A random thought; maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin could’ve been “best friends”, while Martin also found that Incognito was an abusive prick.
In a word where black and white hot takes and opinions are insanely easy to come by, where sometimes people will take the unpopular opinion just to row against the tide, where political leanings and social issues tend to foul up and disrupt honest discussions just like this one, maybe, just maybe, there’s more shades of gray here than anyone would like to admit.
Maybe, when Jonathan Martin was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and as Lydon Murtha says in his take on this issue on The MMQB,Jonathan Martin came into the league as standoff-ish and reserved. He didn’t immediately bond with his fellow offensive lineman, which the teams leadership viewed as an issue.
Football teams can become very cliquish, and nowhere is there a bigger clique than with the offensive linemen. Coaches preach that continuity and trust are the key to success with offensive linemen, and so the offensive line because a miniature team within the team. The o-linemen do everything together. They eat together, they work out together, they hang out together. You’re forced to be in a group with 7-8 people, all with varying backgrounds, personalities and eccentricities, almost every day, almost all the time. Because that’s how you build a cohesive unit.
Maybe it’s possible that the veterans and the coaches took affront to Martin’s standoffish nature. And so they tasked Richie Incognito with trying to bring him out of his shell.
And maybe it’s possible that, over the course of two years, Incognito took that role a bit too far, at least in the mind of Martin.
It’s entirely possible that Richie Incognito tried to take Jon Martin under his wing. That they hung out. It’s entirely possibly that Incognito came to Martin’s defense when he got in a fight with Dion Jordan. It’s entirely possible that Martin would get down on himself when he had a bad practice, and that Incognito offered up some sort of encouragement. When Martin loafed, Incognito gave him shit.
It’s possible that Incognito thought he was doing the right thing, and all Martin saw was a dude that was supposed to be a friend and a mentor constantly bagging on him. It also seems likely that Martin wasn’t exactly well liked in the Dolphins locker room, by anyone. And so putting up with Incognito’s ribbing and his teammates attempts to “toughen him up” was just part of what Martin had to go through if he wanted to play football.
Maybe Joe Philbin and the other coaches did encourage Incognito to chide Jon Martin and to get him to show up to voluntary-mandatory minicamp. Oh, make no mistake, “voluntary” work outs in the NFL are always mandatory, and Martin being standoffish and not wanting to be with his teammates 24/7 is yet again looks bad.
And maybe Incognito had a little too much to drink, and drunk dialed Jonathan Martin, and left that voicemail. And maybe that’s the point where “Martin said “Hey, maybe this guy isn’t my best friend. Maybe this guys is kind of a dick.”
And maybe Martin later shared that voicemail, and other voicemails, less because he was fine being called a half-nigger and having another man say he was going to “slap his real mother”, and more because he felt he sort of had to. Because if he complained, he’d be accused of not being able to take a joke.
Maybe Jon Martin felt like he didn’t have an ally in the locker room that he could talk to. No one he could turn to and say “hey, I feel taken advantage.” Maybe Martin wasn’t okay with the fact that in his second year, he was still being summarily hazed by his teammates.
Meanwhile, Incognito and others in Miami’s lockerroom thought they were doing exactly what their job as teammates was, and coaches were fine with the job they were doing, because that’s how it’s supposed to be done. In the NFL, players are told that they have to “weed out weakness”, that this a “grown man’s” sport … because apparently being a “grown man” means “learning to eat shit and love the taste of it”.
And maybe the only way for it to end in a “manly” way would’ve been for Martin to haul off and knock Incognito out. Of course, given how unpopular Martin is, and how popular Incognito is, Martin knocking out his “best friend” could’ve just alienated him further, and “Big Weirdo” would’ve just looked weirder for not just accepting his teammates and coaches repeated attempts to toughen him up.
And so maybe, when Martin sat down at the table, and his teammates stood up and left because “he was becoming an illness”, as Murtha put it, Martin snapped. And then he couldn’t handle it anymore. And maybe Incognito did try to comfort him, but maybe Martin couldn’t feel comforted by a guy he didn’t feel respect him. And so Martin decided to leave.
Martin told the only people he felt he could tell was going on; his parents and his agent. And when his agent called Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, Ireland suggested Martin physically confront Incognito. Because, you know, Jeff Ireland’s a frakking moron.
And then the whole damn thing snowballed. It leaked, and Incognito got implicated, and since Incognito has an approval rating slightly worse than Original Sin in the NFL, people piled on him. The Dolphins players, who didn’t like Martin, piled on him instead. Joe Philbin lost control of the message, and Jeff Ireland is still an asshole.
Maybe this whole issue isn’t black and white. I’ve been in situations similiar to Martin, trapped between calling a guy or a girl my “best friend”, while also feeling like they treated me like shit, just to fit in and not be ostracized and not be lonely. I was no less a “man” for feeling that way. I was human. Unlike Martin, a few times I did snap, either physically or verbally, and didn’t just wind up losing my ” best friend”, but mutual friends, who couldn’t understand why the hell I cracked on my buddy, and pal. And those friends likely didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, but because I couldn’t speak up, in fear of given shit for not being able to “man up”, friendships get severed.
Maybe Jon Martin doesn’t really want to play football, and maybe Incognito needs to re-evaulate what he can and can’t say to teammates, because just about every other lockerroom in the league would’ve dealt with him from the start.
Maybe there’s a not a right person and a wrong person. Maybe these are just two people who couldn’t get a long and had a messy break-up, implicating several others.
Maybe, ya know, people are human, and make mistakes, and feel even if they do play THE MANLIEST OF MAN SPORTS.
Maybe it’s not black and white…but that won’t stop people from treating it like it is.