Over a year ago I stated that I would not rant about the aspects of our society that I deem to be horrible and tragic and focus this minute particle of the world wide web on health and fitness and the beauty of stand up paddling. However, this whole story about the bullying going on within the Miami Dolphins locker room has put me in a mood. Being that this story is related to sports and overall health and wellness, I figured I would exorcise some of what has been bothering me since the news first broke.
I was bullied. For almost two years in 6th and 7th grade I lived in fear of a classmate who thought nothing of punching me in the arm or chest without any provocation. I was nowhere near being considered a "big kid." I always lined up near the front of the line when our class was told to arrange ourselves from shortest to tallest. Also, I was a quiet Christian kid who enjoyed going to church and Sunday school (on most mornings) and I was pretty obedient. My momma raised me well and she took particular care to teach me to treat others kindly. I know, I know things changed when I turned 16 but before that I was an angel...Needless to say, I was easy prey for anyone with a mean streak. What made things worse was the fact that not only was I fairly well behaved and polite but I was the new kid in Mrs. Hatfield's 6th grade class. Being the new guy is awful...
Fall at a new school wasn't so bad. I got along well with everyone in the class, even the bully for most of the time. I joined the soccer team late and soon enough some of my athletic prowess was noticed by the coaches and I took over a starting position. I think this is when some of the bullying started. To sum things up, it continued into basketball season when I purposely asked to be on the "B" team as the competition for starting point guard for the "A" team was between myself and the bully. When I presented my request to make the "B" team Coach Hatfield understood the reason why and did not press the matter but he told me there would come a time when I would have to stand up for myself and it wasn't right for me to not try to reach my full potential. I wasn't ready to stand up for myself. He must have seen the panic flood my face and body because he granted my request. I played on the "B" team that season and watched the "A" team point guard flounder on the court. Despite his lack of ball-handling skills he could throw a punch to my arm that would send pain throughout my whole upper body.
On bathroom breaks it would not be unusual for me to be pushed in a corner and punched by the bully and maybe another one of his friends. There I would cower and take a beating until either more people would come in the bathroom or one of the pugilists would need to pee. This went on for some time, but I was too scared to tell anyone about it.
Also, I didn't fight back because I was scared of the pain that might ensue. Being punched in the arm hurt; in 6th and 7th grade I couldn't imagine how much a punch to the face would hurt. I didn't want to put myself in the position to experience such. (Oh how I wish I had kept that way of thinking in my 20s!)
The bullying stuck with me throughout the middle school years and summer breaks were my only reprieve. The bullying would have continued in 8th grade but my parents finally convinced me to stand up for myself. The climax to my fear happened at dinner on my 13th birthday. My parents took me to Baltimore for the weekend to explore my birth city and have a special birthday. However, I was so scared of showing up to school on Monday that I broke down in tears at dinner at the Rusty Scupper and told my parents all that had been going on for the past 2 years. I think the waitress gave me free ice cream and a lot of napkins that night! My poor parents! They were upset that I had been beaten on for an extended period of time without their knowledge, that I was turning out to be much more of a pansy than they expected, and that they knew this was a situation that I needed to take care of myself. They backed me up and they told me God would be there for me as well. I believed them and I was soon to experience evidence that there indeed was a God that was watching down over His children. I have to give a lot of credit to my parents for staying out of it and giving me the opportunity to take care of the situation myself.
To sum things up, Monday came around and I stood up for myself. No punches were thrown and I was never bullied again.
Which brings me to the story of Jonathan Martin's experiences as a member of the Miami Dolphins. I know what I experienced as a small kid getting bullied so I cannot imagine someone who is tough enough to play in the NFL can be a victim of bullying. If I was a big and strong kid I would have broken some necks if somebody tried to bully me or maybe not. I might have still cried at dinner....but the point is: this is some horrible stuff to come out of Miami. It blows my mind that bullying could happen among adults, much less huge adults, and have such a tremendous affect on someone's adult life. The effect that bullying had on my adolescent years was awful; this has got to be worse.
Imagine the gentleness in this man's heart to be so sensitive to what others think of him that he has to leave such a high paying job, out of fear, to seek solace at home with his parents. This story makes me so angry and upset because I know that being the victim of bullying as a middle schooler is a horrible thing that being the victim of bullying as an adult must be overwhelming. Obviously it is overwhelming. Who turns a blind eye to this type of behavior among grown men? It is so disgusting and there is no other way to put it.
Of course nobody but those involved know the whole story and us outsiders are just speculating. I am speculating but as a victim of bullying; I determine it to be my right. We all need to keep an eye out for bullying in our communities and in the lives of our loved ones. You are not being a "rat" notifying the proper authorities when it comes to bullying. Any time it can be stopped it should be stopped, immediately if not sooner.
Bullying is a shameful part of our society that goes on everyday in every community. This morning I read that bullies are often the victim of bullies, which makes sense but I never knew before. Obviously there are a chain of events that take place and spread beyond just the dynamic of the bully and the victim. Often I see ads for programs that are trying to stop bullying. This is such a great thing to see. Personally, I wish they had these hotlines to call about 30 or so years ago!! :)
I am so glad we don't have these kind of issues in the stand up paddling world despite those mean prone surfers call us sweepers!!
If you know someone who is being bullied here some outlets that offer help: