Okay, listen up. This is probably the only time you’ll ever see me write about anything even remotely related to sports, so enjoy it while it lasts.
I see in the news that a football player was driven from his team and into psychological counseling. The reason? He was bullied by some of the other players. The independent report also found that the bullies victimized another player and an assistant trainer.
To this I say, how can this possibly be? Football players being bullies? Why, that’s so outlandish an idea, it stretches the imagination just to consider it. I think back on my school days, and remember the football players fondly. They would never ever have bullied anyone. At my high school the football players were just the kindest, sweetest bunch of guys you could imagine, always polite and sensitive to the feelings of others, especially the less popular kids. Why, they’d go out of their way to give those kids special attention and encouragement. So I can only guess that this must be some weird aberrant behavior those players picked up after they left school.
Oh, sorry; on rereading that, I see I made a little typo. Instead of “kindest sweetest bunch of guys” and “always polite and sensitive,” I meant to say “vicious gang of brutal thugs” and “should die in a fire.” Oops. My mistake.
Sarcasm aside, what in the world do they expect from football players? What do you expect from an activity that routinely expresses game conduct in the language of war, violence, and brutality? “Gimme a K, gimme an I, gimme an L and an L!” The lead
thug player in the group, one Richie Incognito (his real name, apparently, believe it or not), was voted NFL’s Dirtiest Player five years ago according to Wikipedia, and yet he still has a place in the team and a big bucks contract. That really tells you all you need to know. The sports culture, football especially, incubates and encourages that aggressive behavior from junior high school on. By the time these kids get to varsity, they are obnoxious, arrogant, socially overprivileged bullies of the highest order. Not all of them, of course; but a good proportion of them. They can get away with anything, because of course the most important thing for an educational institution is to develop a group of hooligans who can beat the neighboring school’s hooligans. So they get a lot of leeway.
The only unusual thing here is that the target was another player instead of some random beta male. My wife works in orthodontics, and she’s done more than one orthodontic emergency where some little nerdy kid comes in with his teeth dangling from the braces because someone testosterone jock used him as a punching bag. They really don’t think there’s anything wrong with it when they do it, either. And you can’t tell me that the nerdy kids provoked the jocks, either, unless the nerdy kid has some sort of particularly masochistic death wish. They learn to avoid these guys, because they know there’s no consequence for the bully.
But, Dwasifar, surely it can’t just be the guys, I hear you say. Don’t girls bully each other too? Well, in school, they sure do. And they’re much more creative about it than the guys. But girls keep their teeth. And I don’t think the girls’ sports teams create the same kind of macho brutishness that the guys’ teams seem to think is so necessary for victory. Although I do know one mother whose daughter suffered brain trauma due to a gratuitous kick in the head from a soccer opponent, so maybe that’s heading toward a dubious sort of equality. But I digress.
In the end, as long as the sports culture is what it is, and as long as there are literal billions of dollars changing hands in the promotion and sale of professional sports, none of this is really going to change. Incognito is going to get a slap on the wrist for his thuggish cruelty, and he’ll have a bad year or two until the audience forgets; then all will be forgiven and he’ll get to come back and start making vast tubs of money for the owners again. Just as with Michael Vick. Probably a lot faster than that, actually, because I’ll bet there are a lot of people who are willing to call Incognito’s human victim a pussy but won’t go that route for Vick’s innocent dogs. And so in the end we learn nothing, and we keep making celebrities out of assholes.