It can happen anywhere

Nov. 10, 2013 @ 06:54 AM

It seems like every month there's a story that takes the sports world by storm.

Sometimes that story is uplifting and positive such as the emergence of a relative unknown player who takes their sport by storm like a Russell Wilson (one of my new personal favorite players), but more often than not, the overwhelming story is painful to hear like an Aaron Hernandez scandal of Riley Cooper getting a little mouthy in front of a camera phone.

For the past several days, all major networks have poured their resources into the Miami Dolphins incident involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

For most sports fans, there isn't much of a need for me to recap the situation considering it's about all that's on television or radio this week, but for those who aren't familiar, here's the scoop.

Martin is a second-year offensive lineman who left the Dolphins because he claims that he was harassed and bullied by his teammate, Incognito, to the point where he could no longer be with the organization.

Voicemail transcripts have been leaked where Incognito uses racial slurs towards Martin (who has a white father and a black mother) and also threatens his life.

Many fellow NFL players have come out in defense of Martin and his decision to leave the team, but an overwhelming amount of support has been given to Incognito by players that consider Martin "soft."

Those Incognito supporters indict Martin for not standing up for himself in a physical manner and not reporting the alleged abuse to his coaches.

Now I don't know about you, but to think that a 6-foot-5, 312-pound man can get bullied to the point of retreat, is baffling. However, as shocking as it sounds, it's equally as scary.

If this sort of thing happens in professional locker rooms amongst "grown men" that should have some sense and decency, think of what could be happening in college and high school locker rooms. I'm not talking about bad haircuts, ice baths or other forms of hazing ... I'm talking about abuse.

Does this raise the question of what could be happening in our back yards? What could our children or family members be dealing with? Is this a problem here?

I made a few phone calls to area coaches to find out.

"Kids are going to be kids. You try to stay on top of it as much as you can but there's time when get's get free time in the locker room and I'm sure there's things that happen that I don't know about," one local coach said. "You can't hold there hand all day long. You just hope to police it the best you can."

But if the Martin case has taught us anything, just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't happening.

"If it can happen in the NFL it can happen anywhere. We just listen to our players if they come to us with anything. A lot of times things happen under your nose and you don't know anything about it," another coach said.

The most haunting part of the story is the racially-charged hatred clearly displayed by Incognito verbally.

"Kids are going to pick on one another and try to get under their skin, but as far as racial stuff there's no place for that in sports or anywhere else in the world," a third coach said. "We have a 30-minute rule, win or lose you don't say anything to any teammate or coach that could be misconstrued in any way. In the heat of battle a lot of people say things they don't mean."

Equally puzzling for me is the fact that football is such a team-reliant sport. Eleven men need to do their job on every play in order to succeed. How can you treat someone that you need in such a way? Especially when you play alongside him on every down as Incognito and Martin did on the offensive line.

"You don't stand much of a chance to win if you don't get along," a coach said.

As sickening as it is, it's all to common and may be ultimately unavoidable.

"One of things as a coach you really wish you could just worry about X's and O's instead of personalities and being a psychiatrist. Unfortunately all that comes with the job," a coach said. "You'll have have a couple guys that deviate from the norm. It's something that if it isn't addressed can ruin a team."

So in the end it's still shocking that this has come to pass in the NFL, but should it truly be that surprising?