Incognito Leaves Me Wondering

Richie Incognito.

Venture anywhere in the sports-social media landscape and you’re sure to find links, photos, video, old stories and opinions galore on this man. Do a quick Google Search and you’ll find stories like these:

It’s an ever-evolving story from within the cocoon of the NFL and its locker rooms. It can be described in one word: bullying.

Initial reaction was one of surprise and non-surprise. Surprise that this type of story was actually coming out of the NFL. And, non-surprise because it is the NFL.

Sports and their locker rooms are sacred places. Sacred in that, what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room. One doesn’t need to have played professional sports to know that. Teams are a “family”. The bad stuff stays “in the family”. Had Jonathan Martin not stepped forward, we never would have known to this extent of what goes on “in the family”.

What doesn’t surprise me is that it happens. Hearing stories through the years of rookie hazing in all sports and understanding the macho culture that exists in professional men’s sports, no, it doesn’t surprise me.

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That macho, tough-as-nails culture of the NFL is part of what’s made it the king of all sports in the United States. The big hits on highlight shows everywhere. Players getting bigger, stronger, faster. Primal screams during weightlifting or after a huge play.  Bragging rights over rivals at every level of play, including Fantasy Football. Teams who are woven into the fabric of blue-collar, hard-working cities. It all adds up to form the popularity of the NFL.

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Is it bullying? Or, is it part of an acceptable culture that makes the NFL what it is? Before answering that question, I checked the Twitter mentions for Incognito today. Why people feel the need to tweet an athlete like this is still mind-boggling to me. (I’ll be writing again on that topic soon.) Here is a sampling of what you might see (warning: language):

RELATED: “Prepared for Football’s Future

There have been statements that indicate Incognito was bullied as a child. Kids can be cruel, especially with a name that can be made into jokes. Believe me, I’ve heard all of the “Sunny” jokes to last a lifetime and then some. People aren’t born bullies. They’ve been bullied themselves. Is that what’s going on in Incognito’s case? I don’t know. There are still too many untold stories within this story. There will be more to come.

BUT…

What we have loved about the NFL is what has come under intense scrutiny with the rise of social media. Without social media, would we be discussing the concussion issue (litigation) to the extent that we do? No. Social media helps bring previously under-reported information to light for the masses to consume. Consume as nutrient-filled gospel.

The question I continue to wonder is that as the underbelly of the NFL is exposed, can it remain the king in this social media age we live in?

For the near future, yes. However, what effect will these underbelly stories have on parents with sons that are 8, 9 or 10? Don’t be so quick to jump to a ‘Yes’ answer. The question won’t be answered for another 20 years. 

It does leave me wondering.

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CadChica Sports

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