Voices of the bullied, and the bullies
You never know.
I've written hundreds of "Talented Mr. Roto" columns since 1999 in various places (and since 2007 on ESPN.com), and if there's one thing I learned, you never know how people will react to the intro. I've stopped trying to guess. But I'll tell you this: I never imagined in a million years that confiding in you all that the bullying I suffered in my childhood still haunted me to this day would get the reaction it did.
It was deeply important to me, I felt the need to finally get that story out there, it was cathartic ... but that didn't mean people would like it. I was worried what people would think of me, how they would perceive me or even that people wouldn't care. "Another article about Martin and Incognito? Ugh."
In almost 15 years of writing fantasy, I have never gotten such a wonderful response to something I have written. I was blown away. People were so amazingly kind and supportive on Twitter, Facebook and in my ESPN mailbag. I heard from people I had blocked on Twitter, apologizing and asking to be unblocked. (Any donation to The V Foundation gets you unblocked. Send a copy of the receipt to MatthewBerryTMR@gmail.com with "TWITTER" in the subject line.) Friends sent texts and emails, and the whole thing was so wonderful, I can't begin to tell you how much it meant to me. I tried to respond to as many people as I could and continue to try to do so, but I know I didn't get to everyone and for that I apologize. Know this: I read every single one, and it meant more to me than you'll ever know. I am so blessed to have you all as readers.
The most gratifying thing about the whole experience, however, is how many people suddenly felt safe and emboldened to confide their stories in me.
Michael from Ohio: Matthew, kudos to you for your article/admission re: bullying. I am a therapist, and people do not understand the impact that bullying has on a person's life. You are 100 percent correct that bullies are often unaware they are doing it. While I'm sure writing that was both painful and somewhat liberating, you are doing more good than you know by drawing attention not just to the bullying, but to its long-term impact. I've met with many people who were bullied, and it is remarkable how much detail they can remember for events that happened 20-plus years ago. Too often, those who were bullied view themselves the same way as the bullies did, and sadly, they carry this self-view throughout their lives.
TMR: I'm very lucky for about a billion different reasons, but among them is that I have this platform to share. A platform that not everyone gets. So if last week's column was all about me, I'd like to make this week all about the readers and their stories. And believe Michael when he tells you people carry that self-view imposed by bullies their entire lives.
Jim from Pennsylvania: My whole life I've been short, pale, and have had dark circles under my eyes. Sometimes they aren't noticeable, other times they are. It leads to a combination of being called a "cancer patient," "crack head" and many more things. It's made me second guess that anyone could look at me and see anything else. It's that fear that when you're with your friends at a bar someone random will make a comment that you look like you have been in a fight because it just happens (the circles) get a little darker when you drink. It's that fear that stops you from liking yourself, from seeing that anyone could like you. You obsess over one part of who you are to the point that it's the only thing that matters.
I think what the Martin story always misses is not only fear like you said, but also how you said some things you just don't forget. Sometimes no matter how well you do, no matter how much you're surrounded by good people, a few words from a random guy looking to make a joke of someone else can tear you down in seconds. It's crippling to always be looking at people hoping they aren't thinking comments others will say. It's impossible to stop it and I think that's what people don't understand. That at some point all the comments and actions begin to drown you. You no longer believe that you're worth anything because despite having people to tell you otherwise, it's always the insults that sound all too familiar that will crush you.
TMR: Some people were surprised. They see me on TV, they hear me making jokes on the podcast, I'm clearly a happy guy. How could this be in my past? You'd be amazed at who has suffered.
Jim from North Carolina: This column regarding fear and being bullied and the impact it still has upon you today has struck home to me. Growing up in NJ, I had thick glasses, I was over-weight, on the taller side and was the target of relentless bullying all through grade school and high school. Between the time I was a target from him and now I have served in Desert Storm in the US Navy, in Iraqi Freedom in the US Army, fought fires and done many other things that should prove I am beyond this fear. Yet it doesn't. My shrink has helped me deal with this, yet part of me knows I shall never be able to leave it behind. As I was always one of the taller and bigger kids when I complained I was told to suck it up, you are so much bigger than the others, even some of my older tormenters. And as you pointed out, they never stopped, they just changed what they were doing and got better at being subtle.
TMR: Thank you for your service, Jim and I'm glad you brought up therapy. So important in dealing with stuff like this. As Alex, a psychology doctoral student from Ohio, wrote, "What often goes unrecognized is the coping skills the victim has available. What I have actually found in my research is that not only are children with mental illness at risk for poor social functioning [and bullying] but kids with poor social skills who are bullied are also at risk of developing psychopathology. Tragic."
But it wasn't just the people who had been bullied I heard from.
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Carlos from New York: When you say that bullies tend not to remember what they did, you may be right. But me? I remember all the bullying I did. I figure I became a bully to protect myself from the bullying and ridicule I received at a young age. My mom was an alcoholic and not in the best state to take care of a 6-year old, so I'd show up to school in clothes I would pick out and well, as a 6-year old, probably didn't make the best choices (also because of our economic status did I have the "socially acceptable" options). So at an early age I protected myself by turning the dynamic in reverse. I became the bully. The worst part wasn't the physical abuse (I was never that big so I wasn't a physical menace) but the verbal abuse I'd put on the kids. I learned to break down kids emotionally by attacking them verbally, finding their insecurities and just relentlessly beating them down with my vicious words about anything from their clothes, to their bodies, to their parents' bodies, to the cars their parent's drove them to school in, anything I saw as fodder I took advantage of in my attacks. Well, by the time I was 17, I was waking up at night in cold sweats yelling "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" And to this day the one regret I have in my life, that I have never forgiven myself for, are the mistakes I made as a child bullying other kids and the fear of the negative effect it had on them. I write you not in any way to defend bullies. Just to tell you about one person's story. Thanks for speaking up.
TMR: I heard from some people who didn't realize they were bullies.
Andrew from California: You so perfectly captured the core of what bullying does to people that I could not help but examine my own actions with a new perspective. I saw that I sometimes let fear rule my actions. More importantly, I see that I may bully others. Your words were convincing in a way I did not expect. Bullying can be so subtle, and your column revealed that I seldom think about how the other person interprets my actions. I know what bullying feels like, yet I wonder how much I let my control-freak nature cross the line and increase someone else's fear. It can be a daily struggle with that part of myself, and it takes a great deal of prayer, humility and apology to overcome being what I hate.
TMR: The secret shame of being bullied was something that resonated with a lot of people.
Brad from Washington: Thank you for that, Berry. Not for the tears so much as the reassurance that I'm not alone in still being embarrassed about being the scared, bullied kid through school. I feel I was happy, with lots of friends in elementary school, and when 6th grade came I was ruined. I had zero friends at school from then until I dropped out in my junior year. I ended up doing all I could to go unnoticed, including wearing the plainest clothes and keeping the same stupid haircut all the way until the end. Sounds so stupid now, but that kid was a shell of a human. My one friend was also my cousin, who remains my best friend to this day. He lived about an hour away and had no clue what my life was like at home. He still has no idea that he was my only friend and that school life was hell for me. He was very popular and I was terrified to tell him, and I'm still embarrassed to tell anyone now at 32 years old. This was hard for me to type out, even knowing you probably won't get around to reading it.
TMR: Well, Brad, I'm 43 and I just now got the guts up to tell anyone. Seriously. My younger brother never knew half the stuff I wrote about. He knew a few things that happened at our house but not all of it. When the stuff would happen in the middle of the night I would stay up all night cleaning so no one would see. Here's how secret I kept it: I've been in therapy for almost a decade. I've told my therapist everything. Hopes, dreams, fears, actions I've regretted, flaws, you name it. Everything. Except this. I was even too embarrassed to tell my therapist. My wife found out about it when she read the article, and said to me, among other things, "We will never let that happen to our kids." That parental fear was a popular theme.
Erik from Oregon: This should be reading material for every parent out there. I know I'll use it for my son, who has Asperger's and is somewhat awkward. We love him a great deal, and we want him to be a strong kid. Articles like this help a bunch. Tiny ripples.
TMR: One question that came up a lot was if anyone from my past has gotten in touch with me since then, especially any of the guys that were my tormenters. The answer is no. I'm friends on Facebook with a number of people that I went to high school with, and like I do with every column, I posted the link, but so far ... nothing. Which I was sort of surprised by but sort of not. They were jerks then, why should they be any different now? I will say I really admire someone like Susan:
Susan from Tennessee: Thank you for writing your story about being bullied. There are so many of us that had similar experiences. It took me more than 2 decades to come close to closing the door on that part of my life. Thanks to Facebook I found the boy that bullied me relentlessly from elementary school through high school and shared with him what he made me have to overcome. He happened to have two girls of his own and I wished that they would never have to experience what he did to me. He actually took the time to reply, apologized and shared how he eventually grew up into a man. You may still live with those memories, but memories don't make the man. The choices we make afterwards do.
TMR: Well put, Susan. I'm still trying to make the right choices, for myself and the people around me. And if my mailbag is any indication, there's a lot of us out there. Which is no small thing.
Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I Love for Week 12
I said whose house?
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: Wow, Christian Ponder looks amazing! He keeps completing passes! He can't miss! Whoa, he's 17 of 21! It's Ponder's world, we're just living in it! How soon until Ponder is Hall of Fame eligible? These are some of the things overheard in the stands when Minnesota played against Washington's defense two weeks ago. You know, back when Washington was still trying. You're starting Colin Kaepernick. Don't get cute.
Mike Glennon, Buccaneers: At least 15 ESPN standard fantasy points in five of the past six games, they are gonna have to throw here (Lions are fifth against the run) and throw successfully, they shall. One of the worst teams in the NFL in defending deep passes (no team has given up more touchdown passes of 20 plus yards), the Lions are top 12 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and have given up at least 18 points in four straight.
If you're desperate: No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Dallas Cowboys, and Eli Manning's best game of the season was against them earlier this year. Cowboys too banged up on defense. ... You know who gives up the second-most fantasy points? The Jaguars, which is why Case Keenum should be usable this week. What are they gonna do, bench him and let Matt Schaub throw it? Again? ... Scott Tolzien? Scott Tolzien. The yards have been there (more than 600 the past two games), it's been the turnovers that have killed him. That shouldn't be a problem. The Vikings are bottom 10 in interceptions and sacks this year.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 12
Philip Rivers, Chargers: As Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information points out (shout out to him for all his help), over the last five games, Rivers has averaged just 275.8 yards and 1.2 touchdowns, and now he's at an angry Chiefs team in Arrowhead, where they'll need to run a lot to have any chance in this game. Not a top 12 play this week.
Matt Ryan, Falcons: Among the fun part of Love/Hate is coming up with new stats each week to show just how bad Matt Ryan is. Here's the newest one: Over the past four weeks, Matt Ryan has averaged 10 fantasy points per game. 10. Among the 29 quarterbacks to start at least three games during that span, Matt Ryan is 25th in fantasy points per game. How cold is he? Ice Cold! Thanks, Andre 3000. Even without Jabari Greer, the Saints are legit; they're allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and in Week 12, I don't feel like hoping for junk time, which is the only way Ryan is good here.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: Facing the Panthers, with the majority of his offensive line out of the game for assorted reasons? No, thank you. Not even in two quarterback leagues, not even if Charles Johnson doesn't play.
Running Backs I Love in Week 12
Zac Stacy, Rams: Since taking over the starting duties in Week 5, Stacy is top five in carries, rushing yards and rushing yards after contact. Dude is averaging almost 30 touches a game as a starter and now faces a Bears defense that, over the past five weeks, allowed the second-most yards per carry, allowed the second-most fantasy points per game and recently made Brandon Jacobs look like Jim Brown.
Ben Tate, Texans: Getting further and further removed from the rib injury, the dude is tough. He's averaged 2.3 yards after contact per carry this season, most among running backs with at least 100 carries. Meanwhile, no team has allowed more rushing yards or rushing touchdowns than the Jaguars this season. He had 23 touches against the Raiders last week and is a strong bet to get at least 20 here. A running back getting 20 touches against the Jags? Yeah, I'm starting him.
Andre Brown, Giants: Over the past two weeks (since Brown came back) no running back in the NFL has more touches. He's also tied for the second-most red zone touches. Meanwhile, while we've covered the fact that the Cowboys are really banged up, we've yet to mention that they are bottom five in the NFL in rushing yards per game, yards per rush, fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs and, since they can't get off the field, rushing first downs allowed.
Pierre Thomas, Saints: Darren Sproles is banged up and you'll pardon me if I don't entirely buy Mark Ingram's resurgence. Meanwhile, Pierre Thomas has averaged more than 18 touches a game since Week 5 and has been a top-15 running back since then. Falcons just made Bobby Rainey look like Brandon Jacobs against the Bears. That faint ringing you hear in the background is the Falcons actually phoning in the season.
Rashad Jennings, Raiders: Since taking over for The Injured Darren McFadden (his new legal-given name) in Week 9, Jennings leads the league with 192 rushing yards after contact. Now a decent chunk of that came on one play, so it's a bit misleading, but 88 of those yards have come outside the tackles during that span. The Titans have allowed the fourth-most yards after contact outside the tackles this season. Tennessee also allows 1.7 yards after contact per rush, third-most in the league. The takeaway here should be that Jennings is somewhat hard to bring down and the Titans are a poor tackling team. Solid No. 2 running back this week.
If you're desperate: Ryan Mathews at Arrowhead? Why not. Since Week 6, he ranks in the top six in both rushing yards and yards per carry. For what it's worth, KC is giving up 4.7 yards per carry, fourth-most in the league. ... With 14 touches last week for Chris Ogbonnaya, he's your starting running back for the Browns and it's actually not a bad matchup. In the past four games, the Steelers are giving up almost 20 points a game to opposing running backs; he's a sneaky flex play this week, especially in PPR. ... If you're truly scraping, Montee Ball is averaging 23 snaps with six red zone carries over the last three weeks, and New England is giving up 4.9 yards per carry over the last three weeks, sixth most in the NFL. Could see him getting a goal-line carry or two here. ... The Dolphins are top 10 in most rushing touchdowns allowed, and if you have to bet on a Panthers running back getting a goal-line chance, it's Mike Tolbert.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 12
Lamar Miller, Dolphins: Averaging fewer than six carries a game the last two weeks, no offensive line, going against the Panthers. What has your team ever done to you?
Donald Brown and Trent Richardson, Colts: Richardson's the easy one, of course. He's been so brutal I have no issue if someone wants to drop him; you're certainly not starting him until you see some signs of life. Brown, on the other hand, is coming off his best game of the year, but Richardson is still around, not helping. Neither guy has gotten more than 14 carries in a game since Week 6. And volume is what is gonna be needed here to have a big fantasy day. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Cardinals.
Ray Rice, Ravens: After weeks of not doing anything at all and being the biggest non-injury-related, first-round bust, I put Ray Rice in the hate list last week and he went off. You're welcome, City of Baltimore. I'm stuck with him in two leagues so I'm putting him here again in a blatant attempt to reverse-jinx (copyright Bill Simmons) him into being back. Because it's really one of two narratives, right? Either he's fully healthy and "back" to being Ray Rice, or it was just a matchup thing last week, against a defense that, again, made Brandon Jacobs look unstoppable. Would love him to be back, I don't trust it yet and I'm not excited about him against the Jets' No. 1-ranked run defense this week, though I'm okay with him as a RB2 in PPR leagues.
Wide Receivers I love in Week 12
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: See: Glennon, Mike. Since Glennon became his quarterback, Jackson leads the NFL in targets, and targets against the Lions are among the best kind to get.
Marques Colston, Saints: Oh, look, it's Marques Colston again. After disappearing for a while, he seems to have re-emerged the past two weeks with a dozen catches for 187 yards and his first touchdown since Week 1. He's been a frequent target for Brees and now faces the currently vacationing Atlanta Falcons. Only the Bills have allowed more touchdowns per game to opposing wide receivers than the Atlanta Falcons.
Jarrett Boykin, Packers: Aikman to Irvin. Montana to Rice. Tolzien to Boykin. Seen it a million times. In the two weeks since Tolzien took over as the quarterback, Jarrett Boykin has averaged seven receptions and 101.5 yards per game and leads the Packers in targets during that span. The season has not gone the way the Vikings have wanted, either. In the last five weeks, Minnesota ranks in the bottom six in receptions, yards and touchdowns allowed to opposing wide receivers. Solid top-20 play this week.
Torrey Smith, Ravens: No team has allowed more touchdowns on passes at least 15 yards downfield than the Jets, and Torrey is third in the NFL in targets 15 yards or more downfield. Sometimes, it's that simple.
Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Cardinals: You're already starting Fitzgerald and, after last week, how are you benching Floyd? But this will make you feel better about both decisions: Over the last five weeks, only one team has allowed more fantasy points or yards to opposing wide receivers than the Indianapolis Colts.
Danny Amendola, Patriots: Here's a stat to tell you something you already know: 91 percent of Danny Amendola's targets have come out of the slot. OK, fine, but here's a stat you may not know: Denver has allowed the second-most receptions and yards to opposing slot receivers.
If you're desperate: With Joe Haden all over Antonio Brown, I like Emmanuel Sanders to have a nice game here. ... There's been a Dwayne Bowe sighting! He's averaged 13 targets a game in his past two and San Diego is bottom five in receptions, receiving yards and fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. ... I thought Santonio Holmes looked pretty good last week and they are gonna take some shots downfield. The Ravens have allowed the second-most touchdowns of more than 20 yards downfield.
Wide Receivers I Hate in Week 12
Antonio Brown, Steelers: Insert wideout facing Joe Haden here. He shut down A.J. Green. Antonio Brown ain't no A.J. Green. And that kind of analysis, kids, is why they pay me the big bucks. (Takes bow.) Fine, you want some stats? Haden has now faced A.J. Green (twice), Torrey Smith (twice), Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson. In those six games, those wideouts averaged 48 yards and caught only one touchdown. In two games versus Cleveland, Brown has averaged fewer than 80 yards and has not scored.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins: Which streak is longer? Me putting Wallace on the "hate" list, or Mike Wallace's targets decreasing week-to-week since Week 5? He hasn't scored since Week 2, he's tied with the third-most drops among wide receivers. No offensive line to give Tannehill time for a deep play to develop, the Panthers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points and touchdowns (tied) to opposing wide receivers. You didn't need all those stats to know Wallace is a bad play against Carolina, I just liked listing them. What was your favorite? I kinda like the drops one.
Steve Smith, Panthers: Meanwhile, in that same game, Brent Grimes has quietly had a very nice season and I expect him on Steve Smith for much of this game. Smith hasn't scored since Week 7 and Miami has allowed only one touchdown to opposing wide receivers this season, fewest in the league. Not a top-20 play for me.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys: Fewer than 40 yards in two straight, and the return of Miles Austin complicates things. The Giants have played much better defense recently and Williams is touchdown-dependent for fantasy value these days. Hate relying on that with another mouth to feed in Dallas and the fact that you know that Dez Bryant will get his.
Tight Ends I Love for Week 12
Coby Fleener, Colts: Ten targets each of the past two weeks, no team has allowed more fantasy points, receptions, yards or touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year than the Cardinals.
If you're desperate: Delanie Walker now has three touchdowns in his last four games, had 10 targets last week and the Raiders have given up three scores to tight ends in the past three weeks. ... They have to throw it to someone in Minnesota and these days. John Carlson is someone. ... I wouldn't start him this week, but I did just pick up the Chargers' Ladarius Green in my deep dynasty league. If anything happens to Gates, you'll be very glad he's on your roster.
Tight Ends I Hate in Week 12
Jordan Cameron, Browns: In his last three games with Jason Campbell at quarterback, Cameron has averaged fewer than 40 yards and four receptions with no touchdowns or red zone targets. Steelers are top 10 in fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. I love his skill set and he's a threat to go off at any time, but how can you trust him?
Martellus Bennett, Bears: With Josh McCown at quarterback, Bennett has yet to record more than four receptions or more than 48 yards in a game, and his targets have decreased each of the past three weeks. Only the Chiefs have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing tight ends than the Rams.
Defenses I Love in Week 12:
Arizona Cardinals: They've been money at home, the Colts will be one-dimensional here with the run game shut down, and if there's anyone who knows Andrew Luck's flaws and how to attack them, it's Bruce Arians. The Cardinals are averaging more than 12 fantasy points a game at home.
Defenses I Hate in Week 12
Denver Broncos: On the road against Brady? In a game where they will put up points? No, thanks. They average four points a game on the road. You can do better.
New York Jets: A better real-life defense than fantasy defense (and EJ Manuel could probably make an argument against the "good real-life defense" thing), they've put up negative points in three of their past four road games.
And that'll put a wrap on this week's Love/Hate. I'd like to reiterate how incredibly touched I was by everyone who reached out, and I wish I could help everyone who sent a note, tweet or post. If you feel like you need help, or simply want to do something about bullying, please check out StompOutBullying.Org.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- promises a return to jokes, bad puns and other nonsense next week. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may also have heard: He's written a book.
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