Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to The Sports Hub in MA wanting to hear more about the Richie Incognito fiasco taking place in Miami. I tuned in to the Gresh and Zo show, featuring Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak. Andy Gresh’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell, but those of us who would choose Backup Quarterbacks in the NFL During the 90s as a category on Jeopardy might recognize Scott Zolak’s name. He played most notably for New England and Miami. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, but he does a passable job of waving the pom poms during lunch for Boston sports on the radio. Gresh is a big fat guy who played D1A football in Rhode Island somewhere.
So, given this pedigree, I thought it would be an interesting take on this locker room situation. Both of the hosts know first hand what it’s like to be in a football locker room. They of course started with the “using racial slurs is crossing the line” tack, which really isn’t that hard to take. So they certainly set up Incognito as the one clearly at fault here. He’s the bad guy. But then something interesting started happening: a not so subtle start to discredit, and borderline assign BLAME to Jonathan Martin in all of this. It first began with Zolak asking the question, “Does Martin want to play football? We always talk about how Belichick only gets guys who have football as their first priority (ahem… well, besides murdering people). If he can’t handle this stuff, is he really putting football as something important to him?” And then? They start in on his education and his parents. “He went to Stanford. Both of his parents are lawyers. He’s got other options in life, he was just given a gift of size so he decided to play football.”
Later in the day, I see Bert Breer tweet out the lawyer parent thing as well. Why tweet out their professions? What bearing does that have in this case and how is that information being used by readers beyond what appears to be a subtle attempt to suggest that his parents’ careers somehow reveal a character flaw of Martin’s? Where is the tweet informing us all of Incognito’s parents’ careers? (fwiw, his dad's a mason and if I wanted I could make all sorts of baseless insinuations about that if I wanted to be an asshole). It’s almost to say that “pfft… Martin’s parents are lawyers… it figures that a little pussy like that couldn’t stand up for himself. He can do the white collar thing like his parents, he's just quitting because that other stuff is easier. He obviously doesn't want it enough.”
Sadly, this went beyond two honks on the radio in Boston. As I tossed around this dynamic in my head all day, I noticed a tweet from our very own Outlander later in the evening: “Someone calling a guy weak while demanding to be quoted anonymously is irony that would only go unnoticed by NFL employees.” And there it is. He’s talking about an article where an anonymous (har har har what a tough guy!) source was calling Martin “weak”. Granted, the NFL is not like working at an insurance agency or a restaurant. It has some different dynamics in play as a workplace. I certainly don’t shower with my coworkers, nor do I get paid to engage in violent physical conduct with them. But, frankly, the “tough it out, deal with it and handle it on your own” mentality is exactly why there is a lawsuit against the NFL for concussions. How is this any different than “c’mon you only got your bell rung get back in there you pussy?” Don’t want to do that? Feel like maybe you’re putting your career at risk? Maybe sit out the game? You’re weak.
This is not a sustainable business model. These players, putting their bodies and minds and futures on the line? They deserve more.
So, NFL fans and employees and people who somehow want to vilify Martin juuuuuuuust a little bit in this - just enough to support the ideal of what kind of men should be respected in the NFL - you know what’s weak? Being a grown ass man who is so insecure that he has to project his shortcomings as a human and teammate on to others and feel justified in making their life a living hell because he can’t face his own. Being so dumb that he can’t/won’t respect or even recognize general boundaries of decency and propriety. That’s the definition of weak. Anyone can lift a lot and build muscle. It takes strength to stand up to a bully - particularly in a league with all these bizarre notions of toughness - and take them down all the way possible without even throwing a punch. That’s precisely what Martin did.