Rough, manly sport, part 4

We’re in the middle of football season, so I am watching games each week. I’ve written before about the complicated relationship I have with football. This week it was impossible to watch the games without having those issues front and center.

Two Miami Dolphins players have been in the news. Jonathan Martin has left the team, is getting treatment for stress-related illness, and is entering counseling. After which Richie Incognito has been suspended for allegedly harassing and bullying Martin to a level that goes beyond what is expected. Each of them has ended up with a lawyer and who knows where this will end. The voice mail messages and texts that Incognito left for Martin which have been seen and leaked do not paint a pretty picture…

“Hey, what’s up, you half n—— piece of s—?”

“I’ll slap your f—ing mouth. I’ll slap your real mother across the face (laughter).”

Those are just two out of a much larger list. Some rather disturbing articles have been written about just how barbaric the management of NFL teams expect the players to be, with these managers willing to go on record saying that Martin is weak and cowardly for reporting the harassment rather than somehow handling this himself.

People watching the pre-game show I caught while waiting for my Seahawks game to start this Sunday got to hear one silver-haired sports commentator explain how he thinks this is “obviously” a ploy by Martin to try to rationalize is own poor performance in games earlier this season.

In all the articles I’ve read, former teammates of Incognito are not at all surprised that he was more vile and vicious than is “typical” during the intra-team banter. Others have cast it in different terms, as Martin comes from a more Ivy league background, both his childhood and his pre-professional sports career, and that even in college football Martin was the type of person who was eager to get along, and never caused trouble.

They’re talking about a team sport, and they talk as if Martin’s tendency to get along with his teammates is an eccentricity or deficiency of character.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise us. We’ve seen again and again at a college level coaching staff and other people associated with teams go to great lengths to cover up incidents of drunk driving, assault, rape, knifing people, killing multiple people in drunk driving incidents, luring and raping 12-year-old girls, and far more. So it is inevitable that things will be even worse at the professional level. As Jim Trotter writing for Sports Illustrated last week concluded:

“Incognito is a despicable human being if he’s guilty of what’s been alleged, but in the NFL teams will put up with drug dealers, dog fighters, drunk drivers who kill someone and racists if they can help them win games.”

I would like to hope we can learn to win without employing incredible losers like Incognito.

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