I suspect by now, nearly everyone has heard about the bullying incident between Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Martin walked out on his team a few weeks ago, due to repeated bullying incidents, and, allegedly, Richie Incognito was the instigator.
My next statement may shock you.
I’m glad Richie Incognito bullied Jonathan Martin.
I know exactly what you’re thinking…”But, Mike, you’ve been a staunch anti-bullying advocate…how could you possibly be glad about this?”
Let me explain.
The day after this news story broke, I was watching ESPN2 while getting ready for work. The always interesting sports talk show, “Mike & Mike” was on. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this show, it is hosted by Mike Greenberg, a former Chicago sports writer who is now one of the hosts on “Sportscenter,” and Mike Golic, a former NFL player who and went to work for ESPN after his retirement a number of years back. The show is both informative and entertaining.
Anyway, the hot topic for the day was the Richie Incognito / Jonathan Martin story. After much discussion, Mike Greenberg said something that really bothered me. While I could not find the exact quote, he said something to the effect that that he “had to have a very serious discussion with my kids at the dinner table about this last night.”
My initial thought was, “Well, why didn’t you talk to them before about bullying? Kids are committing suicide because of bullying, why haven’t you talked to them about this already?”
Let me be clear: I don’t know Mike Greenberg from Adam. I’ve never met the man (although my wife often says that, based on his on-air persona, we are basically the same person.) From reading his books and hearing him talk about his kids, it seems to me that he is a very good father. But I couldn’t understand why, after all of the previous bullying stories we’ve all read about in the paper, it took this particular incident to convince him to have a discussion with his kids about bullying.
And then it became clear: Sports.
There are very few things in the world that can almost unfailingly bring people together. Sports is one of them. Stick two guys who have never met in a room together, and more often than not, the conversation will turn to sports. If you don’t play sports, you can still have a favorite baseball team. You can hate the head coach of your favorite football team. People who’d never cared about golf before all of a sudden started to watch it because of Tiger Woods. Shoot, even if you are the least athletic person in the world, you can still play fantasy sports and build your own team as if you were the GM of a real team.
After thinking about what Greenberg said, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be angry that it took a sports-related issue for him to have this discussion with his kids. Should he have had it sooner? Sure. But if it took a sports-related bullying issue to make him have this discussion with his kids, then it is very likely that the same discussion happened around other dinner tables as well. Not only that, but if it didn’t, then by Greenberg saying he had this discussion, then others who hadn’t had that discussion with their kids may have after he said he did.
And that’s a good thing.
If this one incident is the catalyst for families to discuss bullying, if this one incident can reduce the number of bullying incidents around the country, if this one incident can stop a child from committing suicide, then yeah…I am, in some way, glad that the Jonathan Martin incident happened.