Professional bullies

Everyone remembers the bully in school. They give swirlies, noogies, wedgies and embarrass you to the point of tears. They make children dread getting on the bus to go to school. Some bullies, for whatever their reason, never grow out of picking on people and are bullies for life.

“Hey, wassup you n—– piece of [expletive] … I’m going to slap your real mother across the face (laughter). [Expletive] you, you’re still a rookie, I’ll kill you.”

This is just a sample from the voicemail Miami Dolphins offensive guard Richie Incognito sent to teammate Jonathan Martin. After years of torment, Martin decided to throw out his lifetime of work toward becoming a professional football player when he left the Dolphins two weeks ago because of Incognito’s racial slurs, homophobic texts, insults about his family and death threats.

This makes a wedgie seem virtually harmless. And if you’ve never felt the elastic band of your underwear stretched to your ears, trust me it hurts.

Incognito, who was suspended by the team, said Martin was soft and should have stood up for himself — this is football, a tough man’s sport that has no room for weaklings. Instead, Martin quit, tattled and sought professional help for emotional distress and depression.

This extreme emotional distress takes a serious blow on a player’s brain, harder than a big hit from a blitzing linebacker.

In 2012, four current or former NFL players committed suicide, including Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher who shot himself in the parking lot after practice.

This extreme bullying isn’t just from big-egoed NFL players. Days ago, Jevon Tyree a 19-year-old Rutgers’ football player quit the team due to verbal harassment from a coach.

If a player can’t escape harassment from players battling for position, who can they trust to encourage them if even the coaches are bullying their players?

Football is a sport that turns humans into animals. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest is exactly how a player gets his recognition. The fastest, toughest and meanest succeed, plain and simple. Failure of any of these means you don’t play.

A coach will let you know you aren’t the better selection real fast. After you drop one pass or miss one block, you can be easily replaced.

I can remember as young as fifth-grade football, a coach would rough us up by yanking on our face masks, slapping us upside the head and publicly humiliating us in front of the team to make an example. Sadly, it works.

No one likes to get embarrassed, and the threat of a coach doing so can make you try extra hard to make a play. The fact that this kind of treatment is effective and acceptable makes me wonder about our society’s values.

If a boss socked an employer in the face after missing a deadline, he or she would be immediately fired, yet in football, it makes a man confident and fearless.

Maybe bullying is just part of football. The basic act of trying to hit someone as hard as they can to achieve popularity and reward sounds like bullying to me.

Towel-whipping in locker rooms is part of team bonding and just a thing guys do, but threatening someone’s life is illegal. It’s tough to anticipate that one whip of a towel too many can bring someone to severe emotional distress or even suicide. The line between motivating  and bullying is being crossed and it is turning athletes who love going to work, dread doing what they love.

Every boy dreams of becoming a professional football player and only 1.7 percent who work hard enough and play in college make that dream come true.

Some players can overcome the harassment and become “one of the greats” in the Hall of Fame, the others like Martin only last two years, and their chance to become a “great” is unfairly cut short by a bully.