Caught Between A Rockne And A Hard Place

rockne Q 1Miami, home to the only unbeaten team in NFL history — so far — and the current national headquarters of the “bully” pulpit. The conflict between Miami linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito make any of the old Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran pre-fight press conferences look like a wedding reception.

American professional sports organizations, and in particular the National Football League, are caught between a Rockne and a hard place. Never have the movements of so many players of a “game” been more intimately scrutinized than through today’s minuteman-media menu blitzkrieg. Yes, our shared value system, the one brought to us largely by Knute Rockne, is clearly under attack but, it’s also being used to attack those involved.

I’ve begun to notice a tendency in the process that I refer to as “Instant Darma.”

You recall John Lennon’s song called, “Instant Karma” in which he brings an eastern philosophy mainstream.


Instant Karma’s gonna get you

Gonna knock you right in the face

You better get yourself together darling

Join the human race

How in the world you gonna see?

Laughing at fools like me

Who on Earth do you think you are?

A superstar? Well, right you are

~ John Lennon, 1970

Karma is a philosophy that says, what you do is also what you will get or… what goes around comes around. While Lennon and others helped to open doors to eastern ways of thinking there’s another principle that has taken over the western front, and that is Darma.

Just think about what the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Knute Rockne might come up with over dinner. That would be Darma.

Darma presents us with universal principles that order our universe. It is also the personal practice of values that are widely shared. Principles like charity. Or the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.

Of course, the flip side of the golden rule is the adage on “judgement” — judge not, lest ye be judged. And that is where the biggest of conflicts come in to play for our day and age.

Because of our modern media and the wild world web it’s as if the whole world went on spring break and came back with a tee-shirt that reads, “JUDGEMENT GONE WILD!”

The conflict were seeing played out in Miami and across all levels of professional sports, as well as amateur sports, comes into play when individuals cross over a line and their error becomes public. Then, we make a judgement. It’s human nature.

However, there may be a good reason judgement has taken a giant leap for mankind… bad behavior has gone mainstream.

ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock calls it a prison mentality.

“Welcome to Incarceration Nation, where the mindset of the Miami Dolphins’ locker room mirrors the mentality of a maximum-security prison yard and where a wide swath of America believes the nonviolent intellectual needs to adopt the tactics of the barbarian…Mass incarceration has turned segments of Black America so upside down that a tatted-up, N-word-tossing white goon is more respected and accepted than a soft-spoken, highly intelligent black Stanford graduate.”

I share much of Whitlock’s views and believe what has happened, in the face of the mega media coverage of the event, is that this takes us to a new place culturally. We are sitting in the judgement seat doling out acceptance or derision to the good kids and the bad kids.

Part of the problem with this is that the media is determining so much of what we — think we think — before we think we think it. Yea, you might want to read that one again.

Rockne Q 3However, it’s the NFL players who are leaving the public plenty to think about: suicide, murder, rape, dog fighting, dealing drugs, spousal abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, harassment, gun charges, alcoholism, drinking while driving under the influence.

And now bullying.

The NFL is by far the most popular sport in America but it has also become the “greatest creepshow on turf.” The greatest shock of all is that none of this is shocking at all anymore as the list begins with the greatest NFL players of all time.

NFL Criminals 3

(Most of the information for this graph I compiled

from the UT San Diego’s NFL Arrests Database)

The above compilation is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

The above issues arising from the events initiated by these players is a soup de jour topic of the week and provides a tour de force in the ratings column. Editors everywhere are thinking, “For a few more hits on our show or web page… we’ll ask few more columnists to cover the event.”

All of these issues have become fodder for talk show hosts, twitter junkies, paperless-newspapers, pulp non-fiction headliners, mainstream news shows and comedy stand-up punch lines as well.

Except now, the perpetrators are placed in the precarious situation of having the public play judge and jury within moments of these unsavory acts.

This also forces, the “could-be” criminals to –instantaneously– “self-correct.” Beam me over Scotty… I was just on planet DUI but now I’m on planet “spin this.”

That’s an effect of instant Darma.

People are becoming “instantly principled” and that isn’t really doable, is it?

True regret… or real inner evolution… or self-realization, doesn’t happen in a knee jerk press conference of self aggrandizing apologies. This is when the public is no more sure of anything except that this person was “sorry they were caught.”

In 1991, around the time of the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbour both U.S. and Japanese dignitaries gathered to recall the event. The U.S. specifically requested that Japan “apologize” for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many in the Japanese delegation said they would “think about it.” U.S. officials were insulted because they interpreted “think about it” to mean the Japanese leaders were kissing off their request. However, in the Japanese culture, to “think about it” and give thought to someone’s request was the highest level of honor they could have given to the U.S..

Instant Darma stems from our increasing need for instant gratification, which has become the American way. “You groped a woman? Oh, you said you’re sorry? Okay, you can be governor of California.” Or how about, the case of Ray Lewis. He was indicted in a double-murder case, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in trade for his testimony and then no one was convicted. Lewis was fined $250,000 by the NFL and given one year probation in which he never missed a game. The year after, he signed a 50 million dollar contract and after winning his second Super Bowl ring in February,

Sports Illustrated has reported Lewis will sign a multi-year contract with ESPN for television and radio work (although ESPN won’t confirm). Experts say motivational speaking engagements are his for the asking. And now Roger Goodell is offering a part-time position: adviser to the commissioner.

Knute Rockne must be rolling over and coughing in his sarcophagus.

Knute Rockne was both a player and an outstanding coach for Notre Dame University a hundred years ago. He symbolizes inspiration, team spirit and that ability that rises in each of us as we strive to work as a team and ultimately tap the power that comes when we attempt to, “do for others.” While Rockne became known for his quotes on values he also was apart of the first game that used “forward passes” on a regular basis and won a title that way.

Rockne Q 2bRockne was not only a frontiersman for football but the bastion of character, moral conduct and fair play. He was everything that a player like Richie Incognito is not.

Recent events in Miami have once again brought the subject of “bullying” front and center for a nation ravaged with social issues. However, bullying is no less rampant today than racism was in the 1950s, when I was a child.

As an instructor for 37 years now, I can say that bullying has been with us since I was a kid and I continue to witness it and confront it everyday. Programs are in place in our public schools to “stop bullying” and adults should take this issue just as seriously. I know of cases in which kids have attempted suicide upon receiving text messages that were bullying messages.

Richie Incognito’s vile acts towards Jonathan Martin are as reprehensible as any behaviors I’ve ever heard of. Several sources at ESPN, have heard the following voice messages that were sent by Incognito to Martin,

“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—.

I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks.

[I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth.

[I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth.

[I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter].

F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

Now, Incognito is claiming that HE feels betrayed by Jonathan Martin.


As Jason Whitlock has suggested, the culture on many teams has completely flipped it’s sense of values. Now, you can’t be good unless you’re bad. No, make that evil, or criminal.

I’ve never been more proud to be a Chiefs fan than I am today. High character men such as Andy Reid, Tamba Hali, Husain Abdullah, Alex Smith and others make fans want to cheer even louder at the least of their achievements.

It was pointed out recently that Jonathan Martin was raised by highly educated parents and that Martin is highly educated himself. Whoever made the decision to draft Martin into the prison yard mentality that is the Miami locker room made one big huge boo-boo.

Now, if at any point, Jonathan Martin becomes available to the Chiefs, I will be all in support of their doing what they can to bring in such a man of character.

See, now that’s Instant Darma.

Well, Chiefs fans, has the NFL lost it’s way, or have a few ruined it for the many?

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