There are 99 days until the start of the NFL season, and at this point they can't go quickly enough. The news cycle right now is abominable. Just look at the headline stack on our NFL page right now. It's a carnival of stench, from Sean Lee's knee injury to Mike Pouncey's psych testing to Andre Johnson's tantrum to another Ravens arrest to the Redskins' name controversy to Aaron Hernandez.
The NFL loves to trumpet the fact that it holds people's attention year-round -- that events like the draft and the scouting combine and the announcement of the schedule pull huge TV ratings. But the bulk of the NFL offseason is misery. The past two weeks have been all Jim Irsay and Ray Rice and former players suing over painkillers, and when you add it all up, you worry you might forget what you loved about sports in the first place.
Obviously, I'm not afraid to go negative when it's called for, but all of this offseason dreck has me searching for silver linings -- for NFL stories from the past few weeks or even months that I've liked. A little something positive to make us all feel better about being NFL fans, right? Here's what I've come up with:
Brandon Marshall: Yeah, it's good for him that he got paid and it was cute that he signed his contract on "The View." But what's important about Marshall's story right now is the way he's using his platform to advocate on behalf of mental health issues. Marshall struggles with borderline personality disorder, and his 2011 diagnosis helped him get control of his life, his temper and the issues that caused him problems when he was in Denver and Miami. It appears that he has put past difficulties behind him and is in a better place. More importantly, he's decided to become the face of an issue around which most people can't wrap their arms. Marshall is using his money, his fame and his time to try to help people who need help and aren't getting enough of it.
Garrett Scott and the Seahawks: It's not a good thing that Scott, the Seahawks' sixth-round pick, was diagnosed in his post-draft physical with a rare heart condition that's likely to keep him from playing football. But the way the Seahawks responded is worth our attention. They signed Scott to a contract following the diagnosis, which means that even though he won't make their team, he will pocket a $100,000 signing bonus that will help him get the medical attention and care he needs to make sure he's healthy and, who knows, maybe try again at the NFL somewhere down the road if he's cleared. The Seahawks are Super Bowl champs whose on-field achievements are well-documented. But the manner in which they run their organization and invest themselves in their players' lives is unusual. Pete Carroll has created a positive, caring culture there, and this is just the latest example.
Alejandro Villanueva: Villanueva, who has done three tours in Afghanistan, is on leave from the Army and is using his time to see whether he can make the Philadelphia Eagles. In case you missed his story, Ashley Fox wrote it quite well here, and I recommend you check it out.
I liked that the Cowboys didn't draft Johnny Manziel, which I think would have been terrible for the Cowboys, terrible for Manziel and terrible for all of us who cringe at the proliferation of offseason non-news. We're already wringing our hands over whether a wealthy 21-year-old with free time on his hands should have spent the weekend in Vegas. Can you imagine how much more intense the coverage would be if Manziel were on the Cowboys? In general, I liked the relative sanity of this year's draft, and the fact that teams aren't reaching for quarterbacks in the draft the way they were three or four years ago (other than the Jaguars!). I think Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater will be very good NFL quarterbacks, but being drafted where they were drafted gives them and their teams a chance to breathe a bit first.
I like that the Rams did draft Michael Sam, and that he kissed his boyfriend on ESPN, because I tend to like anything that might lead members of the human race to treat other members of the human race better. That was a watershed moment for anyone who fights for or cares about gay rights and tolerance. For all that Sam and others have said about viewing him as "just a football player," he is quite obviously more than that. The social significance of his arrival in the league should not be ignored, as it presents our society with a chance to get better.
There's more, I'm sure, but it's tough to hear it right now over all the court dates and controversies. If you want to drown it out, here's Prince Amukamara and some other Giants crashing a bar mitzvah. Paid appearance, yeah, I know, but it's hard not to chuckle at the obvious joy in the video. If nothing else, it reminds us that the NFL can still be fun, even in dreary May.