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The Marriage Wars: The nature of the game
Nov 24, 2013 | 2677 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In the past month, similar incidents have happened in high school, college, and professional football.  A local young athlete lost interest in his sport after reporting vulgar language and “macho” behavior from senior players; a Rutgers football player left the team alleging that a coach verbally abused him during a study hall; and, in the most publicized case, tackle Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins after a violent and threatening phone call from teammate Richie Incognito.

The easy answer is to draw a line in the sand and state that threats, bullying and vulgar behavior is not acceptable at any time in any sport. While I support that in the case of a high school player and the collegiate athlete, I don’t think the National Football League should get involved in the Miami Dolphin incident.

Professional sports, and especially pro football, is not Sunday School.  There is a culture of roughness and crudity.  As the late BYU (and later NFL) star Todd Christensen once said, “Being an intellectual football player is like being the best surfer in Alaska.” Professional athletes are warriors judged more on the number of scalps they collect than their demeanor.

Jonathan Martin is apparently a more sensitive soul than his teammates, and, from friends who follow pro football, Incognito is one of the more brutish non-intellectuals in the league.  Martin couldn’t get a worse match. However, I don’t get all weepy for the bullied player.  For heaven’s sake, he is a pro football player; one swift jab from a pro lineman should do more to end the bullying than stomping out of the locker room and asking for an investigation.

When entering any workplace, you enter a certain culture.  Like it or not, the “rules” and the environment in the corporate office is not the same as in the warehouse.  Entering a pro locker room is different than entering a retail business or a public school. Jonathan Martin should solve the problem on his own or let the Dolphin management take the lead.  If he can’t stand the heat, he should find another kitchen.


I’ve never been an athlete, never played a team sport, and never hung out in a locker room. I don’t understand how bad behavior, bullying, and crude language help anyone run faster, block harder, or catch a ball more effectively.

For years, the complaint has been the athletes, all the way from the prep level to the pros, get treated differently, that they get a pass for bad behavior and poor grades.  I don’t know if there is evidence to back this up, but it is the perception.  Allowing aggressiveness in a locker room doesn’t do anything to contradict the image of the “above the law” athlete.

If Jonathan Martin were a third year associate at law firm, a new guy on the assembly line at a manufacturing plant, or a newly graduated registered nurse, the type of bullying, hazing, and disgusting harassment he was subjected to at the hands of “teammate” Richie Incognito would not be tolerated.  In fact, a boss who encouraged or ignored this sort of behavior would be lucky to get away with a reprimand instead of a lawsuit.  

Part of what makes sports so popular is the idea of team spirit.  Watching players protect and defend each other, huddling to strategize, high-fiving success is some of the allure.  Sure, we all know that rookies get teased, have to carry the luggage, and chase after the stray balls, but the treatment that Martin was subjected to at the hands of Incognito have no place in the professional world Р sporting or otherwise.  

Playground bullies are bad enough, but I lose sympathy for a millionaire athlete who threatens and harasses a member of his own team, even with the blessing of the coaching staff.  There is no “I” in team and there shouldn’t be a place for bullies like Richie Incognito either.  



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