Bullying is no joke. Whether it is a professional sports locker room, a school playground or even in one’s own home, it is something that should never occur. It is an epidemic that has plagued our society for longer than we should be willing to admit and one that has led to unnecessary loss of life.
Those are indisputable facts. And if you feel the necessity to debate them, you might want to look in the mirror. You’ll likely see a bully staring right back at you.
With that said, the Richie Incognito story of hate and racism points to more than just the problem of bullying of athletes by athletes. It points to the fact that we do nothing to prepare our athletes for the real world yet expect them to act like model citizens while part of it.
I would never lump all athletes in the same sleazy boat that Incognito is currently trying to shovel water out of as fast as possible. There are plenty of athletes, even in our own city, who have become well adjusted adults despite being part of the athletics obsessed machine we’ve created. Guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Grant Hill, Shane Doan and many more that I don’t have time to mention have given everything they have on and off the field to be great.
But what about the athletes who don’t have the natural inclination, or the parental influence, to go in that direction? Is the environment we’ve created for them for being superior athletes starting at a young age one that is conducive to producing a well adjusted adult?
We tell athletes they’re great and above the rules, televise their press conference leaving high school and then encourage them to leave before they obtain their college degree to be paid millions in their teens and early 20s. Seems like a recipe for complete disaster rather than success.
We act surprised when these people we’ve built up and placed on pedestals for simply being genetically gifted fall from grace for being mentally deficient. We’ve failed them in never forcing them to assimilate into society.
Incognito deserves to be questioned for the words that came out of his mouth and the action he choose to perpetrate. But maybe, just maybe, before we spew hatred in his direction, we should question the system we’ve helped cultivate.
Bullying is no joke. Neither is the fact that we place flawed human beings in a position to be idolized. We should expect the fall, but we shouldn’t revel in it because we, as part of sports, have helped it happen.