Dexter Manley has pencils poised, tapes whirring. He's ready to dance: "I am from a different mold. Maybe the best way to say it is, 'Just think of Dexter as grandiose....'
"I'll maybe lead the league in sacks and definitely lead the ball club. No question I'll be All-Pro....
"The three most famous people in the country are Michael Jackson, Prince and me."
Dexter Manley has a live television camera in his face, and he is volunteering to take a urine test: "I'll leak in a cup right here if you want me to."
Dexter Manley has a plaque in his left hand and Caspar Weinberger's handshake in his right. The award, which Weinberger presented to him at the Pentagon, says Manley is the "Secretary of Defense" for 1986. He finished the season with 18 sacks and was named the NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year by the NFLPA. Since 1982, when the NFL began keeping track of sacks, Manley has had 67, more than anyone except New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Of these achievements, Manley says: "I don't think there has ever been another defensive end with the combination of speed and strength that I have. That's not boasting. That's just the facts."
Dexter Manley has a phone in his hand. It's May 13, 1986, and the doctors are saying something about his baby girl: "Amputate? Seriously?"
Dexter Manley has 12 adults sitting around him at desks in an elementary school classroom. It's his turn to stand up and talk: "Hello, I'm Dexter. And I'm an alcoholic."
In the long-running case of Dexter Manley vs. the World, evidence is piling up for both sides. The world beat up on Manley early, but Manley has beaten up on it ever since. He approached life as though everybody he met was a serious threat to him. He broke friendships, broke laws, shut most everybody out and talked loud but never said what he really felt. "I'm a mystery man," says Manley. "I've been all around the world, but I haven't been in the world. I've walked on the water. Sometimes I think I'm a psycho. I see things funny, see things strange.... You're trying to find out about me? Trying to find friends of mine? You won't find anyone on my team [the Washington Redskins] that knows me, no one in this city, no one in the world. Nobody. I'm a mystery man. I'm different."
Different? Here is a brute who can bench-press 500 pounds, yet weeps at TV movies; a philanthropist who buys dinner for 500 homeless people, yet has few close friends; an extrovert who is hopelessly chatty, yet aside from agreeing to be interviewed for this story, has refused to talk to the press all season; an athlete who has probably been the NFL's premier defensive end over the last four seasons, yet has been voted to only one Pro Bowl; a former lawman who has faced several criminal charges, including impersonating an officer; an altruist who can't pass a bum on the street without giving him a dollar, yet has been sued by two of his agents, who claimed he owed them money; a loner who invited only 30 guests to his wedding, yet made room for a 12-year-old fan he'd met not long before at practice. Other than that, what's the mystery?
"Dexter was a guy you wanted to like," says Vic Vines, a former Redskin. "And sometimes it was so easy. Dexter can be so friendly and so great. Then sometimes you couldn't even talk to him."