November 8, 2013

Real-Life Soap Opera in South Beach: Does it Even Matter Who's Right and Who's Wrong?

By - Keith Smith

As things continue to unfold in what has become a soap opera with 325-pound men instead of the beautiful people of daytime television, I have only one question: Does it even matter anymore who is right and who is wrong in this bullying/racist/passive-aggressive debacle?

By now you've surely heard the particulars of the story; white veteran offensive lineman allegedly bullies and threatens black newbie offensive lineman, who plays right next to him in the trenches, no less, past the point of no return. And therein lies the kicker. Both men are now past the point of no return in their pro careers. I can't see either returning to the NFL again. Ever.

Photo by: Wilfredo Lee
Richie Incognito, flamboyant, boisterous and self-appointed leader of the offensive line, is now universally recognized, fairly or unfairly, as a racist, borderline psycho, who most teams won't deem as worthy of the PR nightmare that his presence will bring.

Jonathan Martin, quiet, seemingly standoffish and passive second-year right tackle, will be seen, fairly or unfairly, as a man who wasn't tough enough to take care of his business, either on the field or off, and broke the unwritten code of athletes, that you take care of problems in house, not by running to the press.

People are looking for answers, especially to one question in particular: "Who's in the right and who's in the wrong here?" Of course, it depends on who you ask. Some people are surprised that Incognito is getting much more support from his teammates than Martin is. People have heard the voicemail that he left him, with racial slurs and threats of physical violence. They've seen the video in the bar of Incognito acting like a jackass, and they've made their mind up that anyone that acts like that has to be a bad guy.

You won't get an argument from me. Incognito is a bad guy.

Did he do anything that 90% of every professional, or for that matter, college or high school athlete hasn't done at one time or another? Probably not. He just took it further than most people do.

I've known guys like Incognito. Played with guys like that. At their core, they aren't necessarily that different from everyone else. They just don't have that sense of where the line is drawn, that spot that you can get right up to, then back off. The line between bravado and blowing smoke, between pushing someone to be better and just pushing them past their breaking point.

I can't tell you how many guys I've seen get physical with teammates, even to the point of coming to blows. I believe had that happened here, I wouldn't be writing this article.

Which leads me back to a point I've made before regarding bullying. The best way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. One of my favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show deals with this, when the local bully is stealing Opie's lunch money, and Andy tells him the importance of standing up for oneself. He winds up with a black eye and roughed up a bit. The story goes that the bully took the worst of it, which is usually what happens, but the most important part of the lesson is that Opie learned the importance of standing up for himself.

Had Martin done that, even if he got roughed up a little, I doubt we would be talking about this at all. Either the rest of the team would have had more respect for Martin, or possibly even sided with him and put a stop to the nonsense, or one of the two would've been traded or cut.

I don't want to make light of or discount bullying. It's become more prevalent today than it was when I was a kid, and now you have to worry about more than just a black eye. I know that the world has changed a lot in the past 40 years. But when you are talking about two 300-plus pound men, call me old-fashioned, but I think this could've been handled by them, and/or their teammates and coaches, much better than it has been.

As for the two participants, it doesn't really matter which one was right and which one was wrong (I'm sure there was blame that could go to both men), because neither will be able to remain "incognito" any longer in the NFL.


  1. Utterly classless article.

  2. This author has showed as much class as the Dolphin's organization. Somethings can't be handled the way they used to. Incognito has a bad reputation as a dirty player/teammate. Yet, you try to find a way to hold Martin accountable?

    1. Can you two bastions of class, who are so strong in your opinion that you were only willing to post it anonymously, please be more specific as to what it is about the article that is classless? Is it the part where I say Incognito is a bad guy for calling Martin names, you know, kind of like calling me classless? I'll give Incignito a bit of a nod simply because he did it face-to-face, not anonymously. But I digress.

      Is it because I think in a league where guys are expected to be gladiators every week, putting their very livelihoods on the line every week, that you need to know if the guy beside you is going to be tough enough in the trenches to keep you and your teammates safe? I can see how THAT's classless. Wait, no I can't. So you guys help me out with where I'm classless. Because we classless folks don't understand.

  3. You guys didn't read the article. That's not the point. The point is, you don't solve "bullying" by going to tattle. You stand up to the bully, take your black eye like a man, and he'll back off. A man of Martin's stature would probably win that exchange anyways. The result of "sitting out for non-football reasons" is that future prospective NFL teams aren't going to want to pick him up, because he airs their dirty laundry, instead of addressing it through the proper channels. It may not be fair, but neither is life. We're raising a generation of young men & women to be victims instead of raising them to stand up for themselves.

  4. Martin may be a victim, but if you think he's completely clear of any wrong doing in this situation you're an idiot. We're not talking about children here, we're talking about two full grown men. You can only be bullied to this extent if you allow yourself to be. I'm not saying he should have gotten into a physical altercation with Incognito, but if he had that big of a problem with what was going on he should have went to the coaching staff and kept it in house. The fact that he just left the team and then went running to the media leads me to believe there were ulterior motives behind him doing this other than just blowing the whistle on a bully. I'm sure a lawsuit is soon to follow.

  5. It is all about posturing for a law suite. Although Incognito is an ahole, this will end in a huge settlement in favor of the "poor black man". Incognitos career will be over. These are adults in the NFL, come on!

  6. Anyone else see the irony in a bunch of people commenting on an Incognito post under the anonymous profile? HA!