Eric Wickstrom

Bully Ban Is More Than A Bit Fishy

Created on Nov. 05, 2013 8:54 PM EST

Richie Incognito is gone. Banned from the NFL forever it seems. The only question left is why?

At first we were told it’s because he was a bully. A bully? In a football locker room? Seemed highly implausible to me. After all, all the giant meathead jocks I ever knew were usually the most well-adjusted, even-tempered, sweetest guys you’d ever want to meet. It was those AV Club and Debate Team hooligans you had to watch out for! Richie Incognito was a bully? Yeah right!

A day went by and it turned out he was more than just a bully. Turned out he was also an extortionist! He made rookies buy him meals. And doughnuts! Everyone was outraged. The nerve of a 300-pound man demanding to be fed. What a giant, bullying, extorting, fat bastard. Get rid of him!

Turned out all of this was OK. At least that’s what dozens of current and former players had to say about it. Seemed veterans riding rookies and being borderline abusive is pretty commonplace in NFL locker rooms. They consider it character-building exercises. Much like your corporate retreats where someone falls backwards into your outstretched arms. Except in the NFL, instead of catching you they let you hit the ground, strip you naked and duct tape you to a goalpost. Or throw you into a tub of ice water. Whatever. All that new character you now possess? You’re welcome. And the meals? Turns out that’s been happening for at least three decades in the NFL. Maybe forever. And again, par for the course. Suck it up rookie and hand over your credit card.

So Incognito was a bully and an extortionist but he still wasn’t operating outside the unwritten rules. However, he was still gone. Banned from the Dolphins for the rest of the year. And still we wondered why?

Reminders of how Incognito has made the list of the NFL’s dirtiest players numerous times made it to air. I thought to myself, so what? The fact is, there’s more than one dirty player in the NFL. So many in fact, there’s need for an actual list. Unless every player on that list is subject to being banned I don’t want to hear about it.  And in the end the list is utter nonsense anyway because the number one player on it is Ndamukong Suh and if Suh hit the market as a free agent every team in the NFL would make an effort to sign him.

Another day went by and a leaked text of a voice message made the air. When I read it I recognized it immediately. It was the work of every moron I’ve ever known. Threats of killing someone and defecating in their mouth. Cursing and racist overtones. The watermarks of any well-established bonehead. It didn’t shock me or even mildly surprise me. It’s what I would expect the level of most locker room conversation to rise to.

But wait one minute! Richie Incognito used the “N-word!” It was right there in the message. He called Jonathan Martin an N-word. This was the final piece of evidence anyone needed to support the lifetime ban of this clearly racist, bullying extortionist.

Dozens of talking heads on television acted yesterday like Ralphie’s mom in “A Christmas Story” does when she learns he said “fudge.” They lost their minds! If they could have stuck a huge bar of soap in Richie Incognito’s mouth and let him choke on it until he was blind they would have done so happily. However, was he a racist? Or was he using the N-word the way it gets used in professional sports locker rooms 400 times a day? By black and white players. As a misguided use of humor? According to all the talking heads he was a through and through racist. Just like Riley Cooper (who’s still playing). Throw him out!

Strangely though, the very next day, two of Incognito’s black teammates came to his defense. WR Mike Wallace wished out loud he was still there. CB Will Davis said of Incognito, “he’s a funny guy” and added, “everybody loves him.”

Well, clearly not everyone.

Jonathan Martin doesn’t seem to care for him at all.

Jonathan Martin felt threatened and bullied by Richie Incognito. Martin is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound man. He couldn’t have stood up to someone his own size? When I think of bullies, I think of bigger, stronger people preying on the weaker, smaller among them. I’ve never known a bully to pick on someone his own size. Hell, that’s what we tell bullies to do. Go pick on someone your own size! Seems that’s what Incognito did.

Martin didn’t like his text and voice messages. Couldn’t he have blocked Incognito’s number?

Richie Incognito crossed a line. Jonathan Martin overreacted. Both things can be true.

None of this is meant to defend Incognito. He’s clearly an unstable moron. A bully and an idiot. However, there’s at least one of him in every NFL locker room in America. If we began to ban bullies from football most high schools and colleges won’t be able to field a team next fall. The NFL would cease to exist within 10 years.

What can also be true is that Richie Incognito is such an over the top bully, extortionist, racist and dirty player that he stands by himself among all his peers as the worst example the NFL has to offer. I’d just like someone to prove it.

Or I’d like someone to explain what, beyond the NFL’s never-ending image concerns, this whole thing is all about.

Because, in the end, Richie Incognito isn’t the NFL’s real problem. The real problem is that Richie Incognito is the NFL.

Week 9 Late Hits

With all the midseason MVP talk, I found it off that Aaron Rogers's name never came up. I think the Packers are about to learn the hard way it should have every time.

It’s too bad Tampa Bay and Jacksonville don’t play each other this season. It may be the only chance either has to win a game.

Either Tom Brady is back to being Tom Brady or the Pittsburgh Steelers are as bad as they’ve ever been.

Kansas City’s defense outscored its offense 14-9. They may be the most underwhelming 9-0 team ever.

San Diego throwing two fade routes from the one yard line with 30 seconds to go and two timeouts remaining will be hard to beat for worst play calling of 2013.

The Jets have a real chance to win nine or 10 games this season. Not bad for a team that opened the year with 130/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Atlanta was 14/1. Houston 18/1. And my favorite, the Giants, were 25/1.

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