The increasingly weird and alarming story that has surrounded the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has fostered discussions on many things: bullying, hazing, interview ethics, mental health in the United States, etc.
But what’s more concerning than the situation itself is the reaction it has garnered. Somehow, the sentiment is split as to whether Martin did the right thing by leaving the team, by taking it up with Dolphins management before simply trying to punch Incognito (or whomever else was harassing him) in the face.
Instead, the macho/gladiator/warrior mentality has shown its strength, casting Martin out as nothing more than a weak excuse for a player, a “man” who couldn’t stand up to the game and be the knuckle-dragger it needs.
According to the game – and to many of those who play it – there is no place for Martin’s sentimentality and feelings.
So how exactly is this situation going to change the culture of the NFL?
Just because Martin had an emotional breakdown from constant abuse doesn’t mean a tide is shifting in the course of NFL policy, and even if it did, there wouldn’t be any sweeping effect in the locker rooms themselves.
Instead, the manly bravado being perpetrated will be allowed to linger and the NFL will simply survive this hiccup in its continued reign as the supposed toughest game on the planet.
Many scandals have dared to rock the league to its core, to force changes and maybe put a dent in the game’s impenetrable wall of popularity. Despite concussion scandals, a constant crime wave among players, alleged bounty programs and what has now transpired in Miami, the NFL only gets stronger by the day.
Much of that can be attributed to the idea that the game is tough. That the game has no place for anything other than brutality, thriving from the sacrifice of feelings that might undercut that.
Most players (and, unfortunately, many media members) are openly defending Incognito because they truly believe there’s no other way. Their misconceptions of what constitutes a man are deeply rooted and impossible to change, which makes any true organizational reform a fantasy.
The frat culture of treating someone like dirt and saying it comes from a place of “love” has become the standard in the NFL, and it’s not going away anytime soon, if ever.