Grow up, Mr. Incognito
The first day of football practice my freshman year of high school, the team met in the stands of Roscoe Eades Stadium.
It was the sort of meeting that happens at the beginning of every sports season.
The coaches talked about expectations.
The coaches also talked about procedure – you know, get a physical if haven't already, show up for practice on time, behave in school and do your homework.
One little tidbit sticks out in my mind as I think about the bullying situation in the NFL where Jonathan Martin – a 312-pound offensive lineman – is accusing his Dolphins teammate Richie Incognito – another 300-plus pound lineman – of harassment.
It's sparked a debate about the practices of NFL players throughout the league. You know, what's appropriate motivation, and what is bullying.
Before I try to pretend to understand the minds of professional athletes, let's go back to the bleachers in August of 1996.
The coaches discussed the locker room situation. For those that haven't been inside the stadium – at least the stadium as it was organized in 1996 – there were two rooms separated by the showers.
At the south end was a smaller room stuffed with lockers for the freshmen. On the other side of the bathroom and showers was the larger sophomore and varsity locker room. At the far north end of the stadium was the office for the coaches.
One of the coaches mentioned that freshmen were at the bottom of the totem poll, but that he didn't think that older players would take advantage of that.
But, it was probably best to stay out of the other teams' locker room unless you had to get to the coaches office.
See, boys will be boys, and even the most trusting coaches know that high school boys can make poor decisions.
Wouldn't you know it that just a day or two later, I got to test that theory. I had to talk to the coaches about practices that I would miss because of a family trip to Atlanta.
At that point, I was 150 pounds and 5-10. Decent size for a freshman, but nowhere near as big as some of the varsity players. Gulp.
So I went.
And you know what happened next?
I walked through the varsity side and not one of them noticed, and the same was true when I walked back through after the meeting.
A few years later, I was on the varsity team, and I don't think I ever gave the freshmen a second thought when they wandered through the locker room.
I think as a freshman, I sort of expected to be picked on. When I was a senior, it didn't interest me to pick on them.
See, I grew up, and so did the people around me.
As far as making players tougher, we dealt with that on the field by practicing harder. I certainly had to get used to the physical play of high school football.
I didn't need any teammates yelling at me, or calling me names, or threatening me (much less my family).
Neither did any of the other players on my team, even ones who developed slower.
So Mr. Incognito, and your apologists. I don't buy that your actions were with Martin's best interests and the team's best interests in mind.
I just think while the people around you grew up, you just grew bigger.
See, at 6-foot-3, 319 pounds, you are a big guy, but you seem to be a very small man.