The recent incident with the Miami Dolphins and Richie Incognito’s bullying of fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin has again brought this issue front and center. No one ever thought that bullying could take place in the NFL. After all, these guys are huge and who would possibly bully a 300 pound man? The fact is anyone could be bullied if the circumstances are right.

I have first hand experience with this issue because as a boy I experienced bullying in school. My parents moved when I was eleven years old which meant I had to change schools and create a whole new group of friends. To make matters worse the friends I made in my new neighborhood all went to a Catholic school and not the public school I enrolled in.

I was usually one of the shortest kids in 5th, 6th and 7th grade and on top of that I had a Polish last name during the height of the Polish joke craze. This combination made me an easy mark for the resident bullies and I had many tough gym classes trying to avoid these thugs in the locker room.

The situation didn’t get better until I went out for intramural wrestling and earned respect from some of my tormentors. Still, even in high school I had problems from some of the Neanderthals on the football team who looked for the smaller guys to harass.

As I grew stronger and became a better wrestler I was much better equipped to deal with bullies and tried to help those who were still victims. I wish I could say that I stepped up every time I saw another getting bullied, but I can’t. There were times that the bullies were too many or too big.

With my three son’s I always stressed that they should look out for one another and others in school who may beĀ  the victims of bullies. I’m proud to say that I am aware of more than one case where they did exactly that and stood up for a smaller boy.

In fact, my youngest son, who took after me in that he didn’t hit a growing spurt until after high school, was not a victim of bullies because of his older brother. My middle son took 2nd in New York State wrestling two years running at 171 pounds so no one messed with either one of them.

There will always be bullies. It’s part of the human condition and also part of nature. To stop bullies you need others to stand up and make the bully stand down. That’s easier said than done, but I will say that in my experience athletics helped.

A true team does not allow one of its own to be bullied, even internally. That’s apparently something that did not take place in Miami and it’s disappointing that some of the Dolphin players are coming out in defense of Incognito. Leadership in that locker room should have prevented the type of abuse Martin put up with, even if some of it was supposedly in fun.

Take it from someone who has lived it, being bullied can be a haunting experience. The courage to stand up to a bully can be tough to muster, but can be fortified by others who take the time to speak up.


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