Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Cautionary Note on NFL-style Bullying: Don 't Demonstrate Your Intellect in the NFL!

Dolphins O-line guard Richie Incognito, in less tumultuous times.

Let's take a look at the Richie Incognito - Jonathan Martin bullying episode, which has now exploded in the media and sports world and been highlighted as a case of the bully meme stretching into the NFL. Incognito was caught out over the weekend with over the top Twitter messages to Martin that I won't bother to repeat here. Let's just say that they rival or exceed anything generated by my cracker bro in his 'straight talk' blog (now defunct.)

We've already seen the incident through different lenses, including the latest: that the Miami Dolphins coaching staff requested that Richie ( a perennial 'bad boy' - once voted as the "dirtiest player in the NFL") "toughen up Martin" for the offensive line rigors that lay ahead. (Never mind that these coaches, including Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman, will have their own heads on the block very soon for evidently not doing a damned thing to step in since Martin missed 2 OTAs this past April.)

On learning of Martin's background - a major in classics at Stanford, a real "brain" with parents who are both Harvard grads, and other remarks by assorted commentators, it occurred to me that the mistake Jonathan Martin likely made was professing his knowledge and discussing arcane intellectual subjects in an NFL cafeteria where such content may not be accepted with any aplomb or gratitude.

Recall as Richard Hofstadter has  noted ( Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Vintage Books, 1963). ), too many people detest and fear intellect or any display of intellectual ability. They essentially share the limited notion of 'freedom' first described by David M. Potter, in Freedom and its Limitations in American Life, Stanford University Press, 1976, That is, "free and equal" which imples:

"Not being different from other people, but rather on a par with other people; not the right to choose between various modes of life, but the right to enjoy a mode as good as anyone else's"

Hence, in the venue of NFL locker room culture, you're entitled to be as tough or as smart as your team mates are, but not to exceed them. Rooks, therefore, who go over the top in padded practices and nearly take the QB out with full-on hits will be seen with a jaundiced eye. So will guys with classics backgrounds or Ancient History majors (like Martin) who prefer to discourse on the finer details of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC)   during lunch in the Team cafeteria, as opposed to recounting the latest beer riots, or night club escapades on South Beach.

The mistake Martin made, from what I've been able to gather, is mistaking the locker room and cafeteria for a college debate practice society or seminar. Burdened with all the useless knowledge he'd accumulated at Stanford, he sought to disperse it, but alas, chose the wrong venue. These pre Cro-Magnon specimens (as one former player called them) have no use for unmitigated brainy diversions, and don't wish to hear anything.....certainly on ancient cultures, ethics.... Plato, Aristotle....whatever. It makes them feel dumb, or at least under-educated. Martin, on the other hand, just wanted to share his findings.....but got an unappreciative audience. He was deemed to be a "know it all" as opposed to a friend.

Sure, all rooks are put through the wringer, it's part of the sport. But watch the HBO series 'Hard Knocks' -spotlighting training camp with the Miami Dolphins last year - and especially the behavior, words of Martin. It's not for nothing he's called "Big Weirdo" by Incognito. He's called that name because though he's big his intellectual prowess makes him "weird" to someone like Incognito - a "triple alpha male" into beating on opposing DTs according to former Dolphin Channing Crowder.

Sadly, the bottom line seems to be that both Martin's and Incognito's football careers have terminated. One by choice the other by team dictate (the Dolphins haven't totally cut Incognito in order to save cap money). As for Martin, the news from The Miami Herald (quoting Center Mike Pouncey) this morning is that he was thinking of leaving the NFL anyway - after his first year. This may explain why he missed two full days of OTAs last spring. His aspirations are evidently in line with his parents, to become a lawyer - maybe go to Harvard or to Stanford Law. This may well be his best choice, because it is clear to any objective observer that the NFL isn't a place for an intellectual not prepared to keep his brains under wraps. Yes, it's true that new-be, 6'8" Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens has a genius (165) IQ, but he kept pretty well to himself - with his nose in assorted books (according to wifey, a Ravens fan). Being a "book worm" or "nerd" may be worth a bit of mockery by teammates but not as much as if you actually try to discuss the content of the books - say the meaning of Plato's "cave", at the team dining table.

At that point, you ought not be surprised if one or more of those Pre-Cro Magnon "triple alpha, high testosterone" droolers starts making the brainiac's rookie world a living hell. Intellect is not regarded kindly in the US of A, and least of all as any worthy asset in the grunting, biting world of NFL Offensive lines - where those displaying brains are more often distrusted as "soft".


Darrin Rychlak said...

I really enjoy your website. Your observations and humor are spot on and I'm in the midst of reviewing as much of your content as time permits. Great job!

Copernicus said...

Thanks, Darrin! Hope you find much more of the blog of interest!