detail in the same column as his indictment of Marshall as a needy, whiny manchild who just wanted the spotlight back on him after Alshon got more targets on Friday. So yeah, the entire Bears-centric media world just mocked a guy's mental illness, and none of them even apologized for it when it turned out they were wrong about literally every facet of the situation.

Many of them are still clinging to the fact that he even had a doctor's appointment, and that he said he wasn't sure of his role and he wasn't back to 100%. Let's take those two things separately, so I can talk more.

First, every single member of this offense, coaches included, has gone on record at least once this offseason saying they're "still getting used" to the new offense. It is an entirely new scheme that they have only brought out in a real game-time situation twice. I would be incredibly impressed if anyone in that offense feels like they're 100% comfortable with their role in it at this point.

And second, Marshall immediately clarified his statement about his health by saying it was "a conditioning thing." As in he feels like he's not quite back to playing at the level of one of the most dominant professional athletes in the world yet. And that is totally okay! When you're in that kind of shape, mentally and physically, your conditioning decays in a matter of days. You don't spend the offseason eating Cheetos and waiting for OTAs to start, you spend it keeping your body at the pinnacle of athletic perfection.

And for a guy like Marshall, who is (and should be) as competitive as all hell, playing at anything less than the absolutely incredible level he knows he's capable of playing at is unacceptable. So God forbid the guy feel a little slow, or a little out of place, learning a new offense and getting back into shape post-surgery at the same time.

As Jahns said when he broke his story, it really just goes to show how many people were ready to take a shot at Marshall. People were happy when he seemed to have sorted out his disorder and stayed out of the headlines, but the reporters were always secretly disappointed that he didn't give them anything to talk about.

I've often talked about how the media goes right to the bad on Jay Cutler, and sometimes they apply that to the Bears as a whole. However, it has rarely been as bad as all this. Rarely have I seen so many reporters be so wrong on so many levels simultaneously, and so up-front about the fact that they went straight to the worst possible answer without doing any research whatsoever.

It's shit like this, guys. I don't expect you to defend them like we do. I don't even expect you not to write the "If something is up with Marshall, what does it mean for the Bears?" stories. But it's stories like this that show your true colors. It's that you ignored the facts to stir up a controversy - that you mocked a man's mental illness to drive up traffic - that makes us hate you so much.

Note: At the time of this writing, Rick Morrissey has rewritten his column to be less critical of Brandon, but still pretty stupid. He has given no indication that it is an update of a previous column, and the old one has been removed. Integrity is for suckers.


Anonymous said...

This is for you

Erik said...

A higher compliment I've never received. A tip of the hat to you, sir.

TDC said...

I just found your blog. I love it.

Keep it up. I despise the way media types twist things. I had to stop reading that guy on The ten things he thinks about are ratings, ratings, ratings, and starting controversy. A few times, I've watched a game and then after reading his column the next morning and I am convinced that he never saw a single down played in the contest. Yet he'll criticize.

You've inspired me...Maybe I'll start a blog called "Ten things that thinking people think." Hmmm, I'll just have to find the time and learn how to write. I'm on it!

Thanks again

TDC said...

Ha beat me to it. Should have read the next post!

Erik said...

Thanks, TDC! It's a common point of complaint for me, especially with Chicago media, about controversy generating the most clicks. I'm just glad there are other people who feel the same way.

Don't let us stop you! There can never be too many people fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

Do you still want Kyle Orton Mr. Overrated the most in Chicago history to start?

But seriously great point on the Marshall coverage.

It was almost like they WERE HOPING he was in trouble.


Code Red said...

The "Start Kyle Orton" thing goes back to 2007, when we wanted him to start over Brian Griese. We're all big Cutler fans now.

Iggins! said...

As if the background of endless Cutlers doesn't say it loudly enough!