I just spent the past hour or so watching receiver Brandon Marshall's introduction to the Chicago Bears and, by proxy, the city of Chicago. It was impressive both for Marshall's poise as well as the convenient narrative he weaved through the past year of his life.
By Marshall's account, his life changed last spring when he spent three months in therapy for borderline personality disorder. The therapy, he said, "put me in a position where I can lead a healthy and effective life" after a long history of domestic violence. It led to a quiet year off the field and his turnaround has not been derailed, Marshall said emphatically, by a reported fight outside a New York City nightclub Sunday morning.
Marshall refused to discuss details of the incident, but he said: "Once it has taken its course, I think you'll see things totally different." He said he has "absolutely" no fear that the NFL will view the incident as a disciplinary event, a viewpoint the Bears appear to share, as we discussed Thursday.
"I understand the perception out there," Marshall said. "Those are the seeds I planted early in my career, up until last year. … This time it's a little different, and I'm excited about that difference."
As we discussed Thursday, it would be difficult to reconcile any suggestion that Marshall has turned a personal corner if the allegation from Sunday's incident -- that he punched a woman in the eye -- is true. It would make Friday's news conference performance a high-quality con job.
But if it isn't true, then Marshall's words Friday suggest the Bears have a once-troubled player who has made great strides toward getting his life in order. Speaking with passion and at times halting with emotion, Marshall implied he was happy about Sunday's accusation because it will draw additional attention to what he said is his "mission."
Said Marshall: "This has given me a platform to do something bigger. That's to give the community the blueprint I have [from therapy] to live a healthy, effective life."
Off the field, Marshall said, his treatment for borderline personality disorder has "made me so much softer and so much lighter and so much healthier, and I'm excited about it," he said.
I have no doubt that Marshall has made sincere efforts to control the anger and mental illness that might have contributed to at least eight separate incidents of domestic violence earlier in his life. But I think it's fair for the Bears and their fans to expect results along those lines, not just an effort.
That's why the truth of Sunday night's incident is so important. Marshall provided every indication Friday that he has turned a personal corner. But this narrative can't afford so much as a dropped word. One way or the other, the truth will set us free.