Commentary

On Brandon Marshall and marriage

An alleged domestic assault gives rise to thoughts on marriage and tranquillity

Originally Published: April 25, 2011
By Jeff MacGregor | ESPN.com

Very short this morning, and about half heartbroken.

Tell you why. We're all going to see and hear and read a great deal this week about two marriages. One beginning and one likely ending, one a fairy tale, the other a cautionary tale, both too much in the news and the absolute truth of either inaccessible to the rest of us.

If you're not married, stop reading. You won't get it.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
AP Photo/J Pat CarterWe'll never know, nor should we know, the inner workings of the relationship between Brandon Marshall and Michi Nogami-Marshall.

This Friday, William and Kate of enchanted Buckingham come together in a perfect storm of fame and fantasy and public appetite, of cliché and soaring ratings and rising circulation. Last Friday, Brandon and Michi of Miami came apart the same way.

I have no rooting interest in either couple, no personal investment in one or the other, except that anyone anywhere who takes up marriage be as happy and whole and safe in theirs as I am in mine. This is how I spend my small columnist's allotment of human empathy and warmth.

That Michi Nogami-Marshall was arrested and charged for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after allegedly stabbing her husband Brandon, the much troubled wide receiver from the Miami Dolphins, has already launched a thousand editorials. By the end of the day it will launch ten thousand more.

This because like any royal wedding, celebrities caught up in violence or caught out in moral failure or domestic excess or simple ugly misery sell pageviews and papers. So we'll now hear long and loud from the hyena sporting press, from the moralizers and the hysterics, from the closet racists and the upfront bigots and the jackass elite, from the scolds and the corporate schoolmarms and the commercial apologists. They'll grind their axes and they'll grind their teeth and we'll spend the week wrestling old devils and reconfirming our worst fears about one another.

And whatever really happened between Brandon and Michi, their story will now deform itself around our lowest expectations and prejudices. To respond in some unexpected way, to offer sympathy, to reach out, to wonder in public about love or devotion or passion gone wrong is simply to invite derision. To question the moral convictions and marital conventions of the Great American Football Factory is to be thought soft on crime or soft on race or soft in the head.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
AP Photo/Andy KingMore than anything else, Marshall needs our empathy right now.

Thus the lectures will bend instead toward punishment, with sidebars on the failure of society and the collapse of middle-class culture. They will be larded with phrases like "anger management" and "conflict resolution" and "personal responsibility."

I was frankly prepared to write the same -- with an historical aside on stabby Lana Turner and stabbist Norman Mailer and the various imperatives of celebrity self-defense -- until I read this, a silly little bridal featurette from Essence magazine in which I recognized first and foremost myself.

Whatever the truth of Brandon and Michi, and whatever the truth of that sad event, both need our help. They're people, not caricatures or literary correctives or examples of a failed public policy. They share a great deal in common with every one of us. They deserve our empathy and our sympathy, our patience and our fairness, our forbearance and our most balanced disinterest.

Most of all they deserve our help.

Because something terrible has happened in their marriage. Remember how that feels, and how love feels at the beginning or the middle or the end of things, that anger, that sadness, the chaos of the mind and the perfect storm of your feelings. They need us to remember that, to remember the terrifying weather of the married heart.

Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can email him at jeff_macgregor@hotmail.com, or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.

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