Bullying In Sports and Life In The 21st Century

I know Ty has already written about the subject, but hey, you can never have enough HOT SPROTS TAKES, am I right? But before I get to football, bullying and this entire Miami Dolphins fiasco, let me talk for a bit about pornography.

Earlier this year, the site kink.com came under fire from former, um, “employees” about how they ran their business. Charges included “two former models allege they were denied workers’ compensation when injured on Kink sets” and “workers claim to have been terminated or chose to resign when they questioned Kink’s business practices, including the use of an erectile dysfunction drug called Trimix.” Or, what us in the non-having-sex-on-camera-for-money business call “porn”. But that’s not the interesting part (well, it’s sort of interesting). That comes from one of the performers on Kink:

Some of Kink’s current problems may stem from dangers inherent to the industry. Sebastian Keys, a performer and assistant director on Kink’s gay sites, explained that the use of male enhancement drugs is common throughout the gay porn industry.

Now there’s a term we’ve heard in football before: dangers inherent to the industry. But not for teammates telling each other about plans of defecation to the throat; we’ve heard it about concussions. It’s mainly the reason I don’t care about brain trauma to football players. You want to shame the NFL into providing better health care? Sure, have a ball. But you can’t argue with the fact that choosing to bash your head repeatedly for a living was probably a poor choice of an occupation if health is a major concern of yours. Did the NFL lie and say “hey, nothing’s wrong with your brain, it’s all good”? Yes, just like management of Kink probably told girls “nah, nobody will see this, now put the gag back in your mouth and get back to work”. It’s dirty, cheap and disgusting, but everybody signed up and got paid. It was the business. All the scum still wasn’t as nasty as working retail.

Enter Jonathan Martin. Unlike brain injuries, it seems that Martin was unaware of another danger inherent to the industry: dudes. Big dudes. Big, angry, violent dudes, often from very rough backgrounds. Martin isn’t like those dudes. He went to a private high school, then on to Stanford. The amount of relatives he has that have gone to Harvard nears the double digits. I don’t bring this up so I can call him “soft”. I bring this up to illustrate what kind of life Martin must have had before joining the NFL. It can be reasonably assumed that he had little to no contact with any big, angry, violent dudes often from very rough backgrounds. So he must have not known that such men tend to act in ways that differ from those in ivory towers. That’s fine. The NFL is not for him. It’s dirty, cheap and disgusting.

Except, of course, that is not how this story played out at all. Martin couldn’t just bow out. It’s the NFL, and media needed answers. So here comes the voicemails, the stories, the press release. Next come the cries of victimization. But what was Martin a victim of? Dangers inherent to the industry.

This is when the story becomes very 2013. Football is the kind of work environment where jokes about impregnating one’s sister is seen as water cooler chatter. Most of us “normal” people find this uncool. Though football is also the kind of work environment where they make newbies buy expensive dinners and shave their heads and force them to carry heavy equipment around. At my job, this would be more than uncool. This would be grounds for a lawsuit. But football isn’t a normal work environment, is it? No, it’s archaic and brutal, much like the game itself. But nobody lifts a finger to type a single outraged tweet about haircuts and thousand dollar dinners. Hell, HBO promotes it on Hard Knocks. This is the culture of a profession that is predicated on violence. If we attempt to change this culture, we put in danger the Roman-esque gladiator style that makes football appealing in the first place. Hey, if everyone signs up and gets paid and understands the risks, who are we to judge, right?

Jonathan Martin and the waves of journalists and @sportsfan4lyfepraisejesus posters that have dominated the trajectory of this story don’t care about all of that. They have already set up moral standards for everything in life, and will make public any infractions of said value system. You see, everything must be for everybody. There cannot be pits in society where morals are erased and value is only quantified by performance. Well, except for the fact that it happens everywhere. It happened to me. PERSONAL ANECDOTE TIME!

This year I was drafted to the big leagues. Well, promoted to the corporate office. Monday through Friday, 9-5. The good life. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that my coworkers were monsters. They backstabbed. They lied. They didn’t do their work and then framed others for their own laziness. They were unqualified. I flourished. I had talent. I finished more projects in four months than my boss had in the last year. So she undermined me. Came in early and destroyed my work. She hated me. Hazed me. Bullied me. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t work like that. I was unhappy at home. My wife suffered from my sour mood. So I quit.

I thought about exposing the corrupt little sociopaths that ran the marketing department. Sending emails to whoever, contacting HR. But it occurred to me that the problem wasn’t them; it was me. The corporate lifestyle ran in a way that I could not cope with. The lying, the hate, the at-any-cost mindset it takes to bury the person in front or beside you. I wanted no part of it. Have at it, corporate scumbags. It’s too dirty for me. I’ll work retail.

This is the lesson that Martin and many others in the 21st century can’t seem to grasp: not everything is for everybody. We work so hard to get somewhere, only to find that over the rainbow has a lot more evil monkeys and a lot less lovable munchkins. But life isn’t a fairytale and a lot of the time the wicked witch is just too much to overcome. We could file a class-action lawsuit against Oz and win on moral grounds, or we could just click our fucking heels, go home and find a better suited corner for our particular lifestyle. I held on to a lot of rage about that job, but I’m happy I quit. I’m going back to school and getting into something that’s better for me.

There’s nothing wrong with Richie Incognito or NFL culture or telling someone that you are going to “cum in your sister’s cunt”. Not if it that is generally accepted within the culture in which you are living. It’s only wrong if someone comes up to you on the street and tells you that. But when you enter that world, don’t expect to change it or for it to change for you. Chalk it up to bad luck, that the profession you thought you wanted turned out to be too ugly for your personality. You have no right to force your own set of values on anybody else.

But if you really want to work there, if it means everything, if all your money and college degrees still won’t buy you the happiness that not really working for a living can give you, then I have one piece of advice: put the gag back in your mouth and get back to work.

– JFish

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