If you love hard-nosed, smash-mouthed professional football and want it to stay that way, then you are going to have get over the fact that things that are unacceptable in other aspects of society are not taboo in a pro football locker room.
Forget about the bullying accusations as they relate to the Miami Dolphins. Hazing has been part of professional football, and other sports, from the beginning. Bullying is a schoolyard term. It is inaccurate when it comes to the NFL. Bullying is a media creation that has no place in football.
The media needs to put its politically correct shoes away and start reporting the Miami Dolphins story from the point of view of the players and coaches.
The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito story has been in the news for several days. Each day brings new revelations which cloud the issue further. So far, the truth has not surfaced.
There is more to this story and it will come out eventually. When it does, it is almost guaranteed that Jonathan Martin will not be the innocent victim nor will Richie Incognito will be the demon as he has been portrayed.
Hazing exists in every locker room in every sport. Can it go to the extreme? Certainly, but some players also react better than others. That is human nature. Some players respond better to being chewed out by a coach, while other players perform to a higher degree if they are handled with kid gloves. All of that is part of understanding the psyche of the player himself. It is also an integral aspect of a head coach’s job to know when he can push and when he cannot.
Is Martin a saint? Probably not, no one is. Some reports say other teammates had problems with him as well. What the problems are have yet to be revealed. What the media must understand, like it or not, is that what makes a professional football player perform to the highest level on Sunday afternoons would not be regarded as acceptable in many aspects of polite society. That is precisely why players can perform to the level of violence that fans pay to see.
It does not make it right, but it is a reason.
Some players are incapable of containing their game day competitive level to the playing field alone. For some, it explains why players may have a short fuse in confrontational situations away from the field. Emotionally, many players do not recognize a difference between the field and the world in which they live.
Silly as that may sound to outsiders, it is that facet of a player’s personality that allow him to play the game the way he does.
Forget all of that because eventually, those elements of the Dolphins story will be resolved and the truth will come out.
The real focus should be on the racial charges in locker room rants and vicious tweets that have the press in an uproar. Here is where media has to push being offended to the side.
We have all seen coaches make locker room speeches before a game to fire up a team. There are hundreds of stories about effective ways coaches, team captains or entire teams have motivated themselves to perform together as a unit. The Boston Red Sox and their beards were a prime example of a team building effort that carried them through the season on to a World Series Championship.
There is usually no such thing as race in a locker room. Players call each other names all the time. They also make racial slurs that would make the average person outside the clubhouse cringe. It is accepted and is part of the game. Most of the time, there is no malice or even a second thought about the negativity normally associated with such verbiage.
It is difficult for anyone who has never been on the inside of that environment to understand. Sometimes it is even true for sportswriters who cover teams on a regular basis.
The same is true on the field during critical situations within a game. Players call other players profanities and racially charged names intentionally as a motivating force to step up to the challenge of the moment. Most of the time teammates accept such assaults as nothing more than words with emphasis, but without personal significance.
Media, fans and people who are easily offended by such terms must move on and accept this as part of the game they love. Otherwise they should be prepared to watch flag football in the future.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
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