The NFL offensive line just got a little more offensive. Players of late have hurdled over the line of scrimmage so many times, with everything from murder charges to fake girlfriends, that the league of old is nearly unrecognizable. Are we keeping up with the latest in sports or the newest reality TV show?
The latest incident takes it to a whole new level. Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito’s not-so-subtle verbal and emotional attacks on fellow teammate Jonathan Martin has resulted in a media frenzy. News feeds are filled with the back-and-forth of whether or not a 25-year-old man can still claim bullying, or if he just needs to toughen up his skin and deal with it.
Martin was being paid an absurd amount of money to do what he loves: play football. He was living every young boy’s dream. What kind of torment would a person have to go through to be willing to walk away from that life?
This is not a matter of one guy pushing another guy off of the monkey bars or taking his lunch money, or being picked last for dodgeball. If that were the case, then sure, we would agree that maybe Martin needs to buck up.
As we age, bullying takes on new, much harsher forms. “Yo momma” jokes and wedgies graduate to death threats and racial slurs. This type of harassment should not be endured in any capacity, by any human being, whether he or she is a small child or a 300-pound offensive lineman. It’s unacceptable. And yet, sadly, it’s all too common.
But the real question is, as a society, are we enabling this behavior?
We thrive on drama. We crave real-life soap operas. So often, good deeds take a backseat to the latest scandal in pop culture. Take Mr. Incognito for example. His Jekyll and Hyde personality is so fitting.
Most people who are current in the sports world know this is not dear Richie’s first offense in the league. His affinity for penalties saw to his release from the St. Louis Rams in 2009 and then from the Buffalo Bills after only three games. It’s not surprising he was voted the Dirtiest Player in the NFL in 2009.
What most people aren’t aware of are his more positive achievements. Incognito was given the “Good Guy” Award during the 2012 Pro Bowl for his winning personality and was a part of public service announcements to fans about good sportsmanship.
But there’s no drama in that, no entertainment. It hardly made a splash. Why focus on the good when we can feed the fire?
We’re taught from knee-high-to-a-grasshopper that children who bully others are just crying for attention. Well, that doesn’t change with age. And we’re giving them exactly what they want: our undivided attention.
There is no denying this issue needs to be addressed. It needs to be talked about. It warrants attention. But it needs the right kind of attention.
Bullies, in all walks of life, need to be made aware this behavior will not be tolerated. No person should be made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their surroundings, be it a school, a home, an office or a football field. It’s time we stand up and take our lunch money back.