Loud and clear

It began as a story about bullying, a subject that’s grown more prominent in this country with each passing month. Two men—co-workers and teammates—assuming the roles of tormentor and tormented, bully and victim, abuser and abused.

We learned of this story and we reacted immediately, but we were not all in agreement. After all, there were variables at play in this story that made it unlike the others. Things are different in an NFL locker room, some said. There’s a different standard and a different code of conduct.

The venue and the profession make no difference, the other side argued. All people in all walks of life are to be treated with the same level of respect.

We continued to voice our opinions, but then an interesting development unfolded. We learned of new information.

The story changed in the aftermath of the initial report, and we reacted immediately once again. We heard the other side of the story, listened to additional perspectives from those closest to the issue and read text message exchanges between the bully and the victim, which gave an impression not of abuse, but of friendship. The perception of the situation shifted in the minds of some. Perhaps this wasn’t the case of bully and victim we had originally thought it to be. Perhaps we reacted too quickly.

Richie IncognitoIncognito's outburst on Wednesday won't help his chances of landing another job in the NFL.

By now, you all know the story of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. You know that Martin left the Miami Dolphins in late October because of alleged bullying on the part of Incognito. You know that, as a result, Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins for the remainder of the 2013 regular season. You know that both individuals will no longer be suiting up for the Miami Dolphins. You wonder if either individual will ever play professional football again.

The story moved to the backburner as time passed, with more relevant topics commanding our attention. The holiday season, the Super Bowl, the Olympics. We moved on with the understanding that sometimes our initial reactions may be too haste, and that time combined with additional information could aid the process. We realized this story had no winners and that, if anything, it was much more complex than it first appeared on that day back in October.

We realized that right up until Wednesday, when Richie Incognito erupted on twitter with all the vitriol and foot-stomping of a five-year-old told he can’t have his way. Despite the advice of his lawyers, agents, friends, family and teammates, Richie Incognito just couldn’t stay quiet. He couldn’t let the portion of the public who supported him continue to do so. He couldn’t prove that this unfortunate situation had somehow changed him from a reckless, classless hothead into a more subdued, tolerant human being.

Richie Incognito erupted on Wednesday and, in the process, showed everybody watching just how little he’s changed.

Yes, clearly the man feels he’s been unjustly cast as a villain who was hung out to dry. But Richie Incognito had what so many of us who may have incorrectly assessed the situation back in October failed to take advantage of.

Richie Incognito had time. And instead of dedicating that time to a much-needed character overhaul in the hopes of convincing another NFL franchise to give him an opportunity, the former Miami Dolphin used it to build up a surplus of rage that boiled over into the public’s eyes Wednesday afternoon.

Winning football games takes talent and precision, size and speed, intelligence and dedication. But it also requires patience and teamwork and selflessness and composure. You can’t erupt when things don’t go your way. You can’t lash out when the chips are down. The ability to endure must suppress the urge to self-destruct.

Richie Incognito does not understand this concept. Despite having had his season stripped from under him, he’s failed to change his ways and improve on his shortcomings. He’s mad at the world and he wants us to know it.

Wednesday’s twitter outburst was an important moment for Richie Incognito. Rather than work to improve, he chose to stand fast and lash out. Every team watching would be wise to take notice. All of us make mistakes in the heat of the moment. But with counsel and time, many of us learn from those mistakes and choose to follow a different path, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that we’ve changed for the better.

Unfortunately, some of us do not.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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