So the secret is finally out: The
The NFL's out-of-touch, out-of-time "context" has been on vivid display during the ongoing contretemps between Miami Dolphin guard
For generations, just about every boy growing up in America felt obliged to prove his manhood, which generally meant demonstrating physical strength, a disdain for gentility, a willingness and ability to stand up for himself, especially with his fists, and a disregard for anything "soft" — women, except as sex objects; intellectual prowess; and general sensitivity.
That's how it was, right through adolescence and often beyond. Toughness is what made a man a man. No boy wanted to be called a "sissy" or a "wimp" or, worst of all, a "girl," which is still a term of opprobrium used by some coaches to push their troops.
And that is the way it still is, apparently, in large parts of the NFL. That sort of manliness was on full display when, according to a Florida police report, Incognito allegedly used a golf club to touch the genital area of a female volunteer at a charity tournament and then rubbed himself against her; or when, as the head of a Dolphin Leadership Council, he held meetings at a strip club; or when he left a vicious, racist message on Martin's voicemail. Incognito has defended himself by calling these episodes a "product of the environment," and he is right.
But Incognito and many of his NFL brethren don't seem to realize that they are living in a time warp. Just about everyone in the media, including the sports media, was scandalized by Incognito's language — even after he protested that it was a joke and told a
That's due in part to decades of feminist proselytizing but also to general civilizing forces that have deemphasized machismo and allowed men to define themselves in ways other than physical intimidation.
Martin is himself an example. He's an offensive lineman who is the son of two Harvard-educated lawyers. He graduated from Harvard-Westlake School in L.A., and then Stanford. By all accounts, he loved football, but he didn't love the muscle-flexing culture of the NFL. As his high school coach said — speaking of the cultural divide between Martin and others in the game — Martin was accustomed to Stanford, Duke and Rice players, not Nebraska, Miami and LSU players.
The old machismo, however, dies hard. Incognito's teammates have leapt to his defense, and so have many others associated with the NFL, lambasting Martin in the bargain. A number of players called Martin a coward. One ex-Dolphins' lineman,
Incognito himself is said to have felt betrayed by Martin because, he asserts, the racial slurs and abuse were intended as a form of "tough love." Even several African American players on the Dolphins excused Incognito's use of the "N-word" as just Incognito being Incognito. In effect, they were saying that machismo is thicker than race — though, of course, in defending Incognito, they were defending their own outdated machismo. What it all adds up to is an admission of this old-fashioned notion: How do you know you are a man if you don't act like a goon?
The NFL is one of the last redoubts where goons and thugs have a privileged status. Two years ago the
So whatever else Jonathan Martin is the victim of, he has been preyed on by a form of ugly, vestigial, brutalizing masculinity. And he decided to resist it, not with his fists but with a legal process. That may not seem "manly," but it is the way men do things nowadays — real men, that is.