Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall appeared on ESPN's "First Take" on Tuesday to quote scripture and lecture the show's hosts on Christianity. It made for an uncomfortable segment of television.
Brandon Marshall has been as good as advertised in the first six games as a member of the Chicago Bears. He leads the team in every conceivable receiving category and is poised to rewrite the Bears' paltry offensive record books: Marshall is currently on-pace to finish with 109 receptions and 1,538 yards, each marks that would go down as franchise bests. Few have ever doubted Marshall's ability to play the game, it was hardly the reason the Miami Dolphins sent him to Chicago in March for only a pair of third round draft picks.
The asking price for one of the game's best receivers spoke volumes to Marshall's own personal troubles. His Wikipedia page is littered with past transgressions, mostly domestic deputes that were eventually dropped. The Bears saw Marshall as a risk worth taking, someone who had seemingly changed his life after revealing he had Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011.
Since arriving in Chicago, Marshall has turned into the most candid and thought-provoking Bear in recent memory, an articulate, engaging quote who has showed no signs of his volatile former self. His brief Chicago tenure hasn't been entirely without controversy, though. Marshall got into spat with NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, who called Marshall a 'retard'. Marshall also made headlines after last week's 13-7 Monday night victory over the Lions by publicly deeming Ndamukong Suh's hit on Jay Cutler 'dirty' even after the quarterback himself and coach Lovie Smith absolved the Detroit defensive tackle of any wrongdoing.
The most curious Brandon Marshall moment this season came on Tuesday, though, when the Bears receiver guested on "First Take", ESPN's vehicle for the intentional trolling of intelligent sports fans, a gut-wrenching, confrontational pocket of television led by Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.
If you haven't seen Marshall's nine-minute segment yet, here it is:
I do not blame you if you couldn't sit through this, if you turned it off the moment the eternally insufferable Bayless introduced the segment. It starts like this:
Skip: "I have said many times on the show that you have undergone a spiritual conversion which I believe to be genuine. I think that conversion saved, effectively, your life. Saved you from yourself. Yet in a phone conversation with Stephen A. your evangelical Christianity became a big part of the conversation."
An off-air conversation between Marshall and Smith quickly becomes the topic at hand. Smith didn't like Marshall's private bible thumping, equating it to "people that come knocking on your door to preach to you". Smith says of the private talk: "It's a conversation I would have preferred not to have gone as in depth as it was."
It takes a lot to make Stephen A. a sympathetic figure, but that's exactly how he comes off as Marshall does just the thing Smith warned him against: preaching the word of God, quoting the bible, saying he's disappointed in Smith "as a Christian".
Marshall: "Biblically, it says: 'as iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.'"
"Christianity is a lifestyle. We have to live in accordance of the word. That's the only way to live, to align ourselves with the teachings in the bible. And when we do that, you know, you'll see. First Corinthians 13-13: God illustrates what love is, and if we perfect our love we're in accordance with all of his commandants..."
And then, regrettably, Marshall turns the subject conversation towards Tim Tebow:
Marshall: "It would be hard for you if you were filled with the spirit to go on there and talk about a Tebow like you do. I told you it's okay for you to say 'You know what, Tim Tebow, I do not think he's the best quarterback'. But when you say 'Tim Tebow is garbage. Tim Tebow is this'. And you're just tearing down and destroying, as Christians, we're charged to bring life to each other. We're charged to..."
On cue, after a few nervous, certainly upset laughs, a boisterous Screamin' A. reaction follows:
"IF I BELIEVE YOU CAN'T PLAY, I BELIEVE YOU CAN'T PLAY."
"IF I BELIEVE YOU CAN'T THROW, I BELIEVE YOU CAN'T THROW."
Smith: "By mere virtue of the fact that I would say such a thing, you are actually gonna sit there with a straight face over your phone and imply that I'm going against my religion?"
The winner? Nobody. Well, the deaf, maybe.
After Skip mercifully tries to end the segment by praising the Bears and saying they'll have Marshall on again after the next big Chicago win, Marshall goes off again. He won't go until he gets the final word on Suh:
Marshall: "And Skip, let me end with this, and I'll let you go. I'm going to show Stephen how to speak the truth and love. Last night, the hit Ndamukong Suh placed on our quarterback Jay Cutler was dirty. He can be one of the the best d-takcles to ever do it, but he cannot to it that way."
Cue more yelling, with Smith and Bayless both saying they disagree. Marshall defiantly says "God bless" and hangs up the phone to put an end to a segment decidedly nauseating even by the lofty standards of "First Take".
For over nine minutes, ESPN allowed Marshall and Smith to turn the network into something close to the "The 700 Club". While Marshall continues to play well and stay out of legal trouble, he might be beginning to show a penchant for stirring up controversy. With more wins on the horizon for the Bears and the spotlight only increasing on Cutler and Marshall, it's a safe bet this won't be the last time you hear Marshall get atop his soapbox and start preaching.