08 November 2013

Talking Bull(ying)

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

I am not a fan of finger-wagging. I do not like to enforce my parameters on other people. I am no soapbox-standing, paragon of virtue who believes all must conform to my ideas of what is right or wrong or moral or ethical. My concern over behaviors in society is pretty much confined to my children and people on the train who won't share the armrest. Outside that tiny sphere, I can't find the slightest outrage or Political Correctness on topics that do not threaten the daily lives of American or the American Way (which is my way of saying I have plenty of outrage over our elected officials). But sports, and whatever is the Hot Take of the day? As the uncle of one of my best friend once said, "I have my own dick and balls to worry about."

Of course, I'm talking about the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin circus. I have read quite a bit and been mildly offended by some angles and humored by others. Most if it, however, insists on playing the blame game--Team Incognito or Team Martin?!--and, without fail, your landing in either camp would be entirely dependent on your personal frame of reference, rather than a analysis of the facts in the case (most of which are unknown). So many votes across the spectrum. From Savage Asshole to Boys Will Be Boys to Sissy-Baby Taking His Ball and Going Home. Whatever. Nowhere have I seen what, to me, is the most telling aspect of the issue.

My frame of reference, of course, is as a former athlete who was bullied by teammates. You would think this shared experience would cause me to side with Martin and express my horror, but...nah. You know why? Because I was able to take it. My personality allowed 9/10ths of it to roll off my back. (Of course, it wasn't "bullying" back then; it was just the natural pecking order exerting itself. Rites of passage.) So I'm on Incognito's side? Nope. 'Cause bullies are assholes.

The point I want to make is this. Here's where the blame goes. In a locker room, you will have cliques. You will have fights. You will have abrasive and passive personalities. You will have ribbing and frequent shit-talking. And you will have leaders. Players who hold a certain gravitas. Players who understand where the line is. Players who intuit what others, different personalities all, need.

When I was bullied, those guys stepped in. When I needed a hand that other 1/10th of the time, they were there.

You know what else? We won. A lot.

You know how many times Richie Incognito's teams have finished over .500? Zero. You know what his lifetime winning percentage is in the pros? .327. When Richie Incognito is on your team, you will lose 40 more games than you win.

There's your lesson.

If Miami had any leaders, this would have never happened. Total failure as an organization. Which expresses itself everywhere, especially on the field. So, take sides. Point fingers. But just know it's everyone's fault. And your team sucks because of it.

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