Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Nov 2013

Man Up

Brian Phillips of Grantland expertly buries the NFL's warrior culture.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 08 Nov 2013

39 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2014, 2:14am by jordan espa


by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 2:35am

I get really tired of the abuse of language entailed in making the term "warrior" a synonym for "idiot", and, yes, I know Phillips was mocking that very thing.

by ClemsonMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 11:05am

Martin seems to be a guy that would be successful outside the NFL as well, and when you have options, why would you put up with that crap?

It amazes me when people justify it by saying hazing occurs everywhere. The example I got from another engineer was "I was hazed. When I started I got low level assignments, and if someone had to come in on the weekend, I had to do it".

That's working your way up the ladder through actual work related tasks. Not hazing. And yes, I verbally abused him with words like "Arrogant" and "Entitled" (and possibly about GT not installing any work ethic).

by Theo :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 11:49am

I don't think sarcasm and cynism is the tone to go with with subjects like these (bullying, mental health problems, suicide, racism).

by Pied :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 12:39pm

Dunno about cynicism but sarcasm, I think that's definitely a tone to go with on subjects like these. There's no more effective way to get a point across to someone who isn't amenable to your argument from the start.

by ClemsonMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 12:58pm

Agreed. Sarcasm to make a point is satire.

Time to BBQ babies to deal with poverty!

by solaufein :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 3:19pm

I thought the tone and language of the article was spot on. I felt that it was a proper response to those that are dismissing Martin and his allegations.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:13pm

I just hope the worthwhile messages behind this don't get totally lost if it turns out Martin made the whole thing up.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 3:23pm

What I continue to find interesting is how complicated this issue really is. At first everyone wanted it to be a simple "hazing is terrible, let's throw out Incognito and celebrate Martin." But it's not turning out to be that simple. There's some evidence the voicemails were a joke--tasteless, but still a joke that Martin took as such, at least for a time. And he was apparently doing some of the same things he didn't like others doing to him. Tough to know exactly what happened.

And the talk of him needing to man up, while certainly harsh, may actually have some truth to it. Professional football is a tough guy's game where guys say and do things on a daily basis that would be unheard of in most any other workplace environment. So the comparisons to other workplaces or kids in school don't really apply. At its core, it will come down to whether Martin was singled out for much worse treatment than was the norm or whether he was being treated basically the same as everybody else. If it's the former, something will have to be done to discipline those responsible. But if it's the latter, it's really more just Martin's decision he didn't like NFL football any more rather than it being somebody's fault.

by morganja :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:39pm

It's becoming less complicated to me. It has all the traditional textbook aspects of bullying.

by After the Crash (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 5:22pm

There are times when Occam's Razor (most likely explanation is the less complicate/simple answer) and then there's more than meets the eye.

Case in point, I have a buddy that's a cop. He got a call that 2 Caucasian guys were beat up and being chased by 2 Mexican guys. Simple situation, no? Just arrest the 2 guys who beat up the other 2 guys. Right?

Wrong. He arrived on scene and arrested all 4 of them. Why?

Turns out, the 2 Caucasian guys wanted to make money, but didn't know how. One of them had the bright idea to sell drugs....but they didn't have any drugs. So, they decide to set up a deal and rob the dealers....but they didn't have any weapons. So, they just got a couple of 2x4's (wood). Also, turns out they were not skilled in the art of hand-to-hand combat. The 2x4s were taken from them, they got beat up, and were chased through the streets. That's when the cops were called.

So the way the situation in Miami is playing out, there's probably a LOT more than meets the eye and it won't be simple.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 5:53pm

In what textbook do people mistake the bullied for best friends of the bullier? Maybe the rest of the lineman would back Incognito because they were in on it, but what about Tannehill and Hartline?

by morganja :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 7:24pm

It's textbook. The bully takes the victim 'under his wing'. He 'jokes' with him, intimidates him, plays 'pranks' on him, manipulates him, forces him to do things he doesn't want to do, and makes his life a living hell.
Look it up. If people aren't paying attention, it might seem as if they are always hanging out together, joking with each other, though all the jokes are malicious and only go one way.
The victim feels like he is a prisoner.

by edge (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 2:33am

The bullying textbook was probably written by nerds who wouldn't be able to bully their way out of a wet paper bag.

by dbostedo :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:15pm

I've seen "friends" like that, and have been surprised that the bullied don't do something about it - including just ending their "friendship" and not hanging out anymore. I guess there's a mental factor to it that most people (myself included) don't understand.

by Just Another Steve (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 9:02pm

The reason Martin hung out with Incognito was because he felt like he didn't have a choice. They were on the same team and Martin probably felt like the best way to deal with the bullying was to pretend it didn't bother him and that Incognito was his friend. It's basically a form of appeasement. It isn't an effective strategy, but it is a common one.

by ClemsonMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:44pm

Just because something is a certain way, does not mean it should stay that way, or that it has any benefit. And everyone does it is no defense at all.

Want to make someone tougher mentally and physically? Develop drills and competition directly related to tough performance. Talking crap and threatening to rape someone's sister does not speak to one's toughness or work to create it in others.

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 9:02pm

I just can't agree with this talk of 'manning up'. There is nothing manly or adult about hazing. Squiggy frat boys haze. Marching bands haze. It has little to do with toughness and more to do with cliquey insiders lording it over newcomers with juvenile pranks. It reeks of teenage boys bragging over the size of their weenies more than professionalism.

Why does hazing still exist? Most college campuses have banned it, although we've seen (sadly) that it hasn't gone away, resulting in the death of a drum major at a Florida university not so long ago. Hazing is about kids making other kids do stupid things just to 'fit in'. And there lies the problem. The hazing culture is prone to one-upmanship, leading to more untenable and dangerous pranks -- and it sounds like the Dolphins went over the line in this case.

Furthermore, texting or phoning in death threats to people or their family is not something anyone should have to live with, considering how many people follow through on them these days. If you or I were to do it, we could expect a quick visit from law enforcement.

You tell me: if your co-workers or your boss demanded that you sacrifice a year's salary (or even a month's), what would be your response?

by morganja :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 11:31pm

That reminds me of when I first got to College after the army. I was approached to join a fraternity, and asked them what it was about. They told me that I would be hazed, pay them money and then be part of their fraternity. It seemed like the stupidest thing I had ever heard of at the time.
I can't imagine that the college kids were going to toughen me up in some way the drill sergeants had missed.
I also note the world of difference between my experience in Basic Training and hazing. The sergeants made us confident in ourselves and proud to be soldiers. What exactly did the Dolphins think they were accomplishing?

by Jerry :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:10am

There is a line between acculturation and hazing. The drill sergeant tearing the recruits down looks like hazing, but when they're built back up as military men, it's understandable. There is some use for a football team having its rookies carry pads and fetch coffee and even buy the occasional dinner, as a way of letting kids who come in as All-Americans know that they're going to have to earn respect again at a whole new level.

Then you have what the Saints did to Cam Cleeland (http://tinyurl.com/ppu4k6m from the LA Times), which falls on the wrong side of the line.

by After the Crash (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 12:44pm

Wouldn't even bother with a frat after the military.

Speaking of which, what was your MOS?

by morganja :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 1:52pm

12B Combat Engineer. Sometimes it seems like a hundred years ago now and I was an 11E Mule Train Operator....

by After the Crash (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 6:05pm

Hmmm, 11 series is infantry, but the E designation isn't used anymore. So that must be awhile back. 12B are now in Bradleys, so you're were probably in 113's or light. Hat tip to sappers.

by morganja :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 8:44pm

I was kidding about the 11E Mule Train Operator. I was a 12B.

by tuluse :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 1:08am

"And the talk of him needing to man up, while certainly harsh, may actually have some truth to it."

Well the Dolphins sure did a bang up job of it, didn't they?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 10:26am

Agreed. There are many ways to go between going to the authorities and getting into a fist fight in a hostile environment. And a hostile environment does not necessarily mean you're being singled out and bullied. I know people who won't drive a car in Mexico city because they can't handle the hostility. It's not personal and they know it, so they just don't go there.

Let's wait and see what the results of the investigation are.

The man with no sig

by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:35pm

Not sure if the tone and language is appropriate. Not that he isn't getting his point across, just thing it's adding fuel to the fire. Not excusing Incognito (because, well, there is no excuse), but the situation raises more questions than answers.

Aside from all the sound bites and near real-time news reporting, where was the coaching staff? With all the people around the team, no one noticed anything? Why didn't/did Martin go to the coaches? Was the report that a coach ordered Incognito to "toughen up" Martin true? Which coach? Did that coach tell Philbin or Sherman? Was it true that Martin called GM Jeff Ireland?

by jfsh :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:41pm

I thought the tone and language were appropriate. A harsh way of conveying the message, to be sure, but a very effective satire of the inherent idiocy underlying what he's calling "warrior culture." Football may contain a lot of aggression and violence by nature, but it's worth examining what that aggression is popularly directed against, and why the direction is so selective.

by Cro-Mags :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 6:23pm

Is this an issue when the other team does the name calling, intimidation and bullying too?

by Sisyphus :: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 6:49pm

There is a difference between being tough and being mean. I have known both types and they to not cross, the tough guys are not typically mean and the mean are never tough. Mean people are mean out of a need to be seen a superior. Tough people are just that, they endure and how others feel about them is much less important than how they feel about themselves.

by Clavis (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 7:44am

So, Martin plays game after game for the Dolphins, but somehow players and coaches aren't sure if he's man enough for professional football, ya know, the game he's out there playing every Sunday and practicing every week? You wouldn't want to, perhaps, look at how he actually performs on the field for some indication of that would you?

Incognito is a classic bully, and like most bullies, I wouldn't be surprised to learn he operates from a place of incredible insecurity and needs the constant reassurance of his peers and a clear social order.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 9:59am

Part of me thinks that Martin should have just gone and got a baseball bat and waited for Incognito to walk into the locker room one day then twatted him over the back of the head with it.

Then there's another part of me that thinks it was probably just better that Martin walked away.

by TomC :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:49pm

This gets to the very heart of the issue, in my opinion, and highlights what makes me so angry and sad about the situation and how people have reacted to it. Which one of those choices is the behavior of a real man? If you define "man" as a mature adult male, specifically one who is responsible enough to have a family and to lead other people, then it's completely obvious that the second option (the one Martin took) is the manly one. But there seems to be universal acceptance (with the article we're discussing as a partial exception) even among people who are squarely on Martin's side in this instance, that Martin's actions (not fighting back, eventually just leaving the team) were weak---possibly 100% justified, but weak. I would like to make the case that Martin did a very brave, mature---and, yes, manly---thing precisely by not bashing Incognito's head in with a bat.

by ClemsonMatt (not verified) :: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:36pm

Agreed. I'm wondering if his actually being a man is the problem the boys had with him. I worked construction for a bit and was attacked by coworkers for ignoring women instead of harassing them, not cussing, etc. There's already been talk that Incognito was considered "blacker".

And O-line is the position where performance is most likely to suffer if your teammates are immature jerks and don't work with someone they consider different.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 11:15am

You know what I would have done? I would have quit the first day. Same as I quit the article after the first couple of lines. You're thinking, "yeah, he won't take the verbal abuse". Forget about verbal abuse, how about the physical abuse? I don't think any self-respecting person would subject him or herself to the kind of things these players subject themselves to every day for years on end.

When I hear all these people saying, oh Incognito is sooo bad, he's sooo mean. He subjected a person to verbal and emotional abuse. What I'm hearing is, physical abuse is fine. Get their knees blown to hell, get their brains full of holes. Oh, that's fine. That's being a maaaan. They're meeeen. But hearing nasty words? Oh no, that's crossing the line. That's bad. Evil! So uncivilized. Somebody call the police.

Hear civilization's wail: why, oh why can't people be civil to each other while concussing each other to brain damage and breaking each others bones? Why, oh, why...?

It doesn't make any sense to me. Is it bullying? Is it not? I don't very much care. It's abuse on all levels. For all players. Every single day. And they put up with it. For money.

And we wonder why ex-players make for such dumb announcers. Why do I watch it? It's a old habit, as much as anything else. I'll figure it out. But I know what I'm watching: violence. Violence for ego. Screw hypocrisy. Let's be men about this.

TL;DR: Let them investigate this thing and take whatever measures are fit, but spare me the moral outrage.

The man with no sig

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 6:52pm

You know what? I could construct an argument condoning the rape of female soldiers by their fellow soldiers in the name of toughness (if the enemy captures you, you'll probably be raped, you should toughen up and deal with it!), but it would be as stupid as your arguments.

Sigh. I guess it's too much to expect that athletes grow up and act as adults, as we do in other tough occupations such as iroworking, law enforcement, firefighting, etc.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 9:30pm

I don't think the army is as bad as a football team. You could get killed, true, but most soldiers don't suffer health consequences for life -at least not in modern wars. If present wars were worse, you would see conditions deteriorate in the army as well. Also, there are no female football players. There are conditions for female soldiers, but not for female football players. Football is worse, but better paid (oddly enough, I bet football would be a much healthier sport if players didn't get paid).

Finally, I never said "toughen up and deal with it". I said you'd have to be stupid to hang around an environment like that. If you want to apply it to rape, what I'm saying is, if you're a pretty woman walking around in a bikini at midnight in a bad neighborhood for a million dollars, you're an idiot, but an idiot who knows what she's getting into.

If that woman then cries rape after a year and a half, by all means investigate, but don't cry me a river.

The man with no sig

by Jackson J (not verified) :: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 11:38pm

Wow, you're really not afraid to tell it like it is!

by Guest789 :: Thu, 11/14/2013 - 11:56pm

Wow. Speechless.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”