Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bullied out of a job

This bullying story starring Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins is a witch hunt. I’m not suggesting that a 300lb behemoth “bullying” another of equal proportions is acceptable. What I’m ranting about here is how everybody, with any ranking with the Dolphins, has to now answer nonstop attacks on their own character, because they “let this happen.” From other players, to the coaches, to the GM, to the ownership group, how could all these evil people just let poor Jonathan Martin be terrorized? The media blitz. The threats against their jobs. This silly story is going to set anti-bullying back a generation.

What do you want Head Coach Joe Philbin or General Manager Jeff Ireland to do about bullying in the locker room and/or in life? Bullying’s as old as humanity itself. It’s like trying to stop barking and butt-sniffing in dogs. Obama can declare an anti-bullying day and schools can institute no-bullying initiatives till their blue in the face. It's the right thing to do, sure it is, but bullying, like Matt Barnes’ use of racial slurs, is here to stay.

Am I saying bullying is OK? No. But why does ESPN's NFL Live panel have to climb on their collective soapbox and proclaim that Richie Incognito is a racist, a racist I tell you? The artificial outrage on full blast. Why does the “inside talk” about Head Coach Joe Philbin’s hot seat have to swell? Let me tell you a little about Coach Philbin. After enduring the tragic death of his son, while working as an assistant in Green Bay, where he was beloved, and still is, Philbin pieced his broken life back together, grabbed his first-ever shot as an NFL head coach. He came into Miami and immediately turned that floundering culture around. Day one he dumped that toxic Chad Johnson. He developed a franchise quarterback and got busy winning. Now he’s in peril because he didn’t somehow thwart one grown man from hazing another grown man? Get a clue, armchair QBs. So if somebody gives Tom Brady a wedgie, the Patriots should part ways with Bill Belichick? Next up: The copycat stories cometh. There’s bullying on this team, that team, every team. It’s a slippery slope.

Does anybody remember when varsity football coach Kevin Earl was fired at Averill Park over a hazing incident in the shower room? Some kid was bullied, so he said, and his mother took it to the Supreme Court. Kevin Earl was out, gone, goodbye, and hasn’t coached since, reputation sizzled. Of course every PTA type railed up against the dismissed coach. Where was he? Why didn’t he stop it? But I ask: What did you want him to do? Shower with the team after practice? Yeah right. That wouldn've been problematic. Or follow fifty kids around the locker room then outside? Alpha boys bully beta boys in high school. It’s an unwritten rule, especially in football. Am I wrong?

While at AP, Earl turned that football program around. He gave his heart and soul to the high school. He came in on Saturdays to refinish the gym floor for nothing. Even now, years later, he still shows up at funerals and wakes and weddings. He truly cared about the student athlete, academic and athletic excellence. Then some kid gets “bullied” and Earl is yesterday’s trash. It was wrong. And this is coming from me, a kid who quit Coach Earl’s team. Anyone who went to AP in the 90’s knows what Earl really was. He was and still is "The Coach."

One day during double sessions, when I was a freshman playing JV ball, a few varsity boys got a hold of me at lunch. One lug ripped my padded pants down and the other pulled my shirt over my head. They dragged me bare-assed across the freshly-waxed, August floor of the cafeteria. In front of the varsity and JV football team PLUS the cheerleading squad, my naked rump went for a waxy ride. This was a year before Earl arrived, and the coach at the time was watching from the doorway, and laughing. I never said a thing. Then school started, and those same lugs, who’d ripped me around that floor, had my back for the rest of the year. Nobody said so much as boo to me. And when I was a senior, we did the same dumb thing to some unsuspecting freshman. Then loved him. I’m not saying it was right then or it’s right now. But it doesn’t matter what I say. It’s never going to fully end, even if you fire the whole world from it.

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Brian Huba

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