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Jonathan Martin exposes lunacy of NFL locker rooms: NFL Unfiltered Week 9


Photo: AP


The country is different now.  Children are coddled, adults are pampered, and the line between joke and harm isn’t blurred, it is virtually non-existent.   


Unfortunately, sports locker rooms are some of the last bastions of lunacy.  The final frontier where Neanderthals roam and men like Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, struggle to survive.  A place where bullying is not only accepted, but actively encouraged.  A place where the meek inherit exorbitant dinner checks.   


According to stopbullying.gov, bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.  The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose” (“What is bullying” 1).  


Fair enough, but bullying exists in adulthood in the form of harassment, especially in environments where testosterone trumps thought.   


As Martin’s story became news, much of the initial reaction centered on his apparent unwillingness to take it like a man.  Like clockwork, former players and fans labeled him a quitter and wondered about his toughness. No surprise, since blaming the victim is one of our tried and true pastimes.  


Perhaps as Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake suggests, carrying shoulder pads, singing a college fight song, and supplying doughnuts are important because the NFL is a fraternity.  Maybe rookies submit to the will of team knuckleheads on winning squads, while teams with obstinate, first-year players lose games.  


Still, Martin is in his second season, so even if you believe harassment of newbies is necessary, it doesn’t explain how it applies to a two-year starter.  


Interestingly, many thought Martin had first round talent in April 2012, but he lasted until the 42nd pick of last year’s draft for a reason. Maybe that has something to do with why he reacted to his environment the way he did.  Or, maybe line mate Richie Incognito, troubled since his days at Nebraska, is a personality beyond the scope of reason.  


Though, it is important to remember Martin played pro football for a year and half prior to his exodus.  Additionally, he played division one college football so he likely understands a locker room, but clearly, he saw no other way out.  


Frankly, I am surprised so few of these incidents become public because NFL locker rooms are apparently, not for the faint of heart.  It is as if players are expected to comport themselves as Mr. Hyde at team headquarters and Dr. Jekyll everywhere else.    


Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes men play professional football because they’re good at it and it’s lucrative.  They’re usually learned men, with options beyond the field.  Maybe Martin is such a man.   


If the NFL wants to “protect the shield” as commissioner Roger Goodell is fond of saying, he and NFL Players Association executive director, DeMaurice Smith, must step in.  They must work together to ensure safe and productive work environments for players.  If they don’t, the next incident might end dangerously.  


The truth is, there is no evidence any sort of hazing leads to winning.  It’s just another lame excuse for grown men to act like children under the auspices of sports.  However, there are numerous instances where victims of harassment fight back in tragic ways.   


While we might not appreciate Martin’s decision to abruptly leave, we’re fortunate he chose the path with the least resistance.  

The next victim of locker room harassment might not. 
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-The NFL can control any league issue it wants, but the owners don’t care enough about collapsing coaches to enforce changes.  


-At least 25 head coaches in the NFL have risen to their level of incompetence.  Count the Dolphins’ Joe Philbin as one of them.    


-After several positive running plays, the Dolphins called for a shotgun, no back formation against the Bengals.  The absurdity of that still boggles my mind.  


-The man in the Bengals’ organization who championed Andy Dalton instead of Colin Kaepernick ought to do something else for a living.  


-You wonder how Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier bungled his quarterback situation so skilfully. Then you realize Mike Singletary is likely a trusted advisor.


-Watching Dez Bryant recently, you wonder if the Cowboys are still supporting him off the field as ardently as they once did.


-Drew Brees gets hit legally, and draws a personal foul penalty.  Russell Wilson gets hit after giving himself up but no flag is thrown.  Only David Duke sees this as equitable.  


-The Saints surrendered 200 yards rushing. Rob Ryan must have nude photos of several head coaches because he keeps getting jobs.

-The obituary for the 2013 Buffalo Bills starts with head coach Doug Marrone’s decision to ask quarterback Jeff Tuel to attempt a pass on 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line.  


-Having Ben Roethlisberger attempt passes at the end of a lopsided game is an indefensible decision by Mike Tomlin. 



Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.


Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter @EMyersIII


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Photo: AP