"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Incognito-Martin Story

The big NFL story this week is not about football, and not even about the Aaron Rodgers injury... it's about a falling out between two offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin.   To recap,

  • Martin left the team last week, claiming bullying, including racially-charged voicemail bullying from Incognito. 
  • Incognito was almost immediately suspended, and will likely be cut, even though he made the Pro Bowl last year.
  • The story got weirder yesterday when, almost to a man, the Dolphins players sided with Incognito, saying that he was like a "big brother" to Martin and they don't understand what Martin is talking about.

Here's a couple of interesting facts that are noteworthy:

  • Martin is a Stanford grad whose parents both went to Harvard.   He went to a very toney prep school in California... Harvard-Westlake.   In other words... he's upper-class.   This is a conjecture, but I would very strongly suspect that he has been steeped in liberalism since a young age... which in 2013 is both a therapeutic culture (note his rush to the hospital to deal with "emotional issues") and a minority-victimization culture (note his rush to put out a voicemail showing Incognito had used the n-word).   Incognito, meanwhile, appears to be a rough-tough public school kid.   He went to Nebraska.  
  • Re the voicemail.   It's from April 2013.   There are reports that Martin not only kept it for six months, he played it in the locker room for other players as a joke.   Now that's not to condone Incognito's language.   But if he knew Martin well enough to joke around, and Martin appeared to be able to take a joke, then it's pretty dirty pool to then turn around and publish it in a climate where a public accusation of racism basically ruins Incognito's career.   
  • I haven't seen this anywhere in the news, but a casual five-minute search of Twitter shows this picture from late September of Incognito and Martin together out on the town.   That's five months after the allegedly racist voicemail.   Martin sure doesn't seem like he is intimidated by Incognito, and he sure doesn't act the way I would expect a black man to act if he thought the white man standing next to him was a racist.  

Here's my take.   I don't know what this story is about.   I don't think it's really about racism or bullying or any of the other buzz words going around.   I think it might have something to do with class -- a rich kid from a cultured upbringing who went to elite schools suddenly being a kid in a locker room full of grown men who come from rougher backgrounds.  

I also think it might just be a very common human story... Martin wasn't happy with where he was in life, wasn't doing as well as he had hoped, didn't like it, but instead of making the decision to quit football (like this guy did just this week), decided to scapegoat someone else in a manner that would get him social approbation as a victim of racism and bullying.   As a litigator, the concept of blaming someone else when things go wrong seems very familiar to me.

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