Adult Victims of Adult Bullies

7 Nov

Asshole & Martin, LLC

Asshole & Martin, LLC

Have you ever told a joke in poor taste? Like a Jewish joke, or one that makes fun of women, or gay people, or black people? Most of us have. Not out of any hatred of those groups, but in a sort of meta-ironic manner. Many of us have said things that, had we actually been serious in saying them, our friends would think us particularly horrible people. But I know who I can tell certain jokes in front of: they won’t judge me and say that I’m a bigot or a homophobe, anti-Semite, etc. I don’t tell them to coworkers or people I don’t know because they might punch me in the neck, again.

And I don’t say them on Twitter or Facebook because otherwise the Twitter and Facebook Police (a/k/a random people on the Internet who have nothing better to do but troll for insensitivity and ruin other people’s lives) would be on my ass and my fifteen minutes of fame would be as #JacobTheAsshole.

How I act with one group of people is different than how I act with another group of people. It’s why we aren’t supposed to be Facebook friends with coworkers: because they only see one side of us, and if they should happen to peek behind the dark curtain of late night drunken hook-up texts, that might create a modicum of awkwardness come Monday morning coffee maker chitchat, again. It’s why a group of guys will talk about women very differently than they would if there were a woman present.  

It baffles me sometimes when coworkers discover that I partake in an occasional whiskey, listen to punk rock, wear t-shirts and shorts, enjoy the company of women, and have friends. It is even odder when some of those friends are astonished that I work in an office and have done so for eleven plus years. My job thinks I don’t have a social life, and my social life thinks I don’t have a job. My sports friends don’t know I like the Symphony, and my foodie friends don’t know I like video games. Each one only knows a certain aspect of my personality. To them those slivers are the extent of my being. #JacobTheOneDimensionalBourbonConnoisseur

And it is easy to judge by knowing only part of the story. We can simply fill in the blanks with what we think this person should be like or how a story should unfold.

This brings me to the disintegration of the Miami Dolphins that I have been enjoying with my usual dose of schadenfreude because, 1) the Dolphins were the only team to beat the Bears in our historic 1985 season, and 2) I hate all teams from Florida (and Texas) because they are from Florida (or Texas), and those states suck. What has come out of Miami at first blush seems like an obvious case of hazing, bullying, racism, and all-around assholishness on the part of one Richie Incognito (real name!) towards one Jonathan Martin (real name, sigh). For those who do not know:

Martin, an African-American offensive lineman for the Dolphins voluntarily left the team last week after being verbally harassed by other members of the team, including Incognito, who many have called the “ring leader” in the harassment department. Furthermore, Martin checked into a Miami area hospital for emotional distress. (In New York we call that McSwillington’s Pub.) This incident was the culmination of a couple years of abuse directed at Martin (who was drafted in 2012). Among the various other allegations, Incognito apparently directed racial slurs towards Martin as well as threatened him with violence.

As I said above, it seems like a simple case of bullying. To those of us who do not make our livelihood out of a locker room, what happened between these two teammates appears both alien and terrifying. If I were routinely mocked, harassed, and threatened at my normal office job, I would have simple recourse – go to H.R. and get the douchebag fired. On a football team, conventional wisdom is that the person being bullied should beat the living shit out of the person performing the bullying.

We keep getting new information regarding Miami. The coaches knew all about it. In fact, they may have tasked Incognito with breaking Martin, by turning him from a shy loner into One of the Team. Further, both current and former teammates of Incognito’s have claimed that he is “an honorary black man,” a phrase I am not going to touch because I don’t want the Facebook and Twitter Police to get on my ass and start calling me #JacobTheRaciallyInsensitive. Needless to say, Incognito had apparently been given carte blanche to use a certain word that other white people who are not diabetic cooks from Savannah know better than to retain as part of their verbal repertoire.

Now, many of Incognito’s defenders claim that he may have gone too far either with that certain word or with the level of hazing he employed.

Wait? Hazing? Weren’t you just calling it bullying?

Yeah, well, we all know that those two things are not the same but can definitely bleed into one another. The line crossed between the two is simple: hazing is to toughen a man up, bullying is for when the hazing has failed and is used to break a man down.

It should be noted that many of us are guilty of both hazing and bullying. Those jokes in poor taste, that is hazing. Can you handle this joke? Are you going to be offended and call me insensitive or politically correct? Or can you admit that the joke is at least somewhat funny, that you’re not a Sensitivity Narc, and that we’re all good here? Okay, now, drink the bottle of Goldschläger, or don’t you have the liver for that?

***

About a year and a half ago it was discovered that the New Orleans Saints were actively putting prices on the heads of opposing players. You hurt a guy, you get paid. It was called Bountygate because every other “Gate” had already been taken, and the Saints coach was suspended for a full year. Putting bounties on players’ heads seems pretty horrible. Actually, it doesn’t seem it – it is. These weren’t people getting paid for a solid hit; they were getting paid for knocking someone out of the game, for trying to injure someone. And to most people it seemed like the Saints got the punishment they deserved.

Except that the Saints were not the only team doing this. Lots of teams do (or did) bounties. It was common knowledge around the league, from water boys to General Managers to the Commissioner’s Office. But then the Saints had to go and ruin it all and get caught. And then everyone was shocked shocked to find shenanigans going on in here.

If Jonathan Martin had not left the team and talked to the media about the locker room turmoil, nobody would know about what was going on down in south Florida.

Except we would. Most of us went to school with athletes, or we were athletes in school, or we have children who are currently athletes in school. We know what happens when you stick a bunch of testosterone-filled, Type A, bad ass motherfuckers in the same room. It happens at fraternities all the time. Those who claim that “the locker room is no different than any other workplace,” live in a peaceful (and horribly boring) utopia where touch football is banned for being too violent.

I am neither defending nor rebuking this behavior – both that of Incognito’s and all the other Incognito’s in the NFL. What is irksome is the jaw dropping shock that so many sports writers have been pantomiming. “Wait, they yell at the rookies?!? They call them names?!? They’re mean!!!!!?! What is this, Australian Rules Football?!?” It’s a willful blindness at a common part of sports, like being shocked that someone once in a while makes an off-color joke or that your children (or parents) regularly fuck.

What surprises us is not that it is happening but – and this does sound rather cruel, I know – the fact that Jonathan Martin couldn’t take it, whatever “it” may have been. We know this happens all the time, and since we never hear about professional football players running away from and tattling on their bullies, we may think that the fault lies not in the bullies but in the bullied. In fact, those who have come to Incognito’s defense have also lambasted Martin as weak and quite clearly not NFL material.  

I know that I couldn’t handle being tormented in a locker room by a bunch of 300 pound linemen. Heck, as a writer I can hardly handle the grammar Nazis without falling into a puddle of my own tears of insecurity. You get a group of writers in a room together and it will be just as ugly as a locker room full of football players. Only we use big words like schadenfreude and read at a post-3rd Grade level.

If someone bullies me because of my job – writer, let’s say – how do I get back at them? Through writing. I tear them a new one via words, because that is what I’m good at. I mean, I could punch them during cocktail hour, but then I’d get Pinot Noir on my corduroys.

Football players are Alpha Males of the highest order. They scare the crap out of me, which is why I like watching football from the safety of my recliner, wearing slippers, sipping organic Oregonian suds from my beer cozy-wrapped bottle and yelling “Huzzah” whenever a batter safely scores a basket. If someone is bullying you and both of you just happen to be 325 pound muscle bound athletes, the only recourse I can see is this: punch him in his fucking neck. Either you win or lose, most likely he respects you a lot more and stops bullying you.

Wait, am I saying that you should fight your bullies? Well, yes and no. Fighting does not always entail fisticuffs. It can be won via words or having repeated sexual relations with your tormentor’s girlfriend and/or mother.  These are not children or teenagers, where bullying is a horrible, psychologically scarring experience. They are adults who should be able to take care of themselves. And if your job basically is fighting, if you are built like a tank, then maybe punching a guy in his neck is the way to go.  

Signed,

#JacobWhoYouDidntThinkWasAPromoterOfViolenceAmongstLargeFrighteningBehemoths

 

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