Category Archives: Features

Ricky Williams and Social Anxiety Disorder

Boys begin to understand sports and girls at about the same time. When you’re younger you understand it in simpler terms. You like sports because they’re fun. You like girls because you can’t help but look at them and it makes you feel funny. But, you don’t really understand. Your feelings for them are simple, uncomplicated. Like saying U.S. entered World War II because of Pearl Harbor. Correct, but missing the larger point.

Then one day you start to get it. Girls and sports start to make a little more sense. “Ohhh. That’s it. That’s what it’s really all about.” The people and events involved in those moments always hold special places in your heart. Well, for me it Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe of “Friends” and Helen Hunt in “Twister” and Greg Maddux and Ricky Williams

Greg Maddux was a slow appreciation of the skill and craftmanship involved with sports. Teaching me that it wasn’t all home runs, alley-oops, touchdowns, and hockey fights. Greg Maddux was my first girlfriend.

Ricky Williams was the first girl who flashed me. My introduction to Ricky Williams was when he broke the single season collegiate record. It was one of those “did that really just happen?” sports moments. He had only 11 yards to go to break it. And of course he set in by busting off a Hulk like 60 yard touchdown run. It is etched in stone in my brain. I remember the white paint on his arm. I swear to god I remember the cut to Tony Dorsett. I remember seeing him take his helmet off seeing his dreads and thinking, “That guy looks really cool”. When I get dementia I fully except to ramble on about his run endlessly. It was exciting, and sexy, and perfect. And ultimately meaningless because I wasn’t a Longhorn fan. But, I knew that I had just seen something unique. Ricky Williams has always been special to me because of that.

Ricky Williams is a unique dude. He gave interviews after games still wearing his football helmet. He was suspended multiple time of marijuana use. He retired in 2004 went to Australia or Canada and lived in the wilderness. He said he didn’t care for the game anymore. People accused him of being addicted to pot and lazy. Ricky is just his own dude. (He would want me to put dude”instead of man I have a feeling.)

Turned out many of Ricky’s eccentrics could be attributed to him having social anxiety disorder and a couple other difficulties. Social Anxiety Disorder is easily treatable once its diagnosed. Medication and therapy have been found to be extremely helpful. Ricky has openly discussed how much easier his life has been since he has received treatment.    Social anxiety disorder is an intense, unreasonable anxiety in social situations. Sometimes leading to avoidance of certain situations and places that you actually wish to do. They can lead to difficulties functioning in a variety of social contexts and panic attacks.

Here is a self-diagnostic test for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Here is Ricky Williams answering questions about Social Anxiety Disorder in an online chat.

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Rick Welts and Homosexuality

Homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by the DSM until 1973. Well, really until 1986. In 1980 they changed “homosexuality” into “ego-dystonic homosexuality” which was: (1) a persistent lack of heterosexual arousal, which the patient experienced as interfering with initiation or maintenance of wanted heterosexual relationships, and (2) persistent distress from a sustained pattern of unwanted homosexual arousal. Which basically says, “If you are okay with being gay it’s not a mental disorder. But, if you don’t want to be gay then it’s a mental disorder.” Which is a nicer way of saying. “If you want to be who you are, it’s not a mental disorder. But, if you don’t want to be who you are, your homosexuality is mental disorder.” It wasn’t until 1986 that homosexuality was entirely removed from DSM.

Rick Welts, the CO and President of the Golden State Warriors, is a gay man. He came out last May. He is the only openly gay serving executive in U.S. professional sports history.

When Charles Barkley was asked his thoughts on the matter: “First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.” Chuck. Never afraid to put it like it is.

(Just for kicks. Once Barkley was pulled over for running a stop sign he told the cop he was in a hurry because he was going to see a girl who had “given him a ‘blow job’ one week earlier,” which he described as “the best one he had ever had in his life.” He ended up being charged with a DUI.)

Oh, back to the point. Homosexuality.

Asperger’s is viewed as a spectrum disorder. Meaning everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum. This is the same way Kinsey viewed homosexuality and heterosexuality. Not gay or straight. But, a continuum of sexuality. Find me a straight man who isn’t struck by Ryan Goslin and I will find you a liar.

We’ve seen the damage that saying there was “something wrong” with homosexuals has done to their cause and to the lives of gay people. Obviously, there were different reasons besides purely scientific, that homosexuality was classified as a “mental illness”. But, there is a good lesson to take away from it. It is now obvious to us that homosexuality is not a mental illness and there is nothing wrong with homosexuals. I’m assuming you are not voting for Rick Santorum or that you are Rick Santorum.

What other “mental illnesses” or “disorders” are in the DSM that we will one day view as normal behavior? And, what harm are we doing to those with a “disorder” or “mental illness” to attach that stigma of “something is wrong with them”? There are extroverts and introverts. There are type A and type B personalities. There are gay people and straight people? Why can’t some just be a Asperger personality? Or for that matter schizophrenic personality?

If we view someone as “mental ill” or having a “disorder”, it means there is something wrong with them and that they need to change for us. But, if some thing is a “normal” behavior and we reject it, that means there is something wrong with us and we need to change for them.

Here is the great New York Times story were Welts came out.

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Clay Marzo and Asperger’s Syndrome

Clay Marzo is an elite, X Games gold medal winning surfer. Clay Marzo spends more time involved with objects and physical systems than with people. Clay Marzo communicates less than other people do. Clay Marzo tends to follow his own desires and beliefs rather than paying attention to, or being easily influenced by, others’ desires and beliefs. Clay Marzo shows relatively little interest in what the social group is doing, or being a part of it. Clay Marzo has strong, persistent interests. Clay Marzo is very accurate at perceiving the details of information. Clay Marzo notices and recalls things other people may not. Clay Marzo’s view of what is relevant and important in a situation may not coincide with others. Clay Marzo is fascinated by patterned material, be it visual, numeric, alphanumeric, or lists. Clay Marzo is fascinated by systems, be they simple, a little more complex, or abstract. Clay Marzo has a strong drive to collect categories of objects, or categories of information. Clay Marzo has a strong preference for experiences that are controllable rather than unpredictable.

Along with being I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-face-good-looking, Clay Marzo also has Aspeberger’s.

What you just read is Simon Boren-Cohen’s non-judgmental description of someone who has Aspebreger’s syndrome. Cohen argues that maybe Asperger’s shouldn’t even be considered a disability or a syndrome that it is actually just a normal continuation of the human personality. That only when you view life from a social perspective does Asperger’s appear to be a problem. As his non-judgmental description illustrates.

From an ESPN magazine article:

The condition allows Marzo to laser-focus on a single activity, turning his greatest challenge into his greatest asset. Most people get bored after an hour or two of the same activity. Not Marzo. When he surfs, he goes into a zone, focused and lost at the same time. He calls an eight-hour surf session, with no breaks for food or water, “the perfect day.” He’ll then spend eight more hours watching video of his session, replaying each wave, over and over.

If there was a drug (let’s call it a “Peyton”) to make any professional athlete be like that; they would take it.

So, why is Aspeger’s a disorder? People with Asperger’s have no irregular neurobiology development. Because people with Asperger’s are different. We have created rules for a social world and people with Asperger’s have difficult fitting into the rules of the social world that we created. But is that fair? As Simon Boren-Cohen explains:

I do not spend much, if any, time thinking about mathematics problems, but I spend quite a lot of time thinking about people. In contrast, the person in the next door office spends a lot of time thinking about mathematics problems, and hardly any thinking about people.  Yet I do not describe myself as having a disability in mathematics. I would instead say that I simply prefer to spend time thinking about people: they are more interesting to me. To call what  a person does little of a disability could be seen as unreasonable.

Very recently there was a “mental disorder” that is now viewed as “normal”. And we’ll talk about that later this week.

Here is the ESPN Magazine article about Clay.

Here is  a .pdf to “Is Asperger’s Syndrome necessarily a Disorder?” by Simon Boren-Cohen.

Here is a self-assessment test for Asperger’s

Brandon Marshall and Borderline Personality Disorder

“I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed of. Not only did I become a Pro Bowl player, I became one of the highest-paid football receivers. I graduated from college and am pursuing a master’s degree. I am married to a beautiful, educated woman. I have a dream home, two nice cars, and three beautiful dogs. But I haven’t enjoyed one part of it. And it’s hard for me to understand why.”

Brandon Marshall is a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. He has received for more than 1,000 yards in his last six seasons. He’s only been in the league seven. He holds the record for most receptions in a single game, 21. He went to three Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in 2009.

“People say football players have to be able to turn the switch on and off between thinking and reacting, but there has never been a switch for me. It’s always been impulsivity and just reaction. It made me who I am today. I appreciate it, my strengths, but they have also ruined me.”

Off field problems tarnished the early years of Marshall’s career. He was charged with violent domestic crimes and a DUI.

In 2011 he received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is probably one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. Largely because the disorder causes acutely emotional instability. This leads to destructive interpersonal behavior and impulsivity, often resulting in reckless sexually behavior, violent tendencies, and extreme manipulative behavior. However, with no signs of psychosis (a disconnect from reality) it is very difficult to diagnose. Those with BPD don’t have control of their emotions and actions when suffering symptoms.

Internally people living with BPD are full of self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness. 8-10 % of those living with BPD die from suicide.

The treatment for BPD is very expensive and difficult. It takes a mix of medicine and long-term therapy. There is also an extremely high percentage of remission. Marshall reportedly spent $60,000 on his diagnosis and treatment.

“Today I am making myself vulnerable to help others who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD). I have seen my life with BPD and how it played out. My goal is to walk the halls of Congress to fight for the insurance coverage for this, and walk the halls of the National Institute of Mental Health to raise the awareness of this disorder. That is my mission moving forward. I love the game, but it’s not my priority anymore. Today my journey begins. I want to be the face of BPD.”

Here is a self assessment test for borderline personality disorder.

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Jerry West and Major Depressive Disorder

This month’s feature ‘March Madness’ will feature mental illnesses and the athletes who are battling with them.

Jerry West is the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP, when playing for the losing team. He is the NBA logo.

Jerry West wrote his autobiography last year, ‘West by West’, and it in he admitted for the first time his life long battle with depression.

From the review of the book in the LA Times:

He suffers from a clinical depression so acute that even his daily Prozac doesn’t always keep him from feeling suicidal. A woman who ultimately would marry him found West to be “the saddest man she had ever met.” Years later, she wrote a note to his boss, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, to warn him that her husband was “a very tormented individual” on the brink of self-destruction.

A massive misconception is that depression is being sad, or having a cloudy day, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Here is a depressed woman describing her average morning routine, “”I would wake up with an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety. I would lay there for hours, sometimes in a fetal position, crying. I would pull a sheet over my head.” Ya, know, just a normal bad hair day.

Jerry West was the most respected player in the league. He is probably the most respected basketball player in history. After retiring he won Executive of the Year twice. If there was anyone ever that should have been “stronger than that” or able to “just get over it” or “just needed to kick himself in the rear” it was Jerry West.

Jerry West lead the Lakers to 9 NBA Finals Appearances, he made 12 all NBA teams, in 1996 the NBA named him the #1 player of all-time. For someone who “would go to bed feeling like I didn’t even want to live” that’s not too bad.

Here is a depression self-assessment test called the Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

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Richard Pryor

He was the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Comedy Central named him the number #1 comedian of all-time. He co-wrote ‘Blazing Saddles’. Name a comedian that started their career after his. Go ahead. Name one. Okay you did? They name him as one of their major influences. How is it that I know that? Because know one that has laughed since Richard Pryor started getting on stage hasn’t name him as a major influence.

Richard Pryor famously lit himself on fire after free basing cocaine. Instead of shying away from the incident he bravely made it ten plus minutes of his material.

I can’t find the source for it but it doesn’t matter because it’s true and it’s right. So there for he said it. I don’t need to find a source. Bill Cosby once said about Richard Pryor, “Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it.”

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Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac is sneaky good. I’m sure there are people out there that are huge Bernie Mac fans but, I don’t know any. But, ask anyone if they like Bernie Mac and they will say yes. They will either say they like him in ‘Friday’ or ‘Ocean’s 11’ or ‘Bad Santa’ or for his very underrated TV show ‘The Bernie Mac Show’. I’m having difficulty choosing clips for him. But, this is probably the funniest scene in ‘Ocean’s 11’ and it’s almost purely Mac.

His stand up was vulgar. From a quantity stand point but, it doesn’t come off as vulgar for some reason. It’s probably because of the playfulness he exhibits. Take for insists this clip. The joke isn’t that it’s vulgar. The joke is how much fun it is to be vulgar.

Bernie Mac died in 2008 at 50. He worked almost non-stop his entire life. Just look at his IMDb page. From his first movie to his last movie he had almost two movies every year. Which is lucky for use because he left behind so many films and material for us. He had talked on David Letterman before he died about retiring because he had worked so much. It should be of noted that before Lous C.K. called his daughter an “asshole” Bernie Mac called his daughter a “bitch motha fucka”. He was a forward thinker.

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Eddie Murphy

Today is Eddie Murphy. To celebrate the Oscars we maybe could have had. You know, where Eddie Murphy hosted and George Clooney won best Actor and Rooney Mara won Best Actress and black women weren’t winning Oscars for the same typecast, stereotypical, borderline racist portrayals they won Oscars for in the 1930’s. I’m not the only one thinking that.

I highly recommend that you read Bill Simmon’s, equally entertaining and long, essay (?) he wrote about Murphy. I really can’t add anything that isn’t said in there. Except some YouTube clips.

Eddie Murphy started on ‘SNL’ and in a matter of years became one of the biggest stars on the planet. He had two stand up comedy specials, ‘Delirious’ and ‘Raw’, that helped launch him to fame.

But, it was really ’48 Hours’ that broke him out. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you watch it. It’s edgy in a way comedians aren’t now post-PC. Maybe one day they will but, it goes places that only the bravest and most skillful stand-ups do today. The best example of it being. This scene:

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Dick Gregory

It’s a miracle that Dick Gregory survived the 60’s.

Not only was he one of the most famous faces of the Civil Rights moment, but he stood on a stage and mocked those that opposed him. He wrote an autobiography, in 1963, titled “Nigger”. In the forward he said to his Mamma, “Whenever you hear the word ‘Nigger’ you’ll know their advertising my book.To get some understanding of what he was dealing with why don’t you watch this video.

There’s not a lot of footage of  him performing in the early days of the 60’s. He performed on ‘The Tonight Show with Jack Parr’. But, the footage of it was more than likely destroyed. In the early days of television they didn’t think people would be interested in watching old television. Just think of all the performers they could be screwing out of residuals right now? What’s also amazing is that ‘Tonight Show’ performance was before the much more ‘friendly’ Flipp Wilson performed on  “The Tonight Show”.

He was actively involved in woman’s rights and the anti-apartheid movement. It also should be noted that he is a conspiracy theorist. Believing that the truth about 9/11 and the Kennedy assignation have never truly been revealed. You can’t blame a man who lived through the Civil Rights movement in thinking that the government might be up to something sinister. He also probably is the only comedian that can say the FBI tried to get the mob to ‘neutralize’ him. This isn’t fake. You can look it up at ‘The Chicago Tribune‘. Crazy right? That is putting it lightly, fucking ridiculous, is close but still a little light.

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Paul Mooney

Day : Night :: Bill Cosby : Paul Mooney.

Paul Mooney is probably most famous for Negrodamus that he performed on ‘Chapelle’s Show’ but his influence is far more reaching than that.

He was the head writer on ‘The Richard Pyror Show’ (also was a collaborator with Pyror for year)  and the first head writer of ‘In Livin’ Color’. He also wrote for ‘Sanford and Sons’.

Paul Mooney’s stand up is aggressive to put it lightly. Watching his YouTube clips make me uncomfortable sometimes. He is not to be fucked with. These are good things.

Mooney stands in contrast to other “aggressive” and “vulgar” comedians because he is so calm in his delivering. He is leaning on or sitting in a stool most of the time. He is monotone, rarely raising his voice. He speaks slow and calm. This style doesn’t give off the feelings of an angry emotional rant rather, a thoughtful logical argument. Like the most acute, obscene liberal arts professor in Dartmouth history.

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