When I was 9 years old, I had a problem with showers. The problem was that I wasn’t taking them. For whatever reason, it fell to my father to explain the ripeness doctrine to his disgusting and smelly son. I remember the lecture going something like this:
When I was in the Marines, there was one guy who didn’t bathe. After weeks spent humping heavy packs from here to kingdom come, I probably don’t need to tell you how awful a man can get to smelling. We were all 18 and 19 and 20 and not one of us had impeccable hygiene. But the bare minimum we can ask of each other as men, son, is to bathe on a daily basis. What I guess I’m trying to say is that no man is an island. His actions have consequences and this man’s actions led to serious consequences, not the least of which was an odor redolent of hot garbage. Do you understand what I’m saying? Why you need to shower?
“So did that guy ever start showering?”
Sure. But first, we had to throw a blanket over his head and beat the #*$% out of him.
This week, Jonathan Martin attempted to become the heavyweight champion of bullying victims. In the process, macho culture, a sort of blithe racism, violence, workplace norms, and Harvard Law School were put on trial. In Japan, their endomorphs square off in a dohyō. Here, they square off via media leak, tweet, and scores of lawyers.
Let’s talk sports…
I DON’T DISCRIMINATE, I REGULATE EVERY SHADE OF THAT
There has been a steady stream of commentary about the Jonathan Martin “bullying” affair this week, but what we truly know about it could fill a small book. A small book of racist Mad Libs, perhaps. A tripartite discussion of the things we know:
1. We know that Richie Incognito left the following voicemail on his teammate’s phone:
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
You half Nostradamus piece of soulpatch. I want to salivate in your farming mouth.
This voicemail, an admittedly vile sounding piece of performance art, was the sole peg on which most of North America has hung whatever worldview they need to reinforce. Emily Bazelon, the sweet to Elie’s sour on the legal/bullying beat, uses the growing scandal and contextless voicemail to dream of a day when boys aren’t buttholes.
What we don’t know, of course, is if Richie Incognito is a racist or a bully. We probably know he’s not above being either. We know he’s… a coarse figure. Uncouth. Richie Incognito is an outside dog.
2. We know that Jonathan Martin’s problems in the locker room run deep. His lawyer said as much last night, when he released a statement that elaborated on Martin’s plight. Part of the statement read:
The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying.
This is a bizarre formulation here. Martin tried to please his teammates which proves my point because bullies.
The statement ends with another mad lib attributed to one of Martin’s unidentified teammates. This one reads:
Quote from teammate: “We are going to run train on your sister. . . . She loves me. I am going to f–k her without a condom and c– in her c—.”
We know vile things were said to Jonathan Martin. What we don’t know is what Martin’s attorney thinks is gained by releasing another sick quote. Perhaps there are those who were unmoved by the racist garbage and who will now react to evidence that makes the word misogyny seem inadequate. However, I don’t see a new quote moving the needle at all. The words are still just that. Words.
If only there were a place where verbal combat was more… refined. More exalted…
3. We know Harvard Law School hasn’t enjoyed this kind of free publicity since Legally Blonde 3: Ernest Goes to Camp. That doesn’t mean everyone understands how law school admissions work:
“Before he wasn’t around Nebraska, LSU kind of guys,” Eumont explained. “He’s always been around Stanford, Duke, Rice kind of players. … In locker rooms full of Nebraska, LSU, Southern Cal players, Miami players, they’ll look at (his quiet personality) as a weakness.”
In other words, Eumont feels the guys from schools like Nebraska — where Incognito played — are a bit more rugged. Martin, who went to Stanford to play football despite being accepted into Harvard Law School, is more of the polite, quiet type.
Harvard’s early admissions system is a joke.
In actuality, Martin has expressed an interest in attending Harvard Law some day after his playing career ends. This helps explain the connection:
He majored in ancient Greek and Roman Classics at Stanford, and surely is the only NFL player whose mother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather are Harvard graduates.
In fact, Martin was heavily recruited by Harvard and had he gone, would have been the first-ever fourth generation African-American at the school. His maternal great grandfather, trial lawyer John Fitzgerald, Harvard Class of ’24, was one of about a dozen black students there at the time. He was not allowed to live in campus dorms, and he crossed paths with famed sociologist and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois, who also attended Harvard.
Jonathan Martin comes from an insanely educated family. Which makes it all the more obvious why he might have been “bullied” in the Dolphins locker room. With such a pedigree, he would be the weirdo in all but the most elite settings.
But this is perhaps unfair. We don’t know a whole lot about Jonathan Martin and we don’t know a whole lot about Richie Incognito. One may be a vicious slob and the other might be an effete boob. Or they might both be decent men whose character lies somewhere in the acceptably normal range. Either way, the whole episode reminds me of a photo-negative of Chappelle’s old Keeping it Real skit. Here, Incognito plays Vernon Franklin, flashing his own version of Wu-Tang on his way out of the Dolphins boardroom and onto the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What we do know is that this story still has miles to travel. And lawyers will be there every step of the way. Hoovering up untold sums of money. Because the NFL is, despite its macho reputation, just another boring bureaucracy intent on eliminating all possible risk.
But first, someone’s getting a blanket thrown over their head.
RAP SHEET ROLL CALL
* We do know Richie Incognito was accused of rubbing a woman’s “private parts” with a golf club at a charity event last year. Man am I glad I didn’t defend that guy at all.
* Jets running back Mike Goodson was indicted on weapons charges. The Jets offense is, otherwise, devoid of weapons.
* A Bears fan tasered the cheese right off his Packers-fan wife.
Slurs in Incognito’s messages [ESPN]
When It’s Your Kid in the Locker Room [Slate]
David Cornwell’s statement regarding Jonathan Martin [ProFootballTalk]