November 17, 2013

Something needs to change

When children ask me about bullying, among the things I tell them is that “once you get out of high school, that goes away.”

When you’re on a college campus or in the workforce, your peers have matured. They’re more accepting of physical appearance or personality quirks or just plain bashfulness. It’s a clean slate.

Oops. Now, we discover that even a fully grown (6-foot-5, 310-pound) football player of tremendous strength is not immune to bullying.

Great. Kids, forget I said anything.

Headlines have been made recently by Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins, a mammoth offensive lineman who left his football team due to systematic hazing over the past two years.

How about this: “Kids, once you get your AARP card and your first colonoscopy, no one will ever bother you again.”

Despite being the victim, Martin has faced enormous criticism for not standing up to his bully. Why doesn’t he toughen up? Why doesn’t he just punch perpetrator Richie Incognito in the face?

I ask, why should he have to?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard over and over again that this is just the culture of the locker room. It’s different than anywhere else. It’s a profane, sweaty place where men are cruel to each other because … because that’s the way it’s always been.

Ah yes, the “that’s the way it’s always been” excuse.

That would explain why my wife is down at the stream right now washing the clothes by smacking them on the rocks. That would explain why football players wear those leather helmets and Coca-Cola is still sneaking cocaine into their carbonated beverages. The way it’s always been.

It doesn’t makes a player or a cadet or a fraternity pledge tougher to walk blindfolded through a gauntlet of peers wielding paddles or socks full of nickels. Team chemistry isn’t improved by making the youngest recruits climb through the briar patch naked; long-lasting bonds of friendship aren’t formed by forcing someone to drink his own urine; fun isn’t had by all when Icy Hot is spread on the private parts of naive newcomers.

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