bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: A mess of bullying, racism, and machismo in the NFL

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In last week’s column, I had an item about Jonathan Martin, the offensive lineman who had walked out on the Miami Dolphins claiming he had been bullied. The player who seemed central to the negativity was another offensive lineman, Richie Incognito. A voicemail left for Martin by Incognito, chock-full of threats, racism, and scatological humor, was made public. This story has been everywhere this week, dominating sports news and sports-talk radio.

There appear to be a lot of layers to this story. What appeared at first to be an obvious case of terrible behavior by Incognito may be a bit hazier when you take a deeper look. A number of reports suggest that the two players were very close friends. Text message data shows that the two texted constantly, often throwing a variety of insults and threats at each other. Taken as a whole, it appears that the tone was less than serious, suggesting an odd but congenial relationship. Incognito has said that he is shocked by reports that he bullied Martin. To his credit, he stated that the racist stuff he said is never okay to say, even in jest, and he regrets that.

It is clear that there is a to more to this story, and I am not sure that we will ever really understand it all. Martin left the team and checked himself into a hospital for treatment for emotional distress. Whether or not he participated in the same kind of banter as Incognito, it is clear that he is having issues and that the environment in that locker room was not a good one for the 24-year-old from Pittsburgh. Bullying is a huge problem among kids and teenagers, but adults can be bullied too, and the world of sports would certainly be a place where it would be likely to fester, as I can’t imagine another place so full of immature, macho idiots. Professional football, which could be boiled down to a bunch of dopes slamming their heads into each other if you really wanted to, would be the most likely environment of all for something like this. Would it even be possible to rid football of this kind of behavior without changing the very nature of the game? Don’t these guys, or at least most of them, need to be mean? If one player seems soft, don’t the other players need to toughen him up for the good of the team? I am not condoning the actions of Incognito or of the coaches, who clearly sanctioned this behavior. It all seems pretty well over the line, as far as I am concerned. I am just thinking that the basic idea of what happened here is not surprising and almost seems logical, considering what we ask of our athletes.

As a father, I abhor bullies. I would want anybody who treated one of my children this way to be punished. In my office, behavior like Incognito’s would result in his firing. Neither my children nor I play professional sports, though, and it is impossible to project those same expectations onto this kind of situation. The investigation will continue and the story will become clearer, to some extent, but I can not predict the end result. I imagine that some more changes are coming, as far as rules about bullying. I hope they find the right level of expectations here.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Dan Sileo, who has a college football radio show in Miami, has been fired by his radio station after he tweeted an offer of $1000 to any Hurricanes player who would “take out” Florida State defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan during the game between the two teams last weekend. Classy.

3) Before the 2011 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a big free-agent contract. I was thrilled by the signing, as Asomugha had been a superstar for the Oakland Raiders. Little did I know that he would never be the same player again. He struggled mightily through two seasons with the Eagles before they let him go. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers during this last season, but that did not go so well either. On Monday, he was released by the Niners.

4) Here’s an odd injury for you: swimmer Ryan Lochte was on a visit to Gainesville, Florida, when an excited girl ran up to hug him. Her enthusiasm was a bit over-the-top, though, and she fell into Lochte, knocking them both to the ground. He hit his knee on a curb and suffered a torn MCL and sprained ACL in the knee. Oops.

5) An 86-year-old woman who ran her 25th straight New York City Marathon last Sunday, died on Monday. She had fallen and hit her head at mile 20 of the race, but had refused medical attention.

6) A married couple, clearly drunk, made a bet during an NFL game last week involving the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, with each spouse rooting for the team the other hated. The winner could tase the loser in the backside. The man won, and the couple went to an alley behind the bar where they had been watching the game and the man fired his taser while the woman recorded the video on her phone. After the third shot, though, I guess she had enough, as she then called the police.

7) Dennis Schroder, a guard for the Atlanta Hawks, has been suspended for a game for hitting DeMarcus Cousins, a forward for the Sacramento Kings, in the groin. A feel that the punishment should be stronger for that.

8) Eastern Michigan head football coach Ron English has been fired after recordings surfaced of him addressing his team using “inappropriate language,” including gay slurs.

9) I am thinking of starting a fantasy league for football players who get DUIs. It would be easy to field a whole bunch of teams, unfortunately. This week’s idiot was Jerome Simpson, a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, who was arrested on Saturday near Minneapolis.

10) Nathan Harries, a basketball player for Colgate University, may lose a year of eligibility because he played three games in a church league this summer. Way to go, NCAA. Always striking the right notes.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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