Within the last week there have been no less than four 7Poundbag writers who have addressed the Miami Dolphins and their involvement in Bullygate. I, myself, wrote a piece titled “Football, Manhood and Bullying” wherein I expressed the opinion that football has a historical culture that oftentimes will promote the denigration of the individual player so he submits to the collective whole and helps the team to win with no concern for the physical, or the psychological, health and well being of the player. That’s all that matters… the team winning. And, if a player can’t deal with that reality then maybe he is something less than a real man and shouldn’t even be playing the game.
I was going to write this as part of my WTF weekly submission but it wound up writing itself a tad larger than I had first thought it would be, so, I now present my thoughts here as an essay and an addendum to my “Football, Manhood and Bullying” piece…
In the Sunday edition (11/10) of the New York Daily News there were two viewpoints expressed, one by a former All-star player who redefined the linebacker position, Lawrence Taylor, and, the other by a NYDN writer, Eric Barrow. Both of these people expressed thoughts that gave support to my opinion that football contributes, and promotes, bullying simply because the game itself demands that it participants sublimate their individuality for the betterment of the team and “If you ain’t man enough to take it then you probably won’t be a real good dedicated football player.” Which is, in fact, not unlike political or militaristic brainwashing… or for those of you who are more media inclined… not unlike being part of the Borg collective.
In Gary Myers’ column “Sunday Morning QB” he writes that Lawrence Taylor says that Jonathan Martin wouldn’t be allowed back in his locker room. Myers further writes that “LT comes from a different era when the Giants handled all their issues in-house, so he can’t understand how an NFL player can be bullied by a teammate and then not take care of the issue himself.” Myers write that LT doesn’t condone what Richie Incognito did but that LT “… would never accept Jonathan Martin back in his locker room because… Martin didn’t stick up for himself and now can’t be trusted.”
LT specifically said, “Martin wouldn’t be allowed back in my locker room… I don’t know if I would let Incognito back in the locker room either, but he would be allowed back in my locker room before the other guy would.” LT then goes on to state, “If you are that sensitive and weak-minded, then find another profession…. This is the NFL. This is football. This is not table tennis. This is not golf. I don’t know how you bully a 350-pound player.”
This thinking supports the thinking that I have previously presented which is that the culture of the game itself dictates that bullying is a quintessential part of the game itself.
Myers writes that Taylor also said, “I have a lot of friends on the team (NY Giants) who used the word nigger… You know where they (were) going with it (but) if they used it in a derogatory way, then we got a problem. You don’t have a problem with just (one person), you got a problem with all of us. That’s how you stop that shit.” And, while Taylor said that intimidation is part of football, when Myers asked if teammates should intimidate each other Taylor said, “It all depends… The things we used to do to guys on our team that were not ready to play.”
Myers then asked the question: Such as?
Taylor replied: “We’re not going to get into that stuff… We would open up another can of worms.”
And this exchange with Myers and LT further supports my opinion that the ideology of football, the heart of what the sport is, itself creates the ground soil for bullying to take root and on some level be pervasive throughout locker rooms across America.
Then in another article, Daily News Sunday Sports Editor Eric Barrow reflects on his own story of being a half-black, half-white kid trying to find comfort in a black and white society and specifically states that, “I don’t know Jonathan Martin, and I’ve never met him, but I feel pretty sure I know where he’s been. I know what it’s like to be a half-black, half-white kid attending an elite private high school that’s predominately white. I didn’t attend Stanford, but I did enroll at a Midwestern university that, even though progressive, had an African-American population that just scraped 2%.”
He added that “I know what it’s like to have a white friend who believes he’s an ‘honorary black’ and can question your ‘blackness’…”
Barrow also spoke about what its like “… to play the game.” And, that he’s done it his “… whole life. (and he was called an)… Oreo, a zebra, a token, off-white, you name it, including that word that can’t be written. Though the most cruel was Brillo head, one that still stings a bit, even today. I was told that our school wanted to bring in a black student but we could only afford me…. It’s nothing new to someone who is biracial. It’s the playing field. You accept the chiding and deal with it. And if you’re like me, you aim to give better than you got. You win some and lose some, but you never let anyone know anything is bothering you.”
And, then he says something that is at the heart of what I indicated in my “Bullying” article and in my presentation of LT’s thinking … that the manly culture of football itself promotes the ground soil for bullying to exist… “… my first reaction… was that Martin should have rolled with the shots, and been ready to deliver a few of his own. Like any good gunslinger, I always worked on my draw between duels. That’s what you do when you’re a minority within a minority. It’s how you get respect.”
But, Barrow says he began to think about his own experiences and then Martin’s present experiences, Barrow admits to a sort of epiphany wherein he says he finally realized that “Perhaps Jonathan Martin couldn’t play the many parts any longer, couldn’t swallow one more racist joke, couldn’t muster up one more smile. He had had enough, and would roll with the consequences by saying so.”
Barrow then comes to a conclusion and takes the final step with his eye opening admission that instead of playing the game, and, instead of fighting back, physically or mentally, that “Martin showed more courage than I ever did.”
And, I say, “Amen to that brother… Amen.”
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