Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hazing Is Organized Bullying. It's Past Time It Should Stop.

Richie Incognito, left, and Jonathan Martin: First make nice, figure out
his weaknesses, then bully unmercifully. Next, get teammates to pile on.

Emily Bazelon of Slate has long covered the issue of bullying. She writes from the point of view of a reporter then, generally, swerves towards proselytizing against the practice, which is as it should be. First we sort out the issues, then we go about trying to find where we should stand and what we should do about it.

The Jonathan Martin case has brought bullying to the fore on a national level, even as we've had local tragedies catching national attention, like the death of a drum major at the hands of a celebrated college band or the suicide of an Irish girl bullied in a Massachusetts middle school.

(To see where crazy goes to live, read this piece explaining that it was the drum major's fault.)

Here's a segment from Bazelon's recent piece about the Martin and the Miami Dolphins:
Martin played football for Stanford University before joining the Dolphins two seasons ago. As every story about him mentions, he weighs more than 300 pounds. How do you bring a guy like this to his knees? If you’re a team leader like Richie Incognito, it’s easy. The genius of this report is how clear that becomes as you read.
“To a great extent, Incognito dictated the culture” of the Dolphins’ locker room and offensive line, Wells and the other three members of his team write. Incognito had two abettors, his fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. The three of them shredded Martin’s sense of self-worth in all the ways that bullies have perfected. It’s textbook. They figured out how to get to Martin, and then they kept at it, from his first season to his second last fall.
This is how a 300-pound man who's trained in organized violence -- what football actually is -- can succumb to bullying, in this case extended hazing. Bazelon compares it to middle-school bullying:
[...] This reminded me so much of a seventh-grade boy I interviewed a couple of years ago in Lincoln, Neb., who continually struggled with letting other kids get to him. “All the teachers, they tell me to ignore it and walk away,” he said. “I’ve tried ignoring it. It’s just, they know me. So if I walk away and act like nothing happened, they’ll keep following and bullying because they know how I really feel.”
That rings painfully true and explains Martin's feeling of helplessness.

Read all of Bazelon's excellent piece. She goes on to call for the main perpetrator, Richie Incognito, to be banned from the NFL -- I'd call for a year's suspension --and the offensive line coach, Jim Turner, to be fired, which he should be. I only spare Incognito because players, though highly paid, are not hired for their character. Coaches, however, should be.

In any event, just as the military had to be cleaned up -- and Don't Ask, Don't Tell had to be ended -- so must the NFL, and all sports, for that matter. Bullying and its organized version, hazing, has to banned, as it should be from all walks of life. This isn't just another example of the "wussification" of America. It's an example of some much needed growing up.

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