The Incognito Effect Part 1
Sam Bernstein ’14
I dare you to imagine a place more polarizing than an NFL locker room. Dozens of lavishly paid, often under-educated, egotistical super-humans decompress after their work, which consists of a game structured around exposing weakness in others through violence within their sport. Therefore, when Stanford alum and second year offensive lineman Jonathon Martin left the Miami Dolphins at the end of October, stalwart factions emerged as fellow lineman Richie Incognito found himself suspended several days later due to his alleged mistreatment of Martin. While the truth behind the rumors and allegations remains uncertain, two things have become clear. Something consequential occurred in that Dolphins’ locker room, and bullying is once again on the national forefront.
“It’s a man’s sport,” Peter Snow ’14 explained. He backs the position referred to as the “old guard” hold. Football, like few other activities, speaks to our primal, alpha-dog notions, hence requiring a certain toughness to play. Snow continued, “Many articles say that Martin gave just as good as he got, and that Incognito [immediately] called Martin, who said it’s not [Incognito] and that he just couldn’t take the game anymore. Martin’s doing it for publicity and because he wants out.” Speculation surrounds the details, but a clear lack of communication occurred between two teammates. Schuyler Whiting ’14 believes, “Martin should have taken it up with Incognito man-to-man first.” Incognito was previously forced off Nebraska and Oregon’s college teams for his demonstration of racism and organized harassment against his teammates.
“The Incognito Effect” is the hazing and misconduct that exists in different terms within sports. In regards to varsity basketball, coach Mr. Tim Reardon’s policy, he stated, “I’m for light-hearted teasing, but if it turns into bullying, there’s no place for it.” Here the line becomes blurred. What constitutes the difference between teasing and bullying? Referencing a major place Incognito went astray, Reardon claimed, “It can’t be racial. You’re setting yourself up for trouble if you bring race into it.” Most high school bullying scenarios aren’t nearly that tidy.
In fairness to Incognito, former teammate Lydon Murtha acknowledged, “I know when a guy can’t handle razzing. You can tell some guys aren’t built for it. Incognito doesn’t have that filter.” However, how excusable is that shortcoming, considering his familiarity with Martin? Think, even at our age, do you not know what will or won’t push your friend or teammate over the edge?
Varsity football coach Mr. John Regalia remains aware of this edge every single day. He defines hazing as when “any form of intimidation” is exacerbated. Nevertheless, the teenagers he coaches are far more emotionally fragile than their adult counterparts. “We’re always conscious of the players and how they’re doing,” explained Regalia. “We want to challenge one another in a positive fashion.” As a football coach, he devises a plan to teach and motivate players within a game built around violence, all while “trying to foster an experience in [their] program where the structure is supportive.” When I asked how he and his staff would handle a situation similar to Incognito and Martin’s, he answered, “As far as toleration, there is none.” He did admit that in many cases “there are gray areas, but I think, as a team, we’ve done a very good job of defining them so they’re black and white.”
This, in essence, is “The Incognito Effect.” Besides bedlam within the Dolphins organization, hazing, intimidation, and other rites of passage, often taboo to discuss, are now gaining national exposure. In a multi-part installment, I plan to investigate these issues from every possible angle. Here we see the ripple effect of a single action, the riptide of which spreads far and wide. It’s too late to salvage either Martin or Incognito; their reputations are forever tarnished in the eyes of one group or another. Yet as winter sports here at SI commence, as new faces join new teams, will we learn from the fallout? What factors do race, gender, or demeanor play? Are we doing enough to combat these problems? Too much? What will be “The Incognito Effect”?
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