This Martin-Incognito story has taken so many twists and turns, I don't know what really happened, and it seems unlikely any of us ever will.
I do know what I think of a lot of what I've seen from NFL people and from fans, including people here. It's the glorification of a maimed, inferior form of manliness. A manliness gone rancid.
It's mysterious to me. I grew up on a farm, among tough, hardscrabble farming people who came through the Depression. Not my dad, nor my grampa, nor any of my uncles, nor anybody else ever taught me that being an asshole was any part of being a man. Very much the opposite. Being a man wasn't about taking; it was about self-sacrifice. And yet somehow, even though I was quiet and polite and easygoing, I got through grade school, junior high, and high school among tough, hardscrabble, backwoods kids without any of them mistaking me for unmanly or soft. Nobody on any team I was on ever thought they needed to toughen me up. Locker room talk was frank and, as always, 90% lies, but nobody needed to say any of the things that, apparently, must be said in an NFL locker room in order for a team to win football games.
It even strikes me that that makes NFL players a good deal less manly than we were, even as teenage boys, since all we had to do was practice hard and play hard. We didn't need to talk ourselves or each other into being tough, and being tough didn't turn us into assholes. Maybe I'm wrong about all that and it's the NFL guys who really are manlier. Either way, this episode has shown me just how many people there are in sports bars and NFL coaches' rooms and personnel offices and locker rooms who aren't aware it's possible to be tough, or a man, or to win without being an asshole. Somehow, practice hard, play hard, don't be an asshole isn't something they teach in NFL School as a possible route to victory.
I've been a Dolphins fan since I was 8 years old. That's a long relationship. It's a lot to walk away from, that many years of living and dying with a team, of growing up idolizing your favorite players. But, I don't think I can do it anymore -- this whole football thing.
It's a matter of perspective, I guess. Football is a game. For me, as a fan, it's entertainment. That's all. Nothing more. Regardless of whether Jonathan Martin handled things the right way, if the defense of Richie Incognito's behavior is, "That's the way it has to be in NFL locker rooms," then I don't want anything I do to encourage the continued existence of NFL locker rooms or any part of the mindset they represent.
I mean, whatever else may be the case, it's clear -- to me, at least -- that Martin is a person struggling with some serious personal problems right now. And there are people angry at him -- angry at him -- because his struggle is interfering with their entertainment. Not their child's education or their spouse's cancer treatment. Their entertainment.
I'm not sure I, personally, can find any of this entertaining anymore. I don't think I can watch it. I don't think I want to be associated with it in any way. The way I was raised, that's the manly thing to do: when your enjoyment comes at the cost of someone else's misery, you stop. You walk away. Maybe I'll see things differently in a few weeks, or maybe I'll just chicken out, but I think that's what I have to do with football at this point: walk away.
Doubtless, many people couldn't care less. Some would say good riddance. I'm not a real fan. Not a real man. Not a real manly fan. Whatever. But for me, it's just a sad turning point in my life.