Sunday, November 10, 2013

We Make the Rules

"We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment."

C.S. Lewis

An open letter from the Miami Dolphins:

Jonathan Martin didn't get it. And neither do you.

It's not that we're above the law. It's that we make the law, we are the law. An entirely different ethos applies here -- we decide what's wrong and what's right, even what's black and what's white. Envy, self-importance, resentment? Those are the qualities we were told we should build our lives around, ever since we were recruited to play college ball starting in the ninth grade, since we lost or won our first big game.

That you will never understand is a given. You in your comfortable La-Z-Boy, watching us risk our health every Sunday, not knowing if the next hit might end our careers. We gave up on you a long time ago. Sure, we depend on you to watch so that we can earn what we do playing a game, but we don't live in your world or live by your rules, and don't want you meddling with ours.

Jonathan, he could have been different from you. He had the ability, the physique, the strength to be a part of our world. But he wouldn't follow our law. He didn't join in the locker room pranks. He wouldn't help pay for a trip he didn't go on. 

And so Richie got the word (even though he probably didn't need it) to come down hard on Jonathan. To bring him into the fold. 

But Jonathan still wouldn't give in. Sure, he nodded his head and smiled sometimes, hoping Richie would stop. He may have even made a half-hearted attempt at joining in some dirty jokes or playing along with some racist comments. But he still wasn't one of us.

Even when he decided he had enough and left, in the middle of the season, we might have let him come back. We'll let outsiders hang around for a while, if they're really good or we really need them. But then Jonathan broke the biggest rule of all: never, ever, let anyone in that world know what goes on in this one.

Jonathan at the NFL combine, back when he thought
he wanted to be part of our world. (photo from

And by doing that, maybe Jonathan, for the first time, understands the rules. Crap stays in-house, no matter what. If you have a problem, you work it out by fighting the guy who's causing it, even if he too weighs over 300 pounds and has a long history of "character issues" up to and including the possibility that he is a sociopath. 

You don't go running to your agent or to the media. Even if you can't take it anymore. 

Because, once you do, you're never, ever getting back in. Because, once you do, you will understand the lengths we will go to to protect our code, our rules, our world. Even if it means our black players  explaining that Richie is really more black than Jonathan. Or that everyone under 40 uses the n-word all the time now; that it's not derogatory any more, it's a term of affection. Kind of like "Bro" or "Dude" in your world. Or easier stuff like that Jonathan never fit in, was stand-offish and quiet and not quite as manly as the rest of us.

It hasn't been easy to do, especially that whole Richie as an honorary black guy thing. But we did it because if we didn't there'd be no end to it. No end to your trying to impose your rules in our world.

The only funny thing these past few weeks (well, other than that honorary black guy thing)? When Jonathan's agent said that he's looking forward to playing football again. Not in this universe, pal. Not in Miami or the 31 other locker rooms. We live by our rules, not yours, not your agent's.

And our rules say welcome to Hell Jonathan.