- Last Friday, the NFL released a report from a special commission formed to investigate the rumours that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito had behaved like a douchebag, racist, homophobic bullying hater to his fellow lineman Jonathan Martin. Before I discuss the results, just take a good close look at the above picture of the two Dolphins sharing a tender moment on the sidelines. I mean, you couldn’t dream up a more perfect stereotypical jock bully than Mr. Incognito; the dude is straight from central casting. (I’m not even going to comment on his wonderfully paradoxical last name other than to thank the media gods for this blessing.)
- Maybe you need some more convincing. Perhaps Mr. Incognito’s classically fat, blocky face with the piggy close-set eyes, and oddly baby-faced within the textbook example of what way too much testosterone does to one’s appearance, isn’t enough for you to make a snap judgement like I did.
Please, then, examine Exhibit B, a live-action example of a big, fat jocky asshole of a bully doing his thang: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW9C4qi5Y80 Is that enough for ya? So now that we’ve established that Mr. Incognito is absolutely the finest example of “you couldn’t make this shit up”, his actual situation bears a closer examination, especially within the context of another current trend within big-league sports: high-profile gay athletes coming out, and the supposed effect their gayness will have on that bastion of macho maleness, the big-league locker room. Last year, Jonathan Martin was repeatedly tormented by his fellow offensive lineman, Mr. Incognito, in a scenario that apparently happens far too often in certain dysfunctional NFL locker rooms. It’s important to note that not all NFL teams foster the sort of atmosphere that enables the bully and the kind of bullying that Mr. Incognito got away with for so long. Bullies like Incognito don’t strike out bravely on their own with their intimidation regimes; rather they typically only operate from within a culture with a power structure that tacitly approves of their actions. Bullies align themselves with those in power, just like we all remember of the typical high school jock bully who strutted around the halls with his group of alpha male henchmen who were part of the ruling class of the “popular kids”. These teenage “little aristocrats” had the social power to single out vulnerable misfits and publicly persecute them with little or no objections from their “subjects”; the rest of the students who unquestionably accepted being dominated by their arbitrarily self-chosen rulers. This same social dynamic is replicated in dysfunctional NFL teams whose coaches and management allow the “tradition” of hazing and bad behavior amongst players to exist, maintaining that “boys will be boys”, operating from within a reactionary, cliched image of alpha male behavior. And so the crude, childish machinations of a jerk like Mr. Incognito went unchallenged–until he crossed the path of Jonathan Martin. Mr. Martin endured Mr. Incognito’s special brand of “welcoming rookies” until it very nearly broke him. Mr. Incognito dug deep into his arsenal of shockingly racist and sexist taunts, and became Martin’s obsessive stalker until Mr. Martin was ready to quit; to leave the NFL altogether. He found himself not wanting to go in to practice everyday, hating the game that previously was his lifelong love, and he found no support amongst his teammates or his coaches, who all meekly went along with the social dynamic of despotic cruelty. Mr. Martin finally went public with the abuse that had by then nearly destroyed his entire life. Not surprisingly, he was met with a shower of invective and scorn from chickenshit haters who called him a snitch and stood up for the “boys will be boys” tradition that supposedly rules the world of professional athletics, especially the manly-man NFL. One only has to read the comments on a typical “jock” sports site like BleacherReport to see how the jock-wanna-be wussies line up to crow about Martin’s lack of manliness, and how the cruelties of hazing and bullying are all part of being an NFL manly man–as if any of those fat-ass mental midgets could ever claim even a single instance of being a “manly man”. The way they all pile on, taking Mr. Incognito’s side and singling Mr. Martin out for some unbelievably nasty character assassination is yet another example of how the high school habits of blindly following the misanthropic behavior of Chris Christies-in-training never really die, especially amid the ranks of the grown-up chickenshit coward hiding behind his computer screen whilst dishing out cliched blustering braggadocio. The Incognito/Martin brouhaha dovetailed with NFL draftee prospect Michael Sam announcing that he is gay. Finally. Someone ballsy enough to admit to what we all know has to be the real truth of some of the athletes in the manly-man NFL. Even more so than the bruisingly ferocious NHL, the NFL is the wellspring of the chest-beating, primal male sportsman mojo, so for the LGBTQ sphere of influence to come a-knocking on the door is truly a giant step for mankind. And as expected, given the Neanderthalian reactions regarding the Incognito/Martin affair, there was a whole host of chickenshits who used this occasion to let fly some particularly savage homophobic invective–stuff that they knew they couldn’t normally get away with because the world around them has changed. The defensive scenario to which so many of them revert is “oh the horror of the locker room; however will the delicate flowers of the NFL possibly survive???” This is followed by nervous jokes about dropping the soap, but the actual reality of a modern professional sports team locker room, with its mix of newly uncloseted gay and straight teammates is shoehorned into the ill-fitting, old-fashioned apprehension of a Sodom and Gomorrah. Straight men strangely become vulnerable prey to roving sexual predators who want nothing more than to deflower their straightness amidst the Axe body wash and the Ben-Gay. Gay men are portrayed as deviant sexual gluttons unable to control their urges, and with a special, obsessive taste for straight men. We’ve certainly heard this insulting propaganda before from the far-right, the Fundamentalist, and the deeply closeted self-hater, only they usually accuse gay men of the perversion of pædophilia. It’s too bad for these bigots that none of their inflammatory accusations are even marginally related to The Truth. To their ever-increasing dismay, the rest of America knows this, and all of their worst nightmares about “the gays” indoctrinating the population have come to fruition. It’s no longer OK to even publicly speak any of their outdated homophobic invective. So all of that suppression of using the word “faggot” in everyday conversation–they’re just bursting at the seams with muzzled “FAGGOT!!“s–is causing hate-fueled aneurysms, like so many clusters of rotten grapes. When they finally get an opportunity like this one in which there appears to be public support for homophobia, they jump on the rare opportunity to let it all fly. So bigots, guess what? Gay men like to have sex, yes they do….with other gay men!!! And believe it or not, they are somehow able to control themselves in public while in mixed company. Michael Sam has been conducting himself in showers and locker rooms for many years; we would certainly have been privy to any clandestine debauchery in this talented young man’s past. The boring truth is that gay male athletes, just like their straight teammates, are at work when they are using the locker room and the showers, and they all know how to behave professionally, with their very public reputations and very large salaries on the line. The same kind of “boys will be boys” cavemen who defend hazing and bullying amongst teammates have attached this mythical status to the sanctity of the Holy Locker Room; that above all, it should be a place where men are free to spew bigotry and demonstrate their primitive narrow-mindedness. It’s too bad that the actual NFL players don’t agree. Nope; ESPN just released the results of a poll given to real live NFL players regarding their feelings about the gays amongst them, and 86% of them are OK with gay teammates. Humanity is gradually becoming more humane. During the last decade or so, the speed of the acceptance of the LGBTQ community’s right to exist and enjoy the same civil rights as the rest of us is pretty awesome. It gives me hope. At the very least, I’m encouraged that the whole aged lot of those phlegmatic, intolerant bigots will die off soon, and their offspring, to their grave-spinning horror, will blithely accept LGBTQ existence and parity as the norm, and the realm of professional sports will be no different. In closing, I referenced Chris Christie in this post’s title, and this exact same dynamic is what allowed the astounding shenanigans to proceed so seamlessly amongst his staff of toadies who eagerly duplicated their boss’s bullying ways–a personality style that was actually celebrated as a positive attribute in a powerful politician. It should then come as no surprise that Chris Christie was a jock and a popular kid in high school. It’s said that it’s a sad thing to reach one’s peak in high school. But Christie actually used his BMOC status as a tactic when he attempted to besmirch his former crony, and high school classmate, David Wildstein, distancing himself from Wildstein’s involvement in the GW bridge traffic scandal, as if Wildstein and a host of other top Christie staff members were operating in a vacuum. He called Wildstein out as an unpopular geek, haughtily stating, “You know, I was the class president and an athlete”, which is really shorthand for “I was a jock bully asshole”. It’s absolutely astounding to me that Christie even wants to reference high school social politics, but then again, I was a band geek.
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