Early in this N.F.L. season I made what seemed, at the time, only a slightly stupid bet. With the Miami Dolphins showing some promise, I went ahead and bet a $50 bottle of single malt with a loudmouth Bostonian that Miami, not New England, would win the AFC East Conference.
At the time, it seemed like a slightly stupid bet. Now, with the schoolyard he-said, she-said shenanigans in the Miami Dolphins locker room, it turns out that it was a stupid, stupid bet. Perhaps the dumbest bet I’ve ever made in my life, although it’s hard to say, because I’ve made a lot of them.
As we all saw Monday night, the last and final winless team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got their first victory at the hands of the Dysfunctional Dolphins. On display in Miami’s dismal 22-19 loss was how dysfunctional that team really is. They simply could not run the ball behind that weakened offensive line. It was an offensive display of a running game.
Martin, a lineman for the Dolphins, left the team suddenly a couple of weeks ago – supposedly because the locker room became sour. Some of that sourness may or may not have included threatening voice and text messages from fellow offensive lineman Incognito.
The media ended up getting hold of the Incognito text messages, some with racial slurs, and it blew up big time. (You know it's a big deal when Savannah Guthrie is reporting the latest details on The Today Show.) With the media hype taking over a possibly huge N.F.L scandal, it’s not hard to guess what happened next: From the sound of it, Martin quit the team because he was being bullied by Incognito – with the raw texts and messages now in the hands of the media to prove it.
Then comes the revelation that maybe Incognito was ordered by a member of the coaching staff to toughen Martin up, and that his out-of-line texts were in line with that order. For the media, this was fast becoming another Bountygate scandal that maybe, just maybe, would lead to suspensions all the way up the coaching staff in Miami.
With no return in sight for Martin, and the league beginning to investigate, Incognito was suspended indefinitely. The Dolphins of 2013 were soon to become the Saints of 2012. But now it turns out that Martin sent Incognito a ton of vulgar and threatening texts over the past few months, too. Maybe these guys just really don’t like each other. Or is this just the way teammates communicate with each other, particularly amongst offensive linemen? Incognito says the vulgar texts are just the norm inside the locker room.
“I’m embarrassed by my actions,” Incognito told Fox Sports last weekend. “But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate – it’s vulgar.”
For example, Incognito told Fox Sports, just before this story spiraled out of control, he received threatening texts from Martin.
“A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone – ‘I will murder your whole f---ing family,’” Incognito told Fox Sports, quoting Martin. “Now, did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit....I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts in context how we communicate with one another.”
Incognito (not an inappropriate last name, I’d say, having watched him closely) is asking everyone to believe that his vulgar texts posed no real threats to Martin or members of his family. Unfortunately for Incognito, he doesn’t have exactly have a saintly past. Playing dirty at the University of Nebraska (penalties, locker room fights, fights on campus), he was a pretty good football player, nonetheless. But finally, his anger issues got the best of him, and Nebraska coach Bill Callahan eventually sent him packing.
Incognito was taken on at the University of Oregon, but was kicked off that team after only one week of practice. Make no mistake about it, Incognito is a pain in the ass. If you’ve seen the video of him going absolutely batshit crazy inside a bar with his shirt off, you know what I am talking about. Incognito has definitely bullied people in his time.
But somehow, I don’t believe Incognito was bullying Martin in all of this. I honestly believe Martin and Incognito are friends, and how they communicate, appropriate or not, is just that – how they communicate. And for someone like Martin to make it in the N.F.L., and allow someone to bully him – I don’t believe it. To be an offensive lineman at that level, you have to be nasty and mean. I have trouble believing an N.F.L lineman can get bullied, especially by a guy on his team.
So what happened here? I think Martin had enough pressure. Maybe the locker room was sour, and he just didn’t want any more of it. Leaving a team is a choice players make. Sometimes enough is enough. So he leaves the team, Incognito’s messages get tossed into the media frenzy, and all of a sudden, it’s a bullying story. Fans raise their eyebrows at the vulgarity of the texts. “Is that the way it really is, inside locker rooms in the N.F.L?” Like they’re surprised that these guys say filthy things.
Now comes the investigation, and we’ll see what that brings. Honestly, this sounds like two kids fighting in a schoolyard who get busted for cussing. It’s a surprise to the principal and teachers that they know this language. Heads are going to roll. The playground may never be the same again.
In the end, we will find that Martin was simply done with football, and that’s the story, plain and simple. Incognito and his texts were just a sideshow.
Unfortunately for Miami fans and people like me, this hyped up story is taking its toll on a decent team. I guess I should start shopping for a good bottle of single malt.