Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NFL Bullying and Hazing

by Bill Holmes

Incognito & Martin
Here we go again with the utter surprise and universal condemnation about the alleged bullying charges concerning Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins. I have no idea if the charges are true, false or somewhere in between. That is not the point of this post.

What bothers me is the sense of outrage by the media, the NFL, players' union, current and former players, coaches and several thousand talking heads. While many of the "experts" have never played football, those in the game are being completely disingenuous about this topic.

Not Hazing - Tim chose that haircut
This is now a full blown public relations (PR) issue for the NFL. The story has dominated the media's NFL coverage for days and it was the main topic on all the NFL TV studio shows. Many of these programs include five or six ex-players and coaches. Amazingly none of those people ever experienced the kind of bullying in the locker room that is alleged in this instance. Who the hell are they trying to fool? I never played in the NFL but I can assure you that every team in any sport that I was on had a pecking order, hazing and bullying. Sometimes it gets out of hand but usually it's just the right of passage agenda. On the Monday Night Football pre-game show Iron Mike Ditka said he never saw bullying in all his years in the NFL. Do you believe that? Mike Ditka probably was the leader of the hazing group when he played. To deny he ever saw bullying means Mike was blind, in denial, mentally diminished or flat out lying. The same for all the other ex-jocks on the panel.

More Not Hazing
Now I'm not saying that whatever happened on the Dolphins wasn't above and beyond what normally happens in the locker room. From what I've seen and heard Richie Incognito is a full blown jerk with a history of not knowing where the bounds are and has been disciplined by the Dolphins and other teams. I guess none of that behavior ever included bullying. He is certainly not the first jerk in the NFL with boundary issues. The NFL is a macho league full of very big testosterone fueled, often PED enhanced, men who are encouraged to be violent, dominating, domineering and aggressive. You think they play patty cakes and hop scotch during their down time? Despite any previous behavior problems, Incognito was on the roster because he can play football. That is almost always the only important and deciding character trait for an athlete.

The NFL and probably a dozen other organizations promise a comprehensive and thorough investigation into this instance. That is the response to everything now days. There will be lawyers and unions and administration representatives involved. They will come up with a final report that has no or a very few fall guys and exoneration for those in power. Some token changes will be made to ensure this never happens again or until the public furor subsides, whichever comes first.

This false dismay, indignation and horror is a bunch of BS. Every time some untoward behavior is brought to light there is an investigation and total surprise that this could ever happen. Remember the bounty issue with the Saints a couple of years ago? Was that the first time bounties were offered for taking an opposing player out of a game? Hell no, it was the time it went public and took on a life of it's own. That's the only time the NFL, or any other big enterprise, takes action. Is it because they are concerned about the individuals, fairness or justice? Hell no, it's about the money. If public thinks the NFL condones bullying, encourages bounties or doesn't care about brain damage they may stop watching games and buying their merchandise.

Big time sports, collegiate or professional, and big time business want us to believe that no one in a position of authority is aware of any practice that is suspect. They are oblivious of the organization's culture or methods. More importantly, they are completely unaware of the adverse behavior in question. How can people at the top of their field be so unaware and incompetent? There are only two choices for us to choose from. Those leaders are stupid or liars. How can you pay a top head coach $5 or $6 million or a CEO $20 or $30 million and then accept his insistence that he didn't know what was going on in the organization? Tell you what, I'll be ignorant of what's going on for half that salary.

Let's accept that bullying is not a good thing in the NFL or anywhere else. Let's also acknowledge that 300 lb. millionaires bullying another 300 lb. millionaire is not the end of the world. Some bullying, especially among pre-teens and teens, is deadly. That's what we need to fix, not some NFL locker room. Because the NFL is such a big deal in this country we are led to believe this is the most important issue, at least this week, in the world. I suspect the people in the Philippines may disagree.

Fix the stuff that is broken or no longer politically correct but don't pretend no one knew it existed. Oh, and let's also acknowledge that hardly anything that happens in sports, or entertainment, is really a big deal in the overall scheme of things.

I'm sure we'll be hearing much more about this issue. After all we have a comprehensive, official investigation underway. I just wish the BS would stop. You guys got caught, fess up.


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