Remarkable as it may be, that the Bears swooped in at the beginning of free agency to sign a prototypical modern tight end entering the prime of his career is an afterthought to me today. That is because the 6'5", 265 pound block of muscle in question is one Martellus Bennett.
aka the Black Unicorn.
aka Clark Kent (or Superman, if you're the lucky bastard Bennett saved from a ghastly fall.)
aka @JoeGryffindor, his additively entertaining twitter alias.
Drink gleefully this evening Chicago, because with the departure of Arian Foster from the Twittersphere the Bears new starting tight end doubles as the most interesting man in the NFL.
His feed ranges from the hilarious:
I'm still up being awesome at the crib. I should save some awesomeness for later today but I'm pretty sure I'll have more.— Martellus Bennett (@JoeGryffindor) February 26, 2013
I enjoy watching crappy movies because they make my dream of writing and directing movies seem very realistic.— Martellus Bennett (@JoeGryffindor) February 12, 2013
To the progressive:
There's def at least one or 2 gay guys on every team. Who cares?! If someone can play ball let em play.— Martellus Bennett (@JoeGryffindor) January 31, 2013
To the profound
I've been accomplishing my impossibles for a while. Join me as we prepare for our tomorrows. Be great and don't be surprised by it.— Martellus Bennett (@JoeGryffindor) February 24, 2013
He openly loves Harry Potter (hence his handle). Things that are exciting are "wavy". Occasionally they are mad wavy. He adores his wife Siggi the way we all aspire to love our better half. He speaks out loud about bettering himself and then jokes about leading a Pokemon army in the next sentence. He considered naming his new giant schnauzer Norris Chuck, Zero (from A Nightmare Before Christmas), Simba and Triton before settling on Sebastian Janikowski, aka Seabass. Bennett is the rare professional athlete that goes beyond rising and grinding. He offers hilarity, profundity and originality in ways uncommon to the average man, let alone the NFL stereotype. Chicago, you are going to love this guy.
I remember seeing Bennett struggle as a rookie with the methods of an overbearing and humorless positional coach in Dallas during the team's second run on HBO's Hard Knocks. He seemed arrogant, dismissive, cocky, basically all the things you don't want in a rookie player. He was easy to label, and so I did. Malcontent, immature, probably won't fulfill his talent. Turns out, he was an extremely bright and thoughtful guy rolling his eyes at the simple-minded approach being employed by a superior. Complexity is easily misunderstood, sometimes even by the person who possesses it.
When I was 27, I got laid off from a job because I had a habit of being combative. Right or wrong, I believed my ideas were really good and I had a hard time listening to people that didn't agree with my takes. And so, I made it difficult to get work done. Great ability, great potential, and an absolute struggle to work with. When budget cuts came to the company, I had no one to protect me. And so I found myself on the street. It humbled me, it made me resolve to change my ways and I came to see it as a turning point in my career. I rededicated myself to listening more, improving myself and being a pleasure to work with. I'm forever better for it professionally and personally. Basically, I quickly judged a football player a malcontent for doing the exact same thing I had been guilty of. Projection's a bitch.
Perhaps this is why I'm so excited for the Martellus Bennett experience in Chicago. He reminds me of myself, and at the risk of sounding like a braggart it's been a pretty great run since I got the heave ho six years ago and started changing my life. My gut says Bennett is in a similar place, and he joins the Bears at the ideal time for both parties. Besides being the perfect signing for a team starved for playmakers at his position, Bennett is set to have the biggest years of his career in the Windy City. But just as importantly, a unique and vibrant personality is coming to a team that once celebrated that kind of individual flair in its football players. It is the great fortune of the Bears that Bennett's uncommon persona scared off more conventional thinkers. With the support of an organization behind him and the humility that only comes with experience, Bennett is poised to re-launch his career, and entertain the hell out of us in the process.
It is also worth noting that with Brandon Marshall and Bennett in the fold - and make no mistake it was Marshall who helped recruit the Bears' new tight end - it is clear that Emery has a talent for finding players that may be undervalued merely for being misunderstood. And whether a conscious decision or not, it is a stroke of genius to build a roster with the understanding that the Bears can afford to take a few character risks on players that might benefit from joining a team with a strong locker room. In that one way, the Bears are dealing from a position of strength in a sport where any and every advantage must be pursued and exploited on an otherwise level playing field.
Along with the reported signing of left tackle Jermon Bushrod from New Orleans to rejoin offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, the Bears made two of the smartest moves in the NFL on a day when the franchise has historically struggled just to keep pace with the rest of the league. Laughingstocks no more, Phil Emery is leading the Bears' front office into uncharted competent waters, and the team seems all but certain to follow in the years to come.
Bring on the Joe Gryffindor experience.