If you are anything like me, you have an incredibly difficult time relating to professional football players. They’re millionaires; you’re maybe middle class. They’re celebrities championed by thousands of fans; you have a close immediate family and a few hundred Twitter followers that you like. They get to play a game for a living; you work 60 hours a week with excel spreadsheet pivot tables.
At first glance, it’s really hard for a lot of fans to relate to guys in the NFL. Cue Jonathan Martin to provide some much needed relatability.
To say that Jonathan Martin’s story is troubling would be an understatement. As evidenced by the “Report to the National Football League Concerning Issues of Workplace Conduct at the Miami Dolphins,” authored by members of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison LLP, Martin was a victim of a pattern of harassment by fellow Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry, and Mike Pouncey.
The eponymous report, now known as the “Ted Wells Report” after one of its primary authors, can be read in its entirety here.
What struck me most about the Ted Wells Report was not the specifics of the harassment — which were indeed difficult to read — but rather Martin’s listed reasons to no longer play football. In a text message to a friend on May 6, 2013, Martin wrote the following:
- I hate going in everyday.
- I am unable to socialize with my teammates in their crude manner
- I already have a lot of money. I could travel the world, get my degree. Then get a real job
- I could lose 70 lbs and feel good about my body
- I won’t die from CTE
- Maybe I’ll start to LIKE myself
- I don’t need to live lavishly. I could live very frugally
- Why do I care about these people? All I need is my family.
Hating your job is a rather ubiquitous capitalist reality. If you specifically don’t hate your job, then why are you reading this article during your work day? And if you genuinely enjoy what you do, you assuredly have had some awful job experiences in the past and probably have a lot of friends who are miserable in the workplace today.
Compare your workplace experiences to those of Jonathan Martin.
He hates going in to work everyday? So do most people!
He is unable to socialize with his teammates? The same can be said for most awkward co-worker relationships outside of the National Football League.
He already has a lot of money and doesn’t need to be an NFL Player? Well, we all don’t have a lot of money, but many of us struggle with constant thoughts that we could find a way to survive without our current employment situations—however rational those thoughts might be is a question for debate.
He could lose weight if he wasn’t playing offensive line? While Martin is forced to play football at an unrealistic and unhealthy weight, the average person at a desk job is literally catalyzing death by sitting down all day.
By quitting the NFL, he won’t die from traumatic head injuries? Undoubtedly, work place stress and anxiety is hurting all of our respective healths, admittedly neither as dramatically nor violently as CTE.
Martin will begin to like himself if he quits football? Unless you’re working at your dream job, certain aspects of every job probably make you feel terrible about yourself — whether it’s seeing people unable to afford groceries or simply telling a job seeker she did not get the position she applied for [who am I kidding? No one sends denial letters anymore].
He doesn’t need the NFL paychecks and would enjoy a modest lifestyle? Sadly, a large chunk of life is about the cost-benefit analysis between increased capital and quality of life.
And finally, Martin texts that at the end of the day, all he needs is his family. Amen, Mr. Martin. Amen.
I can really relate with Jonathan Martin, and I imagine millions of people across the globe can as well. In the omnipresent words of Blink 182, “Late night, come home, work sucks, I know.” But despite the unfortunate reality of the workplace oftentimes being a bummer, a dueling reality exists usually dictating that the workplace is a necessary evil. We need the money. We need the health insurance. We need the stability. We need our jobs.
In the most recent episode of the HBO show Girls, titled “Free Snacks,” Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath character—an aspiring writer, in the non-commercial, Shakespearean sense of the word—gets a job at GQ as an advertorial copywriter. These are the hardworking folks who write those advertisements that are disguised as actual articles in print magazines. In the episode, Hannah doesn’t want to get stuck being this type of “lesser writer” in ten years, so she cathartically quits the job shortly after her first day in her boss’s office. But then before she could even get to the elevator, Hannah realizes that despite her high-brow, pompous principles, she needs the money from that copywriting job and immediately pleads for her job back.
I can relate to Jonathan Martin for hating his job. I can also relate to Martin for wanting to give up on his chosen career — I’ve dramatically walked away from emotionally damaging positions in the past. I cannot relate to Martin in the sense that I have never experienced daily harassment from my co-workers.
Admittedly, if that happened to me, I could probably be found crying somewhere in a corner in the fetal position.
Maybe Jonathan Martin physically and emotionally needs to quit football. But if he doesn’t, I hope that he takes his time before forever walking away from the game that he presumably once loved. What if he needs it?
And if Martin does want to continue playing football, I hope that an NFL front office has the audacity to sign him—which is a whole different story altogether.