The Herald Bulletin

November 21, 2013

Jim Bailey: The ramifications of bullying a 320-pound NFL lineman

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Bullying is one of the latest buzzwords in the realm of interpersonal relationships these days. And it’s even spilled over into the violent macho world of the National Football League.

Jonathan Martin, all 320 pounds of him, had quite enough of the harassment being dished out by a Miami Dolphins teammate, Richie Incognito, who was suspended by the team pending an investigation of the situation. Seems Incognito not only rode his rookie teammate unmercifully but sent him a threatening email that used the dreaded N-word, according to reports. By now I imagine Incognito may be wishing he had gone the direction his name implies.

Bullying in some form or another has always been with us. I was picked on as a kid in Minnesota, where as the only child of older parents I was something of a wimpy kid in a macho world. And the why-don’t-you-pick-on-somebody-your-own-size mantra didn’t apply, since I was usually bigger than the kids who were picking on me.

Perhaps surprisingly, it never got me down. For one thing I had two loving parents who strongly affirmed me even when I didn’t affirm myself. And I never got to the place where I didn’t believe things would get better rather than worse.

Two major turning points helped me mature as I reached adulthood. First, I found myself in a college situation where I was accepted and valued as an individual. Then I was drafted into the Army, where I was surrounded with others who were all in the same boat and who had to learn quickly to fend for themselves.

Obviously in today’s world, where allegedly bullied individuals have struck back violently, not everyone is so fortunate. Even 320-pound linemen aren’t always able to cope with enforced adversity.

All too often in society, the physically strong are led to victimize the weak or the different. In the case of ethnic minorities whose self-esteem may be in question, one of those buzzwords may be enough to touch a raw nerve, whether meant as a provocation, an ill-conceived motivational tool or a thoughtless gesture.

The real losers go far beyond Martin. The Dolphins, in a league where team unity is absolutely necessary to achieve any degree of success, now find themselves in disarray. If Incognito’s actions constituted some sort of personal vendetta, his peers and superiors certainly should have been aware of the disruptive influence. If it reflected team policy, the seeds were sown for self-destruction.

Where do they go from here? Those involved need to figure out what life is all about and where the pieces fit into the puzzle. Otherwise not much will be accomplished on the field at Sun Life Stadium, and the rest of the year will be an exercise in frustration and animosity.

As Ben Franklin’s famous quote from the beginnings of our nation goes, “We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at