Sports Column: Getting on the bully’s level

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By Mac Moore

Incognito argues against suspension for bullying

This Miami Dolphins – Richie Incognito story is bigger than I can cover. The different aspects of the story are crazy, but it’s definitely the reaction of people that is an interesting topic. The common response is that Jonathan Martin should have confronted Incognito physically (he did go to Dolphins management before walking out and making it a nationally publicized event).

Apparently it is common knowledge that a bully will back down once confronted. Many have even come to Incognito’s aid claiming that this is just how football works, how life works and this is just social Darwinism. The strong survive and Incognito was just trying to get Martin to “man up.” Then he would have respected Martin.

The reports from other players have said that instead, Martin tried to gain common ground. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill even described Martin as Incognito’s little brother and Incognito as Martin’s best friend on the team. In an interview with Fox’s Jay Glazer, Incognito said that he had text messages where Martin also participated in similar language as himself. Incognito has filed a grievance hearing against the Dolphins, and this returned behavior from Martin will likely be his best defense.

The statement from Martin’s attorney, David Cornwell, indicated that Martin did what he could to fit in, something that is common among victims of bullying. Victims often feel conforming to the behavior is more beneficial than simply rejecting it.

In third grade I became a bodyguard for a group of friends at school. They were being picked on by a group of bullies that lived nearby. In exchange for protecting them, they gave me Pokémon cards – every 9-year-old’s dream.

I had lived in the small town of Ottawa for about three years. I didn’t have friends until this group, and I still don’t know how much they liked me versus how much they needed me for survival. I didn’t even really like Pokémon, but they did, and it sucked being left out of everything.

The bullying came in many forms. It started off as verbal spats, growing until they became physical altercations. I remember a couple of significant confrontations where one of my friends got a Rock Bottom (a pro wrestling move made famous by WWF Superstar The Rock) and was hit in the back with a shovel. Both times I had to run them off.

Finally we got the bright idea of standing up to them. Instead of fighting them though, we decided to the play them in football. This seemed like a great way to “earn their respect.”

No. On the way to a touchdown, I turned to celebrate. Instead I saw one of the bullies giving a Pedigree (this is not a PSA against pro wrestling, I swear) to my friend. If I wanted to fully earn that Mew-Two holographic card, I knew I had better step in.

Clearly neither of us really knew how to fight. We had that uncomfortable size-up where we were walking in a circle, looking for an opportunity to throw a punch, scared to death to actually get hit.

Finally the reality of the awkwardness set in; the kid threw a couple quick jabs. I saw his confidence build as his friends cheered his shots. He’d have smiled if it wasn’t such an unmanly thing to do. After throwing five or six more punches without taking a blow, he felt like he was winning. As the fear lessened, so did the protection to his face.

The opportunity opened up and I threw a wild haymaker straight to his nose, John Wayne style. He backed down as he bled from the nose and spit up blood. Over the years I’ve overdramatized the amount of blood; it was probably minimal but the kid backed down.

Days later, we were leaving our friend’s house after an afternoon of cartoons and Pokémon battles. The group of bullies cut us off in an alleyway. Two of my friends just wanted to get home as neither were fighters. I blocked the path to be the hero because action movies have blinded me to what it’s really like to be outnumbered five to one.

Being the hero in this case meant I got pummeled by five kids. I quickly assessed my inability to win the match and fled home. During the entire 10-block chase, they didn’t let up: throwing things, calling me names and making threats. The pursuit didn’t end until I was on my porch. The humiliation was finally over.

I sat down on my couch, choked up on tears, nose running. I did my best to collect myself. My mom walked into the room and knew right away that something was wrong. I tried to lie, but at this point I was still hyperventilating, partially from anxiety and partially from expensed cardio to prevent the continued assault.

Within five minutes I had told her what happened and we were in the car heading to the police station. I didn’t want to talk to the police. I knew the whole mantra, “snitches get stitches”. More so, I would be made fun of because I had to ask for help. I wasn’t “man” enough to handle it myself. This just couldn’t turn out well.

The next day, the cops came over to the two houses and brought us all outside. Obviously the other kids attempted to blame it on the fight where I made the kid bleed. Nobody just accepts that they are in trouble; everybody deserves a defense.

The cop said he didn’t care. The next time he heard a complaint from either side, everybody was going down to the station. The fear of discipline is the only thing that stopped them. Turning them in was far more beneficial than fighting back.

Actually, fighting back made me just as bad in the eyes of the authorities. As a means of confronting the bullying, I brought myself down to their level. It is likely that Martin brought himself down to Incognito’s level. The only way this works out though, is if Incognito is not vindicated in the grievance hearing.

Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, mmoore82@jccc.edu

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