Jobu reacts to the bullying allegations surrounding Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins.
First let me note that I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks, but so much differing information was coming out that I didn’t want to run my mouth too quickly and look foolish the next day when new tidbits broke. Now that all’s been quiet for a couple of days, I think it’s safe to post this. Anyway, let’s get on with the show.
When I have kids, I will teach them to stand up to bullies. That I know for a fact. What I don’t know, is how I’ll teach him to go about sticking up for himself. Will I teach him to knock the bully out, or will I teach him to report it to the authorities? I’d like to think the right move is a combination of the two. If the person bullying my kid is manageable, maybe I say hit him back. But, sometimes, you come up against a bully you can’t fight on your own. He’s either far too big, or far too influential at school (through his parents or on his own as the popular kid or something). In those situations, the right thing to do is to go through authorities.
When it comes to Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, people seem to be torn as to whether or not Martin did the right thing. They know that Incognito is a bully, and is wrong to be one, but the way Martin went about standing up for himself seems to be a very polarizing issue. You’re either in the school of thought that he did the right thing, or that he should have taken him to “Fist City,” as Mike Ditka actually said on national television. What does Jobu think? Let’s find out.
First of all, I’m calling it now… my next fantasy sports team will be named Fist City. Think about it this way (an old trick I use to gauge fantasy sports names)… Who are you playing this week? Oh man, I’m playing Fist City! I better take my matchup seriously. Anyway, sorry about that tangent, I just think that’s the only useful thing that will ever come out of Ditka’s comment. In real life, that’s some ignorant bullshit if I’ve ever heard it.
We get it. Football players are manly men who crash into each other at full speed for a living. The old school macho argument is that these men should be tough off the field too. If they get bullied, it’s because they allow themselves to be bullied. If they want bullying to stop, they need to pick their knuckles up off the ground, crack them and use them to pummel some bully faces!
Let’s step out of our caves and put down our Wooly Mammoth tusks for a second. Are we seriously advocating using violence to fix a locker room problem as a first resort? Sure, punching Incognito’s nose into his face would have probably stopped the bullying and garnered Martin some respect among his teammates, but it probably also would have gotten him disciplined. Usually, when you swing first, you’re the one that gets in the most trouble, especially if the bullying isn’t already documented. If someone knows that a bully is giving you a hard time, and then you knock him out, it looks a lot better than if you come to work one day and suddenly smash someone’s teeth in.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, you can’t always fight a bully. As much as guys like Antrel Rolle and Ditka say that Martin allowed himself to be bullied by not booking a one way ticket to Fist City for Incognito, it’s clear that they’ve never been bullied before. I can’t honestly say that I have been bullied, or really know what it’s like to reach that breaking point, but it must be hard to stand up to certain people. Picture it this way. Last season, Martin was just a rookie trying to make the team. The last thing you want to do in that situation is make waves (or at least that’s how it’s often perceived). Martin probably thought that, if he could make it through his rookie year, the “hazing” as these things are often referred to, would probably end and he’d be welcomed into the brotherhood. Unfortunately, there’s always one guy that’s going to take things too far. Incognito was that guy.
He found a weaker guy who was unwilling, or incapable, of standing up for himself, and he latched onto his prey like the predator he is. I don’t know the specifics, mostly because no one is really mentioning them, but Incognito was a big time “character flaw” guy coming out of Nebraska. Many teams, like the Colts and Patriots a, stayed away from him because of character issues. You want your football players to play with a mean streak, but they need to turn that off when they get off the field. It seems to me that Incognito, despite being given the 2012 “Good Guy” award by Florida sports writers (Great work, Florida), is seemingly just an asshole, and has always been one.
Since this news broke, former players, like Cam Cleeland, have spoken out against Incognito. Cleeland, who had his eye socket shattered by a sock full of quarters in a “hazing” incident as a rookie in 1998 (not by Incognito), was always trying to fight everyone in the locker room and was very immature when the two played together for one year on the Ramsb. Interestingly enough, Cleeland’s coach during the sock incident was Mike Ditka, who basically told him to take his teammates (all 60 of them) to Fist City. Interestingly enough, however, current Dolphins’ teammates have spoken out in favor of Incognito and against Martin. For one, ownership should probably get them to shut the hell up about everything until the league investigation is over, but also, maybe they’re just scared of what will happen if Incognito comes back. Or maybe, since they’re not on the blunt end of his wrath, they don’t see him as a bully.
Let’s also point out that the channels that Jonathan Martin used to report this situation were put in place by the NFL to promote a safe working environment for every player. Among other things, these types of measures and protocols are generally designed prevent not only bullying, but also on-the-job snaps. Football players are just like normal every day people. Who’s to say that Martin, had this bullying go on much longer, wouldn’t have committed suicide? Or, what if he sank so deep into his depression and despair that he brought a gun to the locker room and shot up Incognito and anyone else possibly involved? These are things that are happening more and more in today’s world (or maybe media coverage is just a lot better). The NFL put in these channels to prevent these types of incidents from happening. How would Mayor Ditka from Fist City feel if a couple of people had died? Well, he’s old school, so he would probably be criticizing Martin for going to Pistol Village and ignoring the lovely tourism at Fist City, so maybe he’s not the best person to theorize about.
The point is that Martin did the right thing here. He stood up to his bully and followed league-installed protocol. That’s about as “right” as it gets, right? If anything, I think Martin should be an inspiring figure to kids who are currently getting bullied. He has taken a huge risk to stand up for himself. He basically risked his dream of playing professional football. Right now, he’s not with the team. For a while, it looked like he might be placed on unpaid leave from the team (that would have been a PR nightmare for Miami). Right now, he’s not with the team. Although he’s mostly getting public support from coaches, fans and the media, he couldn’t have known that would be the case. I’m sure part of him thought that, if he did this, he might never be welcomed back into an NFL locker room again (after all, one of the bylaws in the Fist City Charter is “Snitches Get Stitches).
I think that, if he’s good enough at football, Martin will be absolutely welcomed back into the fold. Unfortunately, I think the same goes for Incognito. Maybe he’ll grow from this, but his reaction to this whole situation doesn’t make me too hopeful. He first took to Twitter to “clear his name,” mostly ranting like an asshole in the process. Since then, he’s mentioned that he’s trying to “weather the storm,” which is basically not taking responsibility for his actions. Like Milli Vanilli before him, Incognito seems to think it wise to blame this one on the rain.
Since I started writing this post, Incognito went to talk to Jay Glazer in a televised interview. He again dismissed his role as a bully, saying that the awful voicemail he left Martin (the one with the N-word) was just the way the pair joked about each other. He said the two were best friends, and that he even had texts from Martin threatening to kill his whole family (it turns out the text was just an internet meme). He did provide one interesting thing, however, and that’s proof of texts from Martin that he had received after Martin walked away from the team. These texts said things like “I’m good man it’s insane bro. But ust know I don’t blame you guys at all. It’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little.”
This is definitely an odd text to be receiving from a guy that has reported you for bullying and terrorizing him, right? Either way, the Dolphins have suspended Incognito for four games (at least), but rumors flying around are that the team is done with him. I’m sure that, after their pending investigation, the league will also discipline Incognito. However, I think he’ll be forced into some kind of counseling and, eventually, someone else will sign him. Whether or not his behavior actually changes will remain to be seen. In the meanwhile, here’s hoping we see Jonathan Martin back on an NFL field sometime soon, so we can honor him for his courage. Even if Fist City isn’t planning on giving him an ovation, everyone else will.
Featured image courtesy of: AP Photo/Alan Diaz
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