Big Bully

The apparent relentless bullying of Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin has to be one of the weirdest sports stories in years.

Martin — an offensive lineman who is 6′ 5″ and weighs more than 300 pounds — left the Dolphins abruptly after enduring the hazing and harassing behavior of his own teammates.  New stories about the incident indicate that Martin was browbeaten into paying $15,000 so other Miami players could take a trip to Las Vegas and that another Dolphins player physically threatened Martin and used racial epithets in phone messages to him.  The other player, guard Richie Incognito, has a history of bad behavior and seems to be fighting a losing battle with a horde of inner demons.  Incognito’s recorded message to Martin is inexcusably racist and vile, and he has been suspended by the Dolphins.

It’s weird to think that a man as big as Martin could be bullied, but when a bunch of other very large and violent men are the actors it’s not hard to see how bullying could reach a point where a player would just quit rather than trying to tolerate more abuse.  It’s also weird to think that supposed teammates would be hurting their own team by tormenting a highly regarded player to the point where he would quit, but apparently the Dolphins coaching staff and the front office ignored the growing problem.  Now they’ve lost two players, and it’s hard to believe that the remaining team members aren’t shaken and second-guessing everyone’s role in the incident.

I’ve always believed that, as a normal-sized unathletic person, I can’t appreciate what it would be like, physically, to be a super-sized elite athlete playing in the NFL.  The strange Jonathan Martin story makes me think that I can’t really understand what it would be like emotionally to play on an NFL team, either.  I feel sorry for Martin, and the whole incident makes me lose some respect for the National Football League.  The NFL is great at marketing its product and trying to depict players as wonderful role models.  How much of that is phony?  How many troubled giants like Richie Incognito are terrorizing NFL locker rooms?