Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 6, 2013

ROOT: When everyone gets a trophy ...

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — An offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins is claiming harassment because a small group of his teammates pick on him incessantly. I am not sure where I stand on this because I had to deal with similar situations when I went to school. Kids will be kids, but these are grown men with millions of dollars and a lot of time on their hands.

The final incident, as reported by Fox Sports, was in the cafeteria during a Dolphins’ practice. This player went to sit at a table to eat, and everyone who was at the table got up and walked away.

This is what the world is going to be like, since the kids who all got trophies in Little League whether they won or lost get thrown into the real world and cannot cope.

From what I gather, the harassment comes primarily from one person, former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito. This is a man who has a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. He has purposely injured opposing players and he has a reputation for being a divisive force in the locker room.

Some of the blame for what is going on has to be pointed at the Miami Dolphins coaching staff. These coaches are with the players every day and they knew what was going on. They knew that the affected offensive lineman was given the nickname “Big Weirdo” and he didn’t like it.

But I see a much bigger problem here than just a football player walking out on a lucrative career as a professional athlete. I see a trend that is going to permeate our society and I am glad I will be long gone when it really takes hold.

“The guys won’t sit with me at lunch. That does it, I am going home.”

Get ready because this will be the way of the world someday.

It is a glowing example of how shielding children from the real world results in bigger issues. This offensive lineman is a college-educated man who has two lawyers for parents. He had the smarts and resources to be a Harvard graduate if he wanted, but he decided to go to Stanford and pursue his dream of playing in the NFL instead.

I am not sure what this offensive lineman thought he was walking into, but he is definitely not emotionally equipped to deal with the NFL.

Is it too much to ask a team of professional athletes to treat each other with respect? Yes, it is. That is how it has always been.

I never played professional sports, but I played enough organized team sports to know that every team has its jerks. It happens. Not every athlete is a respectful individual. I refuse to believe that this is the first time that this lineman came across a bunch of jerks on one of his teams. When you are at the professional level, you get professional jerks.

So what do we do now? Let’s put aside the sports contract and the fact that this athlete is a muscular young man who could probably settle this with violence. Let’s look at this for what it really is.

I do not know this offensive lineman personally, so I can only make guesses. But since both his parents are lawyers, I would imagine that he grew up with a very sheltered version of the real world. His youth football coaches were probably hesitant to discipline him or keep him out of the games because his parents were lawyers. He grew up feeling entitled and now he is paying for it.

Do we feel sorry for this player? I can empathize with him because my shyness attracted jerks in my school days. But that was when I was a kid. If a professional athlete cannot discuss these kinds of issues with his coaches, then who do we blame? The coaches? The player who would not talk to his coaches?

Expect more of these kinds of stories as the younger generations start to grow up and enter the real world. Kids today are not given the tools necessary to cope with the Richie Incognitos of the world. Obviously, the victim offensive lineman allowed Incognito to establish a pattern of abuse that has led to this.

Am I blaming the victim here? No. I am just saying that this lineman is not the first young player that Incognito has played with — but he is the first young player to just get up and walk out on his team because Incognito is a jerk. He went home and now he doesn’t want to play anymore.

For people my age, this is really hard to understand. It is sad on so many levels and it isn’t over. Not by a very long shot.

George N. Root III is a Lockport resident and professional jerk. His column is published every Wednesday and can be read during your lunch hour. He can be reached at georgeroot@verizon.net, but he won't answer if you are mean.