Some will say that Martin is too sensitive while others will say that it is part of the way football is in the locker room. But to have to absorb what was said to him for any rational and intelligent person is too much. There are absolutely and positively limits to what is tolerated and accepted when it comes to hazing and harassing as a player, and this was way over the line.
Should Jonathan Martin have stood up for himself more? Perhaps, but I am sure he feared even more isolation than he has already experienced, so you kind of roll with the punches - to a point. There is not a human being on the planet that does not have a breaking point when it comes to handling pressure because we are biological not mechanical in our physiology. And given the same circumstances, many would exit the environment if they felt there was no respect for themselves as a human being and their life was threatened. If I was to take sides, I would take the side of Martin because he is educated; his family is educated. Stanford and Harvard are places of advanced human evolution. I doubt Richie Incognito is educated after being kick out of both the University of Oregon and Nebraska. Again, moments like this make football players look like idiots of the highest kind and there are quite a few. And there are others of the extreme opposite that represent themselves with class and dignity of the highest level.
The truth is that in high level football, sometimes you have to be aggressive and other times analytical, and those moments interact countless times over the course of a season and game. But that is controllable and accepted. I think that what Martin was experiencing he could not rationalize or accept as controllable or acceptable. A football locker room sometimes - and I do want to emphasize sometimes - is a very intimidating place. There is immense money to be earned from people in the majority of cases coming from no money. There is a constant and tangible pressure to compete against another team, another player on another team, other players on your team and in many ways, yourself. There is little gratification in winning because within 12 hours after you win, all discussion is about the next game and how to win that one.
College football is not the same. You have more "friends" that you will have at any point of your life because you're all similar in age and experience. In pro football as a rookie who is not starting and contributing, you're lucky if you have two "friends." Playing and being a part of the starters group would accelerate to more than two because of one word: respect. When you start, it is like moving up in football society; a new neighborhood of similar real estate value. That is one of the reasons that this is a bit confusing in that Jonathan Martin did start and played right beside Incognito, and truth is they need each other to excel as individual players. But I wonder if Incognito resented Martins education and class - a Stanford product that was a first round pick and is naturally athletic -and I can't help but wonder how many other players accepted this and enhanced it.
Whether it is Justin Blackmon, Aldon Smith, Brandon Meriweather and others of less notoriety, the opportunity and the benefits of the opportunity are being thrown away. Coaches want dependability and performance and of the two, the first is more important than the second because without the first you can't create the second.
In retrospect, it is so easy to express what should have been done; Martin should have stood up for himself more, Incognito should grow up and act like an adult and Joe Philbin should be in touch with his team to a much higher degree. The people who make decisions on free agent personal should put a bigger emphasis on character. There is lots of blame to go around.
In the end, the truth may be out there but no guarantee of it becoming public knowledge. One career is destroyed - Incognito - while one is in the balance - Martin. And yes, the sport of football takes another shot as to the quality of people involved. There are many; we just don't hear about them as we have with Incognito. What a contradiction of a last name.