On bullies in NFL and butts in SI swimsuit issue

Written By BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist Posted: 03/17/2014, 11:14am

Who hasn’t been bullied?

It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it’s a horrible feeling. And its devastation springs from one thing, the bullied person’s inability — whether because of physical or psychological limitations — to do anything about the bullying.

Even big, tough, mean guys have been bullied. Bullying is about power, and an average 12-year-old has way more power than a future heavyweight boxer or NFL lineman who is only 8. Ask Mike Tyson for details about his childhood as reference.

Thus, the long-awaited, 144-page NFL report that found former Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito guilty of bullying his teammate Jonathon Martin simply acknowledged what we all know about the world — bad guys will abuse weaker guys.

Incognito is one of those people we find in all walks of life but particularly in ‘‘macho’’ ones like pro football. Their ‘‘jokes’’ about co-workers’ ethnicity, nationality, appearance, family background, sexual preferences, toughness and manhood are supposedly just about being open and fun and wild. In fact, the taunting is about pettiness, cruelty and a perverse form of self-aggrandizement.

Stanford graduate Martin became suicidal last season (before quitting the Dolphins entirely), and his mental health was not helped at all by Incognito’s harassment. Dolphins Mike Pouncey and John Jerry also are cited in the report for having chipped in on the bullying.

The purported goal of the text-messaged and spoken goading and debasement was to make Martin ‘‘tougher.’’ This is akin to plucking a bird’s feathers so it can fly faster.

But such is bullying. And one effect is the bullied often blame themselves.

‘‘I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I’m a push-over, a people pleaser,’’ Martin wrote in a text to his parents. ‘‘I avoid confrontation whenever I can. I always want everyone to like me.’’

He even wanted a career jerk like Incognito to like him.

You have to be rough, strong, dedicated, talented and fiercely competitive to play in the NFL. If you’re not all of those things, it’s likely you won’t be a pro for long. But as you find those things out about yourself, you don’t need a juvenile, possibly self-loathing, mentally confused, faux-tough guy telling you anything.

It’s time even the big boys learned this and the NFL stopped tolerating it.

LET’S PAUSE A MOMENT and ponder the out-this-week 2014 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

I haven’t seen the inside, but the cover shows three model-skinny babes without tops (chests facing the other way, of course), with their scrawny butts stuck out as if there actually is some meat there under the tiny orange and pink quasi-thongs.

I have wondered for some time why SI doesn’t just show the ‘‘swimsuit’’ models buck naked and barefoot. They’re body-painted, they’re grinding in the sand, they’re wearing less cloth than a Chihuahua wrap. And if their ‘‘swimsuits’’ are for sale, as is always part of the consumer helpfulness of the annual issue, I can offer shoestrings and Band-Aids for a better price.

But my beef with this cover is that these chicks are skinny, not sexy. They’re pretty, yes. But they’re Vogue fashionable. As athletes, they’d be too weak to do anything more than sit in a rowing scull and shout out cadences to real female jocks.

You’re gonna show your butts like that? Then have some!

Serena Williams and half the U.S. Olympic women’s track team, volleyball players, soccer players and Sochi Games females have better butts than those lame, size-2 career dieters. It’s a travesty to the female derrière is what it is.

I used to argue with SI editor Jule Campbell back when I worked at the magazine and she was the swimsuit editor. I told her she needed to use real athletes as her models sometime, rather than the perfect mannequins she always chose for the issue. She would tell me real female athletes always were too ‘‘stiff’’ in the trial shoots.

I wondered about that. And, in fact, there have been some real athletes in recent swimsuit issues. Not all of them looked stiff to me. But I guess you can’t argue with last year’s Kate Upton or the original three-babe cover from Feb. 14, 1994: Elle Macpherson, Rachel Hunter and Kathy Ireland.

They were much meatier than this year’s anorexic-looking trio, however, and they were facing forward, extolling their front virtues. If you’re going to salute the rear, SI, think real female jocks with real glutes honed from years of practice.

It’s only right.

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