But there is one sports story I've been following, that of the NFL investigation of bullying within the Miami Dolphins.
Though the story of Dolphin offensive lineman Jon Martin quitting the team over harassment by fellow lineman Richie Incognito is several months old, it keeps surfacing in the news as the investigation continues and, more recently, as part of the debate over whether the NFL is ready to accept a gay recruit.
Apparently homophobic taunts were part of Incognito's harassment of Martin, as were racial slurs and graphic sexual descriptions of his sister.
Then there were the text messages Incognito sent Martin. Disgusting. Revolting.
But it was all in good fun, so much fun, in fact, that other team members would join Incognito in ganging up on Martin, who would just laugh it off while inside he churned with anger and humiliation.
And Richie Incognito was as likely to publicly treat in Martin as his best friend, support him, help him out on the field, fling an arm around him and tell him he'd always be there for him, as he was to make him the butt of a group joke. Everybody on the team knew that Richie Incognito and Jon Martin were buddies.
But for Jon Martin, Richie incognito's passive-aggression was disabling.
This I believe: what ultimately broke Jon Martin wasn't the bullying. It was the shame he felt over just swallowing it every time.
According the February 14 New York Times article entitled ‘A Classic Case of Bullying’ on the Dolphins, Report Finds, Martin wrote in an email to his parents:
‘I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I’m a pushover, a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation whenever I can, I always want everyone to like me. I let people talk about me, say anything to my face, and I just take it, laugh it off, even when I know they are intentionally trying to disrespect me.’
In subsequent emails he wrote:
‘Happened 2 days ago. And I laughed it off. Because I am too nice of a person. They say terrible things about my sister. I don’t do anything...’
‘I’m never gonna change. I got punked again today.’ He continued: ‘And I never do anything about it...’
So Jon Martin was torn up with self-hatred for being too nice. Too good natured. Too decent. Too much of what the people who loved him probably loved him for.
And that's the real wound of bullying or any kind of meanness: it can make people hate themselves for feeling like they're not strong enough, man or woman enough to stand up to their abusers; and yet for such people, retaliation by sinking to the level of their abusers would only make them hate themselves more. The only one they know how to beat up on is themselves and so they do it until they've beaten themselves sick.
Been there, done that.