I'm actually a little surprised this hasn't been brought up around these parts already. What are your thoughts on the Richie Incognito/ Jonathan Martin "bullying" scandal on the Dolphins Offensive Line?
For the few that haven't heard the story ... Dolphins Offensive Lineman Jonathan Martin left the team last week and checked himself into the hospital for "emotional distress" because he was being "bullied" by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito (cool name).
Here are a couple of articles on the subject ... the first was written by a former fellow Dolphins offensive lineman, who comes down fairly squarely on Incognito's side ...
The second and third articles are more as a counterpoint ...
My first thought when I heard it last week was that Incognito was probably over-the-line -- though not quite as bad as the media let on -- and that Martin needed to grow a pair and stand up for himself. Its a football locker room. You're a grown 300 lb, 6'4" man. Just punch him in the mouth. There's no way this was actual "bullying", even if he was over-the-line.
As I'm hearing more about this, I'm not even sure Incognito was over-the-line at all, with the exception of dropping racial epithets that ought be avoided. Incognito's probably a tough-guy asshole ... but, he's paid to be a tough-guy asshole. And, as the leader of the offensive line, he's paid to teach weaker teammates how to be a better tough-guy asshole. It seems Martin was pretty soft, fragile, and not all that good a teammate. It is awfully telling that the entirety of Incognito's team has come to his defense (including the black guys).
I'm inclined to side with Martin, in part because I think the value of shit-talking asshole-ness to being a tough guy (and part of a group of tough guys) is being overrated. Not all men are going to bluster or swagger, even if they're competing intensely. Compete on the field, but constant trash-talking and dick-swinging off of it doesn't make anyone more manly.
When I saw the headline, I immediately thought: you're in the NFL. Isn't there anybody in our society who doesn't need protection? Are we all infants?
Then I read what happened.
Hey, wassup, you half-[N word] piece of shit. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] shit in your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. Fuck you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you.
I think I'd have turned that death threat over to the cops.
Including: hacking into Martin's FB account. OTOH, I saw the video exchange on this (it's short), and it was merely rude and shaming, not threatening: http://deadspin.com/report-richie-incognito-played-main-role-in-bul...
Media refer to the comment about the mother as threatening to track down and commit violence against family; the "tracking down" seems to be a journalist's invention. (At least, I can't find evidence of another threat.)
I simply cannot side with a serial a-hole making a death threat.
Should Martin have handled it better? Here's what he did that made it news: when someone, presumably Incognito, got the entire team to ostracize him ( http://deadspin.com/jonathan-martin-leaves-dolphins-after-emotional... ), he left the team. OK, he threw his tray on the ground; surely if being in the NFL excuses rough manner, throwing a tray on the ground is not "freaking out." This seems like a normal and appropriate reaction to me.
...and then he checked into a mental health facility. He checked himself in, rather than being checked in. Should he have? That's his private life, and the inside of his skull, about which I don't think we know enough to comment.
Was he soft? Seems like to me he took a lot of crap before quitting. He quit when the whole team sided against him. What should he have done? Punched them all in the mouth? Reasoned with them? Ignored it? Seems to me when a group collectively shows me the door, I should go.
I suppose there'll be the inevitable lawsuit against the team. But the management didn't threaten to kill Martin, and allowing adult men to manage their relationships (badly) should not be a crime, surely. Management may want to intervene to avoid losing players, however, just as the military manages its esprit de corps.
Now something about team building.
Why we need a self-appointed a-hole to make a great team.
Because someone like that makes rookies better players? Ludicrous. Rookies get better by practice. They also need confidence; getting the entire team to ostracize you doesn't build confidence.
Because it him more part of the team? Again, getting the entire team to ostracize you doesn't make you more part of the team. Confidence in your team consists of thinking they've got your back, not thinking they want you off and wondering if one's going to assault your mother.
Here's one way that someone like this makes a team stronger in a way. The whole team (less Martin) was unified in the ostracizing incident. This is a dynamic I imagine most of us are familiar with: the group finds a member to reject. They find unity in rejecting their scapegoat. I've seen it in grade school and in situations with adult men: the scapegoat takes on the negatives, and the responsibility for tensions, and for a while, the tensions seem to have gone with him.
Here's why I don't think it's a good solution:
1) It's unjust.
2) It destroys part of the team, that is, it removes the scapegoat. Martin wasn't there because he was no good at football.
3) It's temporary. When the scapegoat's gone and the party's over, whatever negativity exists in the team is still there. We'll need another scapegoat later.
4) It's unconscious. The players didn't think they were sacrificing Martin to feel more cohesive; they thought they were being funny.
5) Each man knows at some level, I believe, that he is guilty of persecuting someone for an unjust reason. (But keeps it unconscious.) It's not just bad for the soul; it's habit-forming.
6) Just as in high school, you become stronger by being an individual, not by finding a clique in which you can feel you belong. Or a group of children who throw stones at a vagrant. (Not something we see in the West now, but it's part of human history.) We feel stronger in a group, but we aren't really -- until we become strong in our own right as well.
So why do it?
It feels good.
I see your point. We really aren't qualified to comment until we're rich enough to own our own football teams.
I see one thing not mentioned. It has been commented upon in my local metro press, which is that some gifted Alumni do consciously or unconsciously project an unwarranted image of superiority. That's like painting a target on your forehead in many circles. Mr. Martin may well have done just that.
As to the bully, or a*****e jock that Mr. Incognito is portrayed as in the press, If he's really that big a jerk, he was the wrong guy to put into an semi-official leadership position, and that reflects poorly on the coaches' collective ability to assess personnel.
All I can say is, I'm smart enough not to get in the middle of a conflict with two guys who weight twice as much as me.
Bullying, hazing, teasing? Well, I've got guy friends and we tease and berate each other all the time. It works because we're friends and we know where it's coming from. In my judgement (with what little data I have), Martin let the idea that he didn't belong poison the attempts of his leader to include him.
An interesting perspective:
Why is mental health not taken seriously - why is it perpetuated that someone should just "man up?" That's not the way the brain works. Not acknowledging that is shortsighted and wrong.
When I was in HS I heard a couple of teachers talking with amazement about the inappropriate behavior of a teenager. Teacher was covering Moby Dick and made note that Melville was emotionally disturbed. "Fred" said, "Are you saying I'm emotionally disturbed--?!" and stomped out of class.
I wouldn't have challenged a couple of teachers, but my thought was: Fred is emotionally disturbed. What do you expect of people who are emotionally disturbed? Exactly what happened! This is not exactly surprising!
We should meet people where they are. And recognize it often isn't where they need to be.
At some point, you need to realize your hurt feelings are completely under your control.
Or, at least, not under the control of others. I think that's the big hurdle.
At what point do I get to tell a grown man to stop acting like a little girl?
If he's capable of hearing that as encouragement, I seriously doubt that he is!
If he's not capable, there's no point.
In my experience with helping others... I won't say change (in another man) comes from within, but I will say it doesn't come from me. No matter how incredibly wise I am.
If it was just name calling, I'd be inclined to agree with you. But the kind of hazing that went on appears to have gone well beyond that.
However, the particulars of this incident aside, I think culturally, we have an issue treating mental issues (whatever they may be) with the kind of seriousness they deserve. From the depressed (snap out of it) to ptsd (tough it out) and beyond.