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True Power

" True power does not need arrogance, a long beard and a barking voice. True power is attained with silk ribbons, charm and intelligence"

- Oriana Fallaci in "Il Divo"


Climate, Oil and Delusion (and Bipolar Disorder)

     The more and more I dig. The more and more I ask the underrated/underasked question of "Why?",  I'm constantly reminded that it is my duty to let people know there is a 'different' way of doing things. Sick and tired of always being beaten into submission when you think 'outside the box'? Look up the learning theory of 'Constructivism'. You'll see that all thoughts(theories) evolve based upon experience, trial, error and ultimately common sense. And this includes the way mental illness is diagnosed and treated. As well as the education that is needed to 'understand' us.

     When I was diagnosed in 1996, there were probably 25,000 cases in the United States. Jump to 2003 and there are all of a sudden 800,000! Huh? This again brings me to the question of "Why?".

The following article is by my good friend James Howard Kunstler. I'd be interested in who, among my readers, believes there are some interesting parallels with the treatment of mental illness .

Climate, Oil and Delusion

       Against a greater welter and flow of incoherence jerking the nation this way and that way en route to collapse comes “ClimateGate,” the latest excuse for screaming knuckleheads to defend what has already been lost. It is also yet another distraction from the emergency agenda that the United States faces — namely the urgent re-scaling, re-localizing, and de-globalizing of our daily activities.

     What seems to be at stake for the knuckleheads is their identity, their idea of what it means to be an American, which boils down to being an organism so specially blessed and entitled that it is excused from paying attention to reality. There were no doubt plenty of counterparts among the Mayans when the weather changed and their crops failed, and certainly the Romans had their share of identity psychotics who doubted reality even when Alaric the Visigoth was hoisting off their household treasure.
   Reality doesn’t care if we are on-board with its mandates or not. The human race has to get with whatever program reality is serving up at a particular time. Are we shocked to learn that scientists fight among themselves and cheat as much as congressmen? Does that really change the relationships we understand about parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the weather?

   What the people of the world can do or will do about a change in climate is something else. My guess is that the undertow of entropy is now too great to provoke any meaningful unified change in behavior. The collapse of the US economy is too close to the horizon, and the so-called developing nations will have problems equally severe. In the meantime, it is unlikely that any of the major players will burn less coal and oil, or not cheat on each other even if they pledge to burn less. People who are not knuckleheads will make the practical arrangements that they can. These will, by definition, be localized, small-scale, and non-global communities, doing what they would have to do anyway.

   A parallel identity mania afflicts those who have decided that the Bakken shale oil deposits and the Marcellus gas play will allow the USA to cancel any modifications to our living arrangements. This cohort of knuckleheads wants to believe the public relations of the oil and gas industry, and in particular the bankers who are arranging the financing for these ventures. The facts are irrelevant to their identity-claims (that the USA has limitless energy resources). In fact, the Bakken shale formation is unlikely to produce more than a few hundred thousand barrels of oil a day in a nation used to burning about twenty million. A few hundred thousand might mean a lot if were only used to light kerosene lamps, but it is unlikely to keep the faithful motoring off to WalMart and Walt Disney World — which is the exact expectation of the knuckleheads.

   Shale gas is a similar story. It will be too expensive to get out of the tight rock at a flow that will allow business as usual to continue. It certainly won’t be produced at under $10 a unit, and the nation’s comprehensive bankruptcy accelerates every day, making it less likely that the public can pay premium prices within the framework of our current living arrangement.
   The Green Shoots crowd — a sub-category of identity maniacs, who think the USA is immune to the laws of history and physics — has made common cause with the oil and climate knuckleheads to proclaim that we are returning to normal, back to the “consumer” orgy, the suburban sprawl nexus of McHousing and miracle mortgages, and new frontiers of corporate profit-raking.

    They are tragically wrong. Instead, we’re headed into the wildest king-hell debt workout that the world has ever seen, which will propel a lot of people used to working in air-conditioned cubicles into a world made by hand. We march day by day into the great holiday season with mortgages going unpaid and the credit cards getting cancelled and money disappearing and the fears and grievances mounting. Pretty soon, the folks doing “God’s work” at Goldman Sachs (and their tribal kin on Wall Street) will announce their annual bonuses (because they are publicly-held companies, which have to do so). Won’t that be a galvanizing moment for us all?

 Anxiety? Depression? Bipolar Disorder?  ............  Give 'em a pill



The Disease

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Surviving Bipolar Disorder: BiPolar Disorder - Respect the Gift

Surviving Bipolar Disorder: BiPolar Disorder - Respect the Gift

The Saga Continues........

Montgomery is rebel with a cause



SAN ANTONIO -- Greg Montgomery Sr., an investment banker in Holland, Mich., called Greg Jr. on Tuesday morning. Having replayed a tape of the Oilers-Lions game Saturday night, Greg Sr. had decided it was time for a man-to-man talk with his son, the Oilers' punter and resident different drummer.

The subject wasn't going to be punting, either. Greg Jr. had averaged a whopping 50.4 yards per kick against the Lions.

"Dad told me he thought I looked like a hoodlum on the sideline," Montgomery said. "He was worried that I was starting to jeopardize my future, my opportunities outside of football, with my appearance. He didn't make any demands or anything. He just asked me to consider his advice, to take it for what it's worth."

Fair enough. Montgomery hung up the phone and dutifully squared off with the mirror in his dorm room.

He stroked his new goatee and gave a once-over to his wild, beat poet's-length hair, which he ties in a bun before he puts on his helmet. He examined the silver earring in his left ear and appraised each of the tattoos on his upper arms, plus the unusual one on his left shoulder blade that's a Japanese symbol meaning "double happiness." He got it in Houston last season when he met Kate, his girlfriend.

Montgomery thought about his father's advice and peered into the mirror again. He tried to be objective, to see things from Greg Sr.'s perspective. Really, he did.

But he couldn't. Sorry, Dad. For now, the goatee stays. So does everything else.

"I'm not trying to make a statement," Montgomery said. "I'm just comfortable with the way I look."

Oilers punter enjoys iconoclasm

Montgomery's appearance has evolved in his five-year tenure with the Oilers. As a tense, overwrought rookie, he could have passed for a boot-camp Marine. Then, he was Luke Perry cool, before Luke Perry. Today? Let's just say he looks exactly like a guy who spends much of his free time tooling around on a new Harley and hanging out at Kel Dogs, a biker bar.

"It gets me away from the football scene," he said. "It's a way to relax, being with people who don't know I play and wouldn't care less if they did. Those guys aren't outlaws, just down to earth. I don't want people thinking I'm an outlaw, either. It's just the way I express myself."

By mainstream, button-down, middle-American standards, Montgomery is well off center and off the wall. He's a throwback to an age when characters were the rule, not the exception, in most locker rooms, the Oilers' included.

Gregg Bingham once brought a python to camp with him. Mike Stensrud shot up a picnic area near San Angelo, sending teammates diving into the bushes. We could talk for hours about the eccentricities and antics of Dave Casper, Steve Kiner, Kenny Stabler, Don Floyd, Jerrel Wilson, et al. Each dealt with the NFL pressure cooker in his own odd way.

But if Montgomery is a flake himself, however you choose to define the term, it hasn't hindered his punting. He is closing in on becoming the league's best. He is a serious student of the art form, ever trying to refine and perfect it. Jack Pardee, who has seen everything in his three NFL decades, understands this and cuts him some slack.

He lets Greg be Greg even if it means a goatee, the tattoos and a team-leading repertoire of pranks and practical jokes.

"I've got more time to think up stuff," Montgomery concedes. "I do a lot of standing around."

When the rookies came in from practice one day last week to find their clothes and shoes floating in the ice tubs, guess who became the No. 1 suspect? He hasn't confessed. No need to.

Constantly seeks improvement

But his flippant attitude/appearance notwithstanding, Montgomery cuts no corners professionally. He's a thinker as much as a doer. For example, he keeps a detailed mental checklist he runs through before every punt. Having mastered distance -- 43.3, 45 and 43.9 averages the last three seasons -- he's working on improving his accuracy.

Accuracy? He wants more punts angling sharply out of bounds inside the 10. He wants more fair catches. Statistically, his goal is a 40-plus average net, never accomplished in the NFL.

"I want to take punting to another level," he said, "and not to be selfish, either. The more consistently I place the ball and the better my hang times, the harder my punts will be to return. That helps my team."

Montgomery held out last year and wound up missing the entire preseason plus the opener against the Raiders. He came to realize it was a mistake, from both a preparatory and a financial standpoint. He lost a game check and started off miserably.

"I'm so far ahead of schedule this summer, I can't believe it," he said. "I feel great."

Looks great, too, I guess. I mean, what's a punter supposed to look like?


The Aftermath - 1998

Kick-starting over; Ravens: Greg Montgomery returns to the basics with his punting technique in an effort to rebound from a season wracked by physical and mental difficulties.

The Baltimore Sun Jul 29, 1998 By: Eduardo A. Encina

Ravens punter Greg Montgomery entered training camp last week a changed man. The black-painted toenails and bleached-blond hair that drew so much attention last year are gone, but one thing Montgomery brought to camp is the desire to rebound from a tough 1997 campaign, both on and off the field.
Last year, Montgomery, who ranks second among active punters in average yards per punt, finished 10th in the AFC at 42.7 yards, lowest since his rookie year in 1988.
But it was off the field where the hardest troubles came for Montgomery. The 10-year veteran suffers from bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive illness, which causes extreme mood swings. He said that it affected him physically and mentally, especially during training camp.
"Every day seemed like forever," Montgomery said about last year's training camp. "It was hard to get out of bed every morning, hard to go work out, hard to eat. I was proud of myself to just get through last season. Now, I am more focused and can concentrate on my punting game rather than deal with that."
And his struggles showed on the field. His kicking lacked the consistency that he was known for throughout his career.
"You hear of other people that have it, like in baseball, where you can go down to the minors," Montgomery said. "But I didn't have that luxury. I had to play it out, and it was really a stone in my shoe. But now I'm feeling better, and it's not really a big deal."
Montgomery, 33, said his condition has improved with medication that he takes daily and by staying in good physical shape. Lifting weights in the off-season has raised his weight to 220, a five-pound increase from last year.
"It's all about maintaining my body physically and mentally," Montgomery said.
"He just wasn't Greg Montgomery last year," special teams coach Scott O'Brien said. "It was the consistency, getting the ball in the air and allowing guys to get downfield where he struggled last year."
Montgomery, who led the NFL in punting average twice while playing for the Houston Oilers, said that last year he tried to make his technique better, yet ended up hindering his performance.
"I am a perfectionist. I always have been, so last year I was trying to do things different," he said. "I tried to do little things to make me a little smoother, like tinker with my drop a little, but then I realized actually I was smoother when I just went out there and hit the ball solid."
To add to Montgomery's saga, toward the end of minicamp in June, he fractured his kicking foot by hitting a camera while taping a commercial, an injury that initially was expected to keep him on the sideline for four to six weeks.
The injury, combined with Montgomery's subpar 1997 performance, has prompted the Ravens to seek other options at punter. They signed free agent Kyle Richardson, a second-year player from Arkansas State, and held tryouts for free agent Reggie Roby last week.
"You just never know with an injury like that, especially on his kicking foot," O'Brien said. "But Greg came back early and we're taking it slowly so we make sure it heals right."
Montgomery is still rehabilitating the foot, but is kicking about 40 balls every other day in practice, a sign that the healing process in going well.
"The injury has been a real pain," he said. "It might have been a blessing in disguise though, because it gave me a month away from kicking and it gave me time to work on my leg and my upper body. As for the competition, this is a highly competitive game and this year I've prepared myself and I think my chances are really good."
Among his teammates, kicker Matt Stover probably sees the most of Montgomery on and off the field. Stover is his roommate in training camp, and Montgomery has been Stover's holder on kicks the past two years.
"He's made the adjustment to his condition," Stover said. "Sometimes when things don't go your way, you tend to doubt your own ability, but Greg is a very positive guy and he's really looking good in camp. He's attacking the ball instead of just kicking it."
As for his appearance, Montgomery still has several piercings and tattoos, but he came into camp with his natural reddish brown hair and no polish on the fingernails.
"That was last year and this is this year," Montgomery said. "It was fun. I was just messing with people, but I think I did it more as a way to take my mind off the depression, keep myself upbeat and loose. But either way, I'm never going to fit in."


Carpe Diem

     I know I have to do this. Reflect. Search for answers. Be honest. Raise awareness. But this shite really stresses me out. The drama. The old daze. What could've been.

     I returned home last night from a nice dinner w/ a couple friends at Andiamo's, an Italian bistro in Dearborn, Michigan.  It was 5:30 pm. Donnie Jones(punter) and Kyle Boller(quarterback), who play for the St Louis Rams, are in town to play the Detroit Lions on Sunday. I haven't seen Donnie since I coached him at LSU in 2004. This was my first time meeting Kyle. Solid cats. As expected, "Monty stories" flew around the table. Donnie had fun teasing Kyle about his various romances w/  Hollywood starlets. I winked at Kyle when I shared a few stories about Donnie while at LSU.

      As we settled into our dinner, I felt an all too familiar 'air' about the table.The night before a game. The pressure to perform. The constant checking and rechecking of the time. We were interacting, but the boys were 'distant'. Trying to relax and enjoy the meal, you could tell thier minds were busy. "What time's your meeting?' I asked.  "7:45" said Donnie. "Mine's at 7:30" quipped Kyle as he checked his phone for the third time. This really took me back. I've been there. I lived it.

       As you can imagine, anxiety is very common in professional sports. And athletes handle this in many different ways. Why the hell do we get so stressed out before games? This is supposed to be fun. You've got a couple kids making millions of dollars playing the game they love. And I get the all too familiar feeling that it's not. This led me to the topic of manic/depression and my desire to raise awareness of  mental illness. Bipolar Disorder. The importance of addressing the causes. Finding the gene(s). I explained to them that when I played, I did my best to block out the pressure. Pretend it wasn't there. But no matter how hard I tried, I always struggled with anxiety. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? For our teammates? For the fans,coaches, families or peers? As I shared my battles, I could tell they understood. They know. All the pressure. The money. The constant desire to prove ourselves. Wanting to succeed. Never wanting to let our teammates/coaches/fans down.

      The one message I tried share w/ them is that life's too short. It serves no purpose putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Getting up tight. Worrying if the coaches /management are happy with our performance(s). Relax and just do your job. Because that's all it is - A job. Let me ask you cats a question :

           "How many coaches, GM's have called me since I was cut in 1998? Fucking ZERO!"

       Go out and try to have fun. Anxiety is an epidemic, guys. Look around us.You can't watch 10 minutes of television without seeing an advertisement for some sort of new drug for depression. I tried to explain that we really need to step back for a minute. Look at the big picture. Realize that our minds are powerful. That we're in control of this. We have a choice. F*#k all the critics and just have fun. That's what I tried to do. I saw a glimmer in their eyes. I hope it helped.
      It's clear to me that in today's 'results driven society' plays a huge role in this perpetual  drama. Am I pretty? Am I too fat? Does he/she love me? Are my pants too tight? Reality shows, TMZ and E! If we could just slow down and get centered. We can't worry about things we can't control. It's fruitless. Give 100% and let the chips fall as they may. There's a saying -  "If you  have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you'll end up pissing on today". This really sums it up.  Focus on what you can control - the present. That's it. Freedom of choice. A choice to be happy. A choice to be sad. A choice to worry. My suggestion is to choose to stay in the moment and enjoy the ride.

Easy for me to say.

Carpe Diem


The Year of Hell - 1997

A level field; Ravens: Punter Greg Montgomery has struggled with the emotional highs and lows of bipolar disorder, but so far, he has adjusted successfully

The Baltimore Sun Dec 18, 1997 By: Sandra McKee

Candles light the room. Orange ones, green ones, tall ones, short ones. Greg Montgomery opens the doors to the terrace that overlooks the Inner Harbor and says, "Look at the ceiling."
As a soft breeze plays with the candles' flames, a golden silhouette in the shape of a flickering Aztec sun dances on the ceiling. One more warm, artistic display by this gentle man who is better known as the Ravens' sometimes goofy, always unconventional punter.
It's easy to see the unconventional. When national television networks come to talk to him, they play up the bleached white hair, the tattoos, the earrings and the pranks. When Baltimore magazine puts together the perfect body, Montgomery's manicured feet, complete with painted nails, are included. They are all part of this man, who at 33 is in his ninth year in the NFL.
But there is more to Montgomery than his sculpted, 6-foot-4, 215-pound body.
He is a perfectionist who strives every day to overcome bipolar disorder. It is a condition, formerly known as manic depression, in which he experiences soaring highs and devastating lows.
Though he has always had bouts of depression and anxiety, Montgomery didn't experience a real manic episode until this spring. That experience, followed by an equally low depression, finally enabled doctors to diagnose the disorder.
Ravens physician Dr. Andy Tucker said the disorder is thought to be caused by the rise and fall of serotonin levels in the brain.
Montgomery is now being successfully treated with the prescription drug Zoloft, which keeps his moods level.
From 1 to 2 percent of the general population have the condition, says University of Maryland psychiatrist Don Thompson.
But not too many are willing to talk about it. Montgomery is, and he gave his doctors permission to participate in this article.
"I don't see it as a negative," Montgomery says, lounging on a comfortable white couch in his 12th-floor apartment. "If anything, it's good. Intelligent people get it and, believe it or not, it's made me smarter."
Not everyone who suffers from bipolar disorder is smart. But some very well-known, intelligent people have had it -- Winston Churchill, poet Robert Lowell, columnist Art Buchwald and television newsman Mike Wallace among them.
The one thing all bipolar sufferers share, however, is emotional extremes that cause them great pain and cause their families and friends great worry. Because of that, Montgomery said he wants to share his experiences to give people hope.
Not what you see
Montgomery spent his early childhood in Shrewsbury, N.J., the son of a Wall Street investment banker. He is the oldest of three children, and though he was protective of his brother Steve and sister Margot, he sometimes drove his mother to distraction.
"Greg was always very physical, hyperactive and aggressive," says his father, Greg Sr. "He was also very smart and was just more driven to perfection. He'd tie his shoelaces just so, making sure they were exactly even. He'd pull his belt so tight it almost tore him in half. And he tested his mom, Diane, to the limit when it came to discipline."
And yet, when his 6-year-old sister came home from the hospital after an operation and was in obvious pain, it was Greg who reached out his hand to her.
"He was about 10, and he could see I was in a lot of pain," Margot recalls. "He gave me his hand, crunched up his eyes and told me to just squeeze as hard as I needed to whenever it hurt. I'll never forget that. And when I was addicted to heroin and cocaine and I was getting sober, when he was playing with the Houston Oilers, he came to be with me without batting an eyelash. He has always been there for me -- for our entire family -- because it's important to him.
"It's always amazing to me that he gets all this publicity because of his outrageousness, and no one seems to know about his gentleness."
It's not a side he shows to everyone. It's not a side everyone wants to get to know. Often strangers see Montgomery's bleached hair and pierced tongue and move to avoid him.
"I'm told I'm very unapproachable," he says, the candlelight reflecting in the yellow lenses of his glasses. "I'm very intense, and some people are a little intimidated by that."
The attack
His family had seen him down before. In high school, he had loved playing hockey and being a linebacker. But a back injury forced him to become a punter, and he wasn't happy with that.
At Red Bank (N.J.) High, he refused to wear his letter jacket his junior year because it had a "P" on it for punter.
"Even in college, sometimes, he'd be down, upset because he was `nothing but a punter or kicker,' " his dad says. "He still wanted to be a linebacker."
So the downside was familiar. The high side wasn't.
In the spring, after the Ravens' minicamp, Montgomery suffered a manic attack while visiting his girlfriend in the South Beach area of Miami.
"When the manic stage hits, you are bulletproof," says Greg's father. "You are the best at everything. It's a very scary phase."
Dr. Stanley Platman, chief of psychiatry at Helix Behavioral Health/Union Memorial Hospital, says when the high attack kicks in, people who are bipolar are suddenly energized, their sleep patterns are disrupted, their minds race, they have what they think are great ideas about what they can do.
"Basically, they can get in a whole lot of trouble," Platman said. "They feel great, and they will deny that anything is wrong. They're everyone else's problem."
Greg Montgomery Sr. can nod knowingly at that. On the phone from Miami, he heard his son tell him a string of outlandish proposals. He was talking about starting a European sports clothing line, about putting a tour together, "like Lollapalooza" only with techno music, and about being the star and dancing "better than Michael Jackson." He might retire from football, he said, and make a lot more money in the process.
And it was none of those things specifically that caused his parents to worry. It was all of them together, tumbling out on top of one another, that tipped them off that something was wrong.
"Greg said this was his `New me. Accept me for what I am now. The old me is dead,' " Montgomery Sr. says. "He said everything was all right. But his mother and I flew down there to confront him."
Shortly thereafter, Montgomery's condition was diagnosed as bipolar. He was given a drug designed to curb the manic stage of the illness. But he had an adverse reaction to it, and two days before training camp, he hit rock bottom.
"I couldn't function," he says. "I was having trouble breathing. Every day I came to camp, I just felt like getting in the car and leaving. I couldn't get out of bed in the morning."
He lost weight. Couldn't eat. "My anxiety got to a point where I wouldn't work out and I didn't have any confidence," he says.
Greg Montgomery is a very good punter. He is a former Pro Bowl player who ranks ninth on the NFL's all-time list with a 43.5-yard career average, which is second-best among active punters.
But this season has been different. Because of his illness, he fell behind in training camp and then overworked trying to catch up. His punting has been erratic and his average is a disappointing 42.1 yards. But he is a survivor. His punting has been improving. He has been great at placing the ball inside the 20, leading the league with just one touchback, and he had his best game of the season Sunday against his former team, the Tennessee Oilers, producing a 48.3 average.
Sunday, he will play in the Ravens' last game of this season. And just that he is there kicking at all, he says, is "quite an accomplishment." There were times when he didn't think he'd be anywhere.
"In one preseason game against Philadelphia, I walked on the field and I didn't feel like I could do anything," he says.
And all the time his mind was going about 100 mph.
"I'm a thinker," he says now, a close-fitting wool hat pulled to his eyebrows. "It's what makes me good at punting. I think about all the angles, about the technique, about all the little things that go into the perfect punt. But you've got to know when to turn it off."
He couldn't turn it off. And he couldn't control what he thought.
He thought about suicide. Every day. It's a symptom of the disorder. From 10 to 15 percent of the people who suffer from bipolar disorder will die by suicide, Platman says. But Montgomery said he never got to the point where he actually tried it.
"I've never had a gun in my mouth," he says. "But there were a lot of prayers at camp time. There was so much mental pain, sometimes it seemed so easy to end it. And I'd pray, `Please give me strength to complete this day.' I believe in a higher power, definitely. I believe there is a supreme being .A source"
Feeling better
His friend Matt Stover, the Ravens' kicker, who is just about as straight-laced as Montgomery is loose, tries to help his friend focus.
"I've seen him high and low," Stover says. "And it's scary to see both sides in one person. When he's way up, he thinks too much. And when I see that, I just say to him, `Punt the ball!' When he's depressed, you know that, too. Then I just say, `What are you so sad about? There are 30 punting jobs in the NFL, and you have one of them. Be happy.' "
It took his teammates awhile to warm up to this playful, sometimes moody individual. Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa says he thinks they were somewhat afraid of him. Siragusa, on the other hand, thought Montgomery was a hoot from the get-go.
"The first time I saw Greg, I was in the locker room, and this nude guy with bleached hair and tattoos comes up to me and says, `Hey, dude, if you want to know who's really cool on this team, just ask me,' " says Siragusa, with a wide smile.
And safety Bennie Thompson says: "When I first met him, I didn't think his elevator stopped on all the floors. But he's a good guy. A wild kind of guy. He's the guy responsible for all the pranks around here. Once he took {a photo of} my body -- everyone could tell it was my body, it had my jersey number on it -- and put a mule's head on it and hung it up here in the locker room for everyone to see."
Greg Montgomery simply loves to laugh. Nearly everything he does is done with that in mind, and it has nothing to do with being bipolar.
He has dozens of pairs of glasses -- red ones, purple ones, "Elvis" ones. His tattoos are fun. His hair, fun. His painted toenails -- of which he has a framed photo sitting in his living room -- and fingernails, pure fun. His many hats, you guessed it, fun.
And, perhaps a little surprisingly, the one person who may have had the least trouble adjusting to him was veteran coach Ted Marchibroda.
"Oh, I see his hair, and I've been told about his pierced tongue and tattoos, but I haven't really thought much about it," Marchibroda says. "I don't see his toenails.
"He's a good performer, and that's all I care about. He works hard, and his first thought is for his team."
The medication he is on has brought Montgomery's life back to normal -- as normal as a fun-loving NFL punter can expect anyway. But he says being a football player makes dealing with bipolar disorder more difficult.
Dr. Thompson, the consultant from the Maryland Sports Medicine unit, says the illness can be harder to deal with for lawyers, doctors, politicians and athletes, because of the pressures that go with those jobs.
"You don't have the ability to hide," Montgomery says. "You have to do interviews, perform on TV, be the best -- they pay me to be the best. You can't hide away, go to a minor-league team to regroup or stay in your house for a year."
So he works out hard, takes his medication, consults regularly with his doctors and watches what he eats in an effort to stay on an even keel.
His father has heard him say he is enjoying being in Baltimore.
His sister has heard something in his voice that had been missing.
"I can't explain in words," she says. "But he's the way he used to be when he wasn't depressed. He's happy. Our parents are very conservative, and they'd like Greg to look like he just stepped out of Brooks Brothers. But the way I feel, his hair can be purple with all his eyebrows pierced, as long as he's happy."
And Montgomery, who just had his navel pierced, is looking to the future. He says he is feeling good and hopes to be back here next season. If so, he's planning to buy a house and start a foundation in support of others suffering from bipolar disorder.
"The first thing I'd tell someone who is bipolar is that there is hope, and even though it might seem you may die, that that feeling is never going away, it will pass," he says, looking mellow in the glow of his 50 candles. "Look at me, I'm still alive. You simply have to work hard at weeding your garden."
To learn more
For more information on bipolar disorder, contact the Depressive Related Affective Disorders Association, a national self-help group that meets at Johns Hopkins Hospital, at 410-955-4647. Or speak to your family doctor, who can put you in contact with a specialist.


The Comeback - 1996

Montgomery gives adversity the boot; Comeback: Greg Montgomery returns to the NFL with the Ravens, trying to re-establish himself among the league's elite punters after a year's sabbatical.

The Baltimore Sun - Sept 06,1996 By: Gary Lambrecht

Life is still a party to Greg Montgomery. But the years have taught him to turn the volume down while living it to the fullest.
Put him on a Harley motorcycle. Give him a pair of skis on a killer slope. Or a surfboard on a cool wave. Either way, Montgomery is a happy man. He is the first to admit he has lived a charmed existence.
Take, for example, the way he turned the most crushing news of his youth into a career as one of the NFL's premier punters.
Montgomery was a jock of all trades at Red Bank High School in Little Silver, N.J. Baseball, soccer, football, golf and, especially, ice hockey. You name it, the kid could play it well.
At 17, he envisioned himself skating in the NHL someday soon. Then, one day in football practice while he was blocking a dummy, Montgomery felt pain shoot through his lower back. One doctor's exam took his breath away again. He was told never to play contact sports again, or risk permanent damage to his spinal cord.
Montgomery, now a 31-year-old employee of the Ravens, had a sacral lumbar injury that caused bulging in his disks and nerve aggravation in his spinal cord. He said it was alleviated through rehabilitation and the strengthening of his stomach and back muscles. "I'm totally cured now," he said. "There's no more risk." But back then, "I was devastated. I thought my life was over,"
said Montgomery, who had played linebacker and tight end. "But I always had strong legs, so I started working on my kicking more.
"Looking back, it was almost a blessing. It put me in a position where I could get better at something and maybe be the best at something."
If he retired tomorrow, Montgomery could look back and say he was the best at something. In 1993, his sixth season with the Houston Oilers, Montgomery led the league with a 45.6-yard average and was a first-team All-Pro.
Then he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions in 1994, and went to his second Pro Bowl with a 44.2-yard average.
Then Montgomery walked away from the game for a year. Huh? Healthy players in their prime and at the top of their games don't do that anymore, do they? Well, most players aren't like Montgomery. When he strolls into the Ravens' locker room, Montgomery can't help but stand out. For one, he's 6 feet 4 and 215 pounds, towering size for a punter. Then there are the blue-tinted, prescription glasses, the goatee, the sideburns, the Grateful Dead tattoo on his right arm, the chaw and the swagger. He could pass for a character out of "Easy Rider."
"He's what you would call `out there,' " kicker Matt Stover said of Montgomery. "Greg kind of makes himself known. And he doesn't care what you think about him. Accept him for what he is. Greg is sincere."
Ask him about why he ditched the NFL for a year, and Montgomery cites two reasons -- contract squabbles and burnout.
After his second Pro Bowl appearance, he tested the free-agent market and said he got nothing but insulting offers, as teams across the league were strapped by the salary cap. And the grind of living up to his own, high expectations had begun to wear on Montgomery.
"It was the pressure I put on myself, the stress of it all, maintaining the status of being the best," he said. "You can't blame people for getting caught up in the stats, because this game, this society, promotes it. Any player in pro sports will tell you what they know now, they wish they knew when they were young."
When he was younger, Montgomery was well-versed in playing hard. Off the field, one beer would turn into two, then three, then a very late night. Most times, it didn't matter what night of the week in which the party unfolded. He remembers waking up in his share of foggy states.
His partying ways bought him a one-way ticket out of Penn State, where he was recruited as a punter. He transferred after his freshman year to Michigan State -- where his father played quarterback in 1957 and '58 -- and earned a scholarship after walking on.
"I was immature, partying a lot, didn't stay focused, and Joe Paterno didn't like that," Montgomery recalled. "The type of people who went to Penn State at that time weren't like me, and many people aren't like me. I take pride in that."
Penn State's loss was Michigan State's gain. Over three seasons with the Spartans, despite playing in the bad weather that dominates the Big Ten, Montgomery averaged 45.4 yards per punt, the highest career average in school history. He was drafted in the third round in 1988 by the Oilers.
With his strong leg and the cozy indoors of the Astrodome, Montgomery thrived instantly in the NFL, even while he lived on the edge off the field. He continued to party liberally as a young player, and would play ice hockey -- against the advice of his doctors -- in the off-season.
Montgomery said he grew up a lot during his self-imposed sabbatical. He realized how much he missed the game on Sundays. He started listening to his body more, cutting the late nights short and spending more time in the gym. He traded in his Harley for a Buick. He even fulfilled a dream by opening a coffee house/bar in Houston, called "Strict-9," a play on his uniform number.
All the while, he continued to practice his punting, and when the Ravens lost Tom Tupa to the New England Patriots, Baltimore hooked Montgomery with a five-year contract.
Since the day he reported to minicamp, Montgomery has felt like a new punter. Much of that has to do with his new approach.
His average no longer captivates him. In the Ravens' season-opening, 19-14 victory, Montgomery averaged a seemingly ordinary 38.0 yards on six punts, but his performance was outstanding. Four times, he pinned Oakland inside its 20. The Raiders had 14 punt return yards.
"As an older player, this approach is something new for him, and it has rejuvenated him," Ravens special teams coach Scott O'Brien said. "It's a new challenge. Greg is quite a colorful guy. He's not intimidated, and he has fit in well from the beginning." Montgomery said his best punting is yet to come. He said, physically and mostly mentally, he has never felt this fit. He has averaged 43.7 yards for his career, but the last thing on his mind these days is gross average. He wants to be the first punter in NFL history to average a net distance of 40 yards. That is the truest gauge of a punter's performance.
"Punting is not about having a 50-yard average. It's about being the best you can be in the situation you are given,"
Montgomery said. "It's about paying attention to details. I'm into the art of punting like never before. I'm fixing the little things I've never bothered to fix. I've still got a long way to go to be the guy I can be."