Why Mike Ditka’s response to the Miami Dolphins’ bullying situation perpetuates a harmful myth.
Note: This piece won’t address Mike Ditka’s comment that the way to handle the situation would be to take the bully to “fist city.” It won’t address Dolphins general manager Jack Ireland’s comment that Martin should have punched Incognito to resolve their issues. And it won’t address the grey areas of defining bully — though these issues as backdrop will enrich the read below.
Where there is a bully there is not a baby.
A few days ago I sat down to watch ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown to see if they’d discuss the bullying situation between Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. They did. And Mike Ditka dropped the following:
“I want to say one thing. If I was the coach, I wouldn’t have either Incognito, the bully, or the baby, Martin, on my team. That’s me.”
There’s an awful lot of speculation out there. Even the deepest, most beneficial conversations on this issue are full of it. Few, if any, know the full picture of this particular situation. The NFL’s investigation into the matter is ongoing. What we know is that Martin said he’d been bullied by Incognito for one and a half years and that bullying includes, among other things, this confirmed voicemail from Incognito:
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of [expletive] . . . I saw you on Twitter, you been training ten weeks. [I want to] [expletive] in your [expletive] mouth. [I’m going to] slap your [expletive] mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face (laughter). [Expletive] you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
But when Mike Ditka used the “baby” tactic – a classic trademark move of the bully – I thought of my next-door neighbor.
A young teenager, he’s suffered some horrendous bullying situations. On one occasion he was beat up, stomped on and called a “baby” when he was assaulted by a group of boys in the restroom at his school. He’s a brilliant young kid with an inquisitive, inspiring personality, but he’s undersized due to being born with a heart problem. He recently had a heart transplant and is doing remarkably well. This is to say: the kid is a hero in my book.
And he’s not a baby. He’s probably the toughest dude I’ve ever met. And the thousands of kids who endured and are enduring one of the many guises of humiliation right now as I type? They aren’t babies, either.
Where there is a bully there is a victim.
To the countless kids around the country who heard Mike Ditka make that accusation, who cringed at the word “baby” because that’s what they were called as they were being spit on, and to the younger me, whose father screamed “Get up, you baby!” as he was being beat with ski poles…Don’t buy it.
You are you far more than the bully who hurt you. You are here. You are carrying on the best way you know how. And for that you are warriors.