JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you’re sick and tired of hearing about Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. You’re probably done listening to the talking hairdos break down this bizarre story and are ready to be outraged by the next controversy. We all love the latest and greatest.
In a number of ways, this story was the perfect storm for the current state of our sports media world. You had the trendy bullying angle, blended with a touch of racism and mixed with a bit of mystery. Every day there was something else unearthed about this bizarre event.
Now the window has shut, our short attention spans have wandered off and we’ve closed the book on this story.
I have to hand it to the national media following this story – they helped make a specific narrative explode. Information was quickly reported causing opinions to be made swiftly. The early facts of story caused us to hear about the serious effects of bullying and made us label Incognito as a racist who pushed his teammate to quitting.
As we learned this week, that wasn’t the case. Our lightning fast, social media style of instant analysis has numerous benefits, however accuracy often isn’t one of them. We require the news immediately as it breaks and take in the information as it is presented without cross checking, logically thinking for ourselves or doing any more research on the topic before we form our opinions.
And once they’re formed, they rarely ever change.
If a reporter we respect, say ESPN’s Adam Schefter for example, breaks a story, we take that person at their word. Schefter tweeted one of Incognito’s “threatening” voicemails to Martin on November 4. The transcription featured racial slurs and was way over the edge for even an NFL locker room.
It wasn’t until November 11, a week later, that Jay Glazer of FOX Sports sat down with Incognito and reported that he and Martin were “best friends” and that one of his “threatening” texts happened to be a goofy dog meme.
By this time we had already decided that Incognito should be suspended. The Today Show was discussing bullying and former players were doing interviews on the nature of the NFL locker room. Former Raven Tony Siragusa tweeted an unpopular opinion about the Incognito-Martin story, saying that he’s taught his kids to face problems head on and that “quitting is not an option.” He defended his thoughts in a fantastic interview on the Dan Patrick show.
This column isn’t meant to defend Incognito. I agree with everything Shannon Sharpe said in his pregame rant on CBS last week. It’s never acceptable to use the words that he used — never.
But there’s much more to this story than we know. Why would Incognito “threaten” his “best friend”? Did Martin consider Incognito his buddy as much as Incognito thought he did? Was Martin just not cut out for the NFL? Did the Dolphins tell Incognito to toughen up Martin?
We don’t have the answers, so let’s stop forming opinions.
Social media is fantastic for breaking news, but we can’t jump to conclusions without all the facts.