*A few years ago, the great columnist Joe Posnanski wrote a truly remarkable blog post about a baseball player named Jeff King.
King was a supremely talented first baseman who absolutely despised being in professional sports. As the anecdote goes, King only played long enough to qualify for his pension – and then he disappeared, never coming back to the game.
Professional sports are full of those stories – guys so inherently talented that they end up playing what they were built for without ever really loving it, or just don’t have the classic mindset that allows them to play alongside those rabid competitors (Bison Dele, the former NBA player who mysteriously died a few years ago, was a good example. Hard as it may seem to us, looking at it from our couches with our beer and pretzels, there are people on that court and that gridiron collecting those massive paychecks who would rather be anywhere else in the world.
The Jonathan Martin – Richie Incognito story is full of more layers than your average onion. In a week or two, it’s managed to touch on an enormous range of issues throughout football and American society – racism, male culture, violence in football, locker-room culture, the idea of machismo (kudos to Brandon Marshall for some very wise words here).
The angles and information on this particular scandal shift by the day and by the hour. Something very mysterious and very wrong has gone on in Miami – and the league’s going to be dealing with this fallout for a long, long time. It goes without saying that Incognito’s actions certainly seem to be abhorrent; the media reports seem to indicate that he’s a loose cannon of a football player, with terrifying poor language choices on top of all that.
They paint a picture of someone passionate about the game and his role in it, certainly to a fault. On the other hand, it seems like Martin fits into the mold of one of those players like King or Dele – a man who never really fit into the violent, harsh, ugly world of modern professional sports. What a sad situation this is, and what a black eye for a league that seems to be taking body blows on a weekly basis.