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Ignorance at highest of levels

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published November 10. 2013 4:00AM

Sports' latest cause célèbre comes from a familiar haunt, this country's football culture, with newly elected patron saint Richie Incognito. The Nebraska reject. Which is saying something, given how Nebraska has produced notable humanitarians Irving Fryar, Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter, among others, all in the name of happy Saturdays in Lincoln.

And yet as the story deepens, Incognito has become nothing more than best supporting actor in the ongoing farce. That's because the real villain has emerged from the weeds: the purveyors of the football culture.

They'd be amusing, the purveyors would, were they not so pathetic. And sociopathic. The football culture is about feigning the tough guy act. It is about perpetuating Neanderthal traditions with the most arrogant, proprietary savoir faire of the inner circle. We get it, you don't. You didn't play. So how could you know? It is about trumpeting the cowardice of silence and defending the culture at all cost, regardless of whether societal boundaries are crossed. Or obliterated.

Think about this story. Jonathan Martin is a Stanford educated man, a beacon for the National Football League and its growing list of felons. Ah, but he must be toughened, say his coaches, who also may or may not belong within three miles of any meaningful conversation with him.

And so the Miami Dolphins summoned Incognito, who honored his past performances by "toughening" his teammate by referring to Martin's race, among other offenses you need a scorecard to chart.

And yet the reaction?

"I'm not sure how everybody will feel about him," Miami left tackle Bryant McKinnie told ESPN about Martin's possible return. "That was his situation and he felt the need to do it, I guess, so be it. Some things you like to keep in house."

That's right, Bryant. Best to keep it in house. Best not to expose a bully. Because all those public service announcements we see now about bullying and hazing? Just words.

What's really important is that the Miami Dolphins have lost key members of their offensive line.

And it's Martin's fault.

Because he violated the sanctity of the locker room.

Dear Bryant: Next time the urge to speak to flies at you … duck.

Then there's receiver Mike Wallace, another forward thinker.

"I don't feel like any hazing or anything like that was going on," he told the Miami Herald. "It's normal in football. People doing what they do on a normal basis. I don't feel like anybody was being bullied or hazed. It's what football teams do, like playing with your brothers. It's just part of the game of football."

And that makes it right.

Because it's part of the football culture.

And we're the ones, the outsiders, the non-players, who don't get it.

More from Wallace: "I don't feel like (Incognito) was out of hand. I wish he was here right now."

This is the same samaritan who felt the need to unburden himself last year via Twitter about Jason Collins, the gay NBA player.

"All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH," Wallace wrote.

Pretty much all you need to know.

This story and its tentacles should scare the hell out of us. Makes you wonder exactly how all of us nobodies are supposed to teach kids about bullying and hazing. We can huff and puff about how they're a pox on society. And every word gets undermined when they see blissful ignorance at the game's highest level.

Maybe somebody could get Roger Goodell away from dollar signs for just a few minutes to address this. Note to the commish: in the absence of truth, presumption and speculation fill in the blanks. You need to establish a new truth, pal. You need to establish a new culture: Richie Incognito, a symbol of the existing football culture, won't be tolerated.

Throw him out.


The union wants to fight that?

Free country.

Because right now, commish, the fissure between the football culture and societal norms is swallowing common sense.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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