Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Piece By SBC's Chris Weinberger

By Chris Weinberger 

In light of the current issue rocking the NFL, the alleged bullying in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room involving threats to Jonathan Martin from teammate Richie Incognito, it is easy to get caught up in a “He’s right. No he’s right” mentality. Many, most vocally from teammates of Incognito, have come out to defend Incognito’s character, while others, including former college teammates of Martin at Stanford, have tried to garner sympathy for the alleged victim of the bullying scandal. However, this situation is a lot bigger than declaring one side “right” over the other.
The mere fact that this has materialized to such a national headline represents a growing trend in the sports industry. This trend is apparent in the NBA, exemplified by Derrick Rose’s decision to sit out a season despite medical clearance and Jason Collins’s coming out. It has even penetrated the NFL in recent years with stricter rules to protect its players. This trend: sports have evolved from its stereotypical jockey nature to an industry with vulnerable human beings rather than athletic machines.
The fact that this current bullying scandal has become headline news is due to the fact that it is something that we have simply never acknowledged. Just like when Derrick Rose sat out, shedding light on the fact that an athlete is allowed to feel psychologically compromised by a devastating physical injury and that you do not have to sacrifice your body in an industry that applauds those who perform at the cost of their health; or when Jason Collins revealed he was gay, showing us that homosexuality exists within the uber-masculine industry; or when Roger Goodell set out to make the NFL safer for its players, setting a precedent that athletes are not gladiators sent to fight to the death.
This recent scandal has itself brought another issue to the public, that athletes are not robots built for our amusement, but real human being with real feelings. Yes, feelings do exist within professional sports, even one as masculine as football, where its players are constantly trying to knock each others’ heads off.
To those who claim that emotions do not have a place within sports: Why not? Are emotions okay when Kevin Garnett screams at his teammates, or when Lou Piniella would go off on tirades? Or how about when Eli Manning trembles as he holds up the Lombardi Trophy? With so many other emotions flying around in this industry, it should not be shocking that many of these players are in fact very sensitive.

So even if this situation were to turn out as a complete over exaggeration, it has brought light to an issue that has most likely been swept under the carpet for quite some time in the sports industry. The helmets may unintentionally dehumanize these players, but with time we will begin to realize just how human these athletes really are.

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