Martin breaks NFL mold, encourages independent thinking

YSTL: What are possible legal consequences for Richie Incognito?

Martin breaks NFL mold, encourages independent thinking
February 14, 2014, 11:30 am
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Martin's Sixteen Points should be placed before every high school and college player so they can more fully understand the pros and cons of America’s Circus.
Ray Ratto

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Jonathan Martin explained football for everyone Friday, from the inside, pro and con, and whether you want to embrace his rationale or not, he covered everything everyone thinks about the game. It should be required reading, so get to it.

• Football games are fun

• I can make a lot of money playing football and be set for life

• I have a legacy that will live after I die

• Not many people get to live their childhood dream

• I am the left tackle for the Miami Dolphins

• If I quit, I'll be known as a quitter for the rest of my life

• My legacy at Stanford will be tarnished

• I will never be able to look any coach from my past in the eye

• I hate going in every day

• I am unable to socialize with my teammates in their crude manner

• I already have a lot of money; I could travel the world, get my degree, then get a real job

• I could lose 70 lbs. and feel good about my body

• I won't die from CTE

• Maybe I'll start to LIKE myself

• I don't need to live lavishly; I could live very frugally

• Why do I care about these people? All I need is my family

That’s all of it, Martin’s Sixteen Points, sent to a friend by text and revealed in the Wells Report that condemns Richie Incognito and several other members of the Miami Dolphins, and it literally should be placed before every high school and college player so they can more fully understand the pros and cons of America’s Circus.

[NEWS: Inquiry says Incognito, two others harassed Martin]

True, some of the details (not everyone can play for the Miami Dolphins or attend Stanford) have to be changed to suit each individual, and mercifully, not everyone deals with Martin’s level of self-loathing.

But this is the whole deal, the entire smorgasbord of good and bad that every player must navigate in his own way. It’s even the whole deal for Incognito, Martin’s official bête noire according to the damning report, even though he clearly won’t see it that way.

Football is not always the fair deal for many players that the industry claims it is. It typically demands too much and returns too little, and the more you play, the better and worse it gets. Martin’s inadvertent manifesto is the conundrum at its extremes, but it is an exercise every player should be made to commit to paper/smartphone/tablet/laptop/abandoned building front.

Every high school coach should tell every player, “Tell us eight things you like about this and eight things you don’t. Don’t show it to us, ever. It won’t affect your scholarship, or your place on the team. This is solely for you and your future. Never lose it, refer to it often, and change it as needs dictate. And if the don’t-likes ever get to 10 or 11 and the likes to five or six, you should stop playing if at all possible.”

This, of course, encourages independent thinking in players, which the football industry has never supported and often punished. That’s why keeping the list a secret from those who can affect one’s future is mandatory.

But the list is a survival tool, not just for Jonathan Martin, whose entire life is now a billboard to be admired and/or mocked by the entire American culture, but for every future Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. And there will be future Martins and Incognitos, no matter what the report tells us.

It is hard to figure whether Martin’s future in the industry will be either adversely or positively affected by Friday’s revelations. The culture of the NFL is the underpinning of the sport and the business, and will not be abandoned easily by its employees or mythmakers. Martin could find a new team, or be quietly banned, and the same can be said for Incognito and the other characters in the Wells Report.

But this incident teaches the players of tomorrow one thing above all others: If you cannot find sanity and meaning in the game on your own, you’ll be one of the lucky few if someone else can help you find it. Martin’s Sixteen Points are not a cure-all to anything, but they are a key to survival in a world that remains at best frighteningly Darwinian and at worst a body-and-soul-crushing experience.