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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  • berttheclock


    My current favorite excuse was the one used by some new to the NFL player stopped on a serious traffic violation. He told the officer he could not be arrested because he played in the NFL.

    But, Laddie, why shouldn’t there be a Think, Thunk, Have Thunked? Sort of akin to the comment from “Support Your Local Sheriff” of “has arroved”. I love to use it just to throw others off balance. Now, back to underlining HEAR, HEAR. May the word go out.

  • Chris Tarrants

    Part if the problem with the NFL and the media is that no matter what happens in a court of law the media can still make everybody guilty! Guilt or innocence doesn’t seem to matter as long as it makes the headlines and the person writing the article gets paid. Personally I think in certain situations that if somebody is proven to be innocent then the first reporter who started spewing off at the mouth should have to do a one on one interview with said player in the locker room with no witnesses around! I’m not able to convict anybody but from what the media has told you is there one person who thinks Aaron Hernandez is innocent? He hasn’t had his day in court yet, he is still an American citizen and yet the media has swung their collective gavels and called him guilty!

    • berttheclock

      The problem you mention about being convicted by the Media has shown its very ugly head in various child molestation cases across the nation. Once, a charge has been leveled, the person or persons accused will forever be tarnished in the eyes of many, no matter how they were later exonerated in court. I happened to know a father of a child supposedly molested in the infamous McMartin case in LA. One of the longest trials in the history of that jurisdiction, where court reporters became financially well off. The McMartins were found to be Not Guilty, but, their reputations were trashed for life. At the very end, my friend, a fine trial lawyer, due to the influence of his wife who was a rabid believer of said charges, took on the appeals for various parents. He did not prevail, but, the McMartins and their teachers never worked again.

  • tomflex

    Sorry…the media has played this to rediculous proportions and personally I’m sick of hearing about the crybabies of the NFL….The media wasn’t there or anybody else for that matter when as high school freshmen we had to run through a gauntlet of swithblades and brass knuckled grease balls just to get to our school bus each night….give me a break. Bad names would have been a blessing….

    • Chris Tarrants

      Personally I find it kinda sad that a 6 foot plus 300 pound man can find enough of his manhood to stand up for himself! The media only adds fuel to the fire by only printing the side of the story that can make money

      • tomflex

        I agree…the key word here is “fear”. And with any fear.. you can only beat it by facing it.

      • steve james

        From what I read it was on management orders. Incognito was a team leader, Martin had no Avenue. Even if he decked him it would accomplish nothing. Incognito had all the power in that situation. There is a difference between one player having issues with one player & an organization targeting you. I am surprised you don’t seem to realize that.

        • Chris Tarrants

          Who cares how the deck is stacked? If you are that big of a man and somebody was sending you threats like that about your family then it’s time to nut up! If it really did come from above then it would be even easier to raise hell

          • steve james

            First how would it be easier to raise hell? Second these are grown men not highschoolers. If someone was sending me messages like that then the police are involved. Expecting I realize football is a different world but saying the only acceptable way to handle terroristic threats is to commit battery is a little off balance imho. Every time you enter into a physical confrontation is a chance someone ends up dead. The chance for permanent harm with men with that much power is much greater. You are an athlete who has his family to think about & millions of dollars of earnings on the line & lawsuits etc a possibility. Again it seems the thug high school mentality solution to just “man up” and deck him would be foolish. I think he did “man up” he handled it like a grown man not a jock frat boy. He took it completely out of that structure and put it in a controlled environment. Incognito is a confirmed loose cannon & Martin is a confirmed thinking grown man, who in my opinion handled it the only way that is reasonable given the confirmed facts.

          • KCMikeG

            Couldn’t have said it better. Chris is making a big assumption in the first place that he didn’t “man up” – which can be done w/o physical violence. Sounds like the entire locker room is a toxic pit with the organization allowing the juvenile, disgusting behavior. Punching someone in the mouth doesn’t solve anything and only makes things worse.

  • berttheclock

    Ireland, the so-called GM of the Dolphins, could have avoided this current mess, if, he had not chosen to be cheap in trying to sign Albert. Had that worked, Martin would have never been moved from his right tackle position. Martin, himself, has not handled this situation very well, but, Laddie is correct in the way many professional athletes are coddled. I saw this in Portland with the Trail Blazers who had a nest of thugs living in the area who really did believe they were above the law. Pritchard came in and cleaned house, but, ultimately, he was fired as well by the influence exerted by the Vulcanites, er, toadies of Paul Allen.

    • tomflex

      Thinking the same thing Bert….this is all on his watch just like last year was on Pioli’s watch….and it’s starting to emit a very familiar smell…..

  • berttheclock

    Perhaps, a shout out to both Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles and a huge BOO to both Tamarick Vanover and Bam Morris. The NFL needs far more McClusters and Charles types and far far less of Vanover and Morris proteges.

  • tomflex

    Oh….Laddie…great piece. I guess this subject is what it is because it hits a nerve on everybody.

    • elly violette

      I liked this article too and agree that this subject has hit a bit of a nerve. But, I think that’s a good thing… we all need a chance to air it out.

  • berttheclock

    w, c’mon Laddie, can’t I get away with just one Knute Rockne moment? The story goes ND had a miserable first half of play and the players went to their locker room at half time. They were expecting to hear a Rockne tirade at half time, but, he didn’t appear. Just about the time, they were really getting nervous as it was nearing time to go back, the door opened, Rockne peered in and said, “Oh, excuse me Ladies, I thought this was supposed to be the locker room of the Fighting Irish”. Notre Dame exploded in the second half and won the game.

  • berttheclock

    BTW, Alex Karras was, also, suspended for the gambling allegations along with Hornung. They were both reinstated the following year. (Why didn’t the NFL suspend Karras for knocking out a horse?”

    However, even though it was during the Cold War, Horning did serve in the military. President Kennedy used his influence to allow him to play on weekends. But, as Veterans’ Day is tomorrow, will any AA writer write a thread concerning those NFL players and management who did serve their country in the military? There were 26 of them who were killed in WWII, two in Viet Nam and one in Afghanistan. The late Tom Landry flew many missions as the lead pilot of B-17s over Europe and returned to an exceptional career in the NFL.

  • DTVTechGuy

    Here’s what gets me…

    All these people acting surprised…

    Really? Your really suprised a bunch of overgrown, testosterone fueled, RICH, juvenile delinquents who are WORSHIPPED by the general public are acting like….

    A bunch of overgrown, testosterone fueled, RICH, juvenile delinquents?


    • elly violette

      Why shouldn’t I feel surprised when people do the wrong thing? It’s gotten so bad these days that many people aren’t surprised… but I am. Why not expect people to do the right thing?

      • DTVTechGuy

        Why shouldn’t you be suprised?


        The reality of professional athletes isn’t the same as the rest of society. That may not be right, it may not be fair… But that is reality.

        An NFL locker room is not the break room at Citibank.

        It’s not.

  • BigGil

    Why is Jared Allen listed only under alcoholism and not DUI, as well? Why is Belcher listed only under suicide and not murder, as well? I understand we’re all Chiefs fans here and these guys were Chiefs when these things happened, but I still don’t think we should minimize what they did because of that. Especially with Belcher, and especially after you make your opinionated point about “California governor”and Ray Lewis getting more than they deserve after an “I’m sorry” incident. One could say committing suicide after committing a murder you know was wrong is “the ultimate sorry”. By refusing to acknowledge the murder, only the suicide, seems worse to me than your two examples. And you’re not the only one referring to just Belcher’s suicide (many writers have done it since then) and it kinda sickens me every time. I thought Belcher was underrated as a player, and was always on here defending what he did for this team on the field prior to his murder/suicide… even considered getting a Belcher jersey I liked him as a player that well… but I cannot forget that he murdered someone, and I cannot forgive that all because he followed it up with a suicide. It was truly tragic. What could’ve been a Disney movie (D3 player defying odds, making the pro team and making a good name for himself) became a horror movie. Minimizing the murder and focusing solely on the suicide is more than he deserves. That is all.

    • ladner morse

      BigGil, thanks for pointing out what I neglected to include in both the case of Belcher and Allen. I corrected the graph and updated it to reflect your comments. The graph is something I put together to show how many big names in the NFL were included in the list of those who have been charged. It was never meant to be all inclusive or exhaustive and as I mentioned after the graph was just the “tip of the tip” of the iceberg.

      BTW… I liked Belcher a lot too coming out of Maine and making a name for himself.


      • BigGil

        It occurs to me I might’ve came off a little harsh. Good article, but I couldn’t ignore the irony. After extensive reading on the Ray Lewis case (and after working in prosecution for several years now), I’m kinda convinced that what happened in his case is what should’ve happened in his case given the evidence and the workings of the legal system. Plus he appears to me to have atoned for any potential wrongdoing by way of long term character improvement. So to mention him in the light of being a murderer (when he was at most in the company of other guys who in the midst of a brawl committed unplanned murders, and not the murderer himself) and not initially mentioning someone we know for sure committed a murder by his own hands, just didn’t sit right with me.

        You’ve always produced good articles, though, (better than a lot of full time writers at major sports sites or newspapers), so maybe I’m just holding you to a higher standard ;-)

  • KCMikeG

    Sad state of affairs for sure. All the more reason the Chiefs being 9-0 is such an impressive accomplishment while displaying exemplorary character. Winning is great but doing it in the manner our Chiefs are makes me so proud to wear the Red & Gold!!

    • ladner morse

      Mike… as I mentioned to BigGil… this list was never meant to be exhaustive. But yes… LJ should be on the list too. One of the reasons I wanted to do the list was to show what a good team the Chiefs have off the field right now. I give credit to Dorsey and Reid for that.

      • KCMikeG

        I know but just stand LJ not being on it…having trouble still with letting that whole train wreck go I guess. We could have dreamed of better work by Dorsey. From Reid to the FA’s to the Magnificent Seven – nothing but excellence!

  • KCMikeG

    A little surprised you left the disgusting LJ off the list of violence against females, Vannover and Bam Morris for drugs/stolen property and agree that Belcher should be listed under murderer 1st and suicide 2nd.

  • elly violette

    How old are you Morse? (just kidding) Did you ever see Knute Rockne? I’ve never even heard of him.

    • berttheclock

      Wasn’t Laddie the stunt double for Reagan when Ron played George Gipp?