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Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Goodbye Letter

Relationships are hard. 

This is a lesson that I’ve learned over and over and over again in the past four years or so.  I’ve seen some end and some flourish.  At the crux of almost all of them is a focal point that relationships that succeed require a lot of work, and not just work, most have factors at play beyond just effort. 
I’ve lost some relationships because I haven’t been willing to put in the work, I’ve lost others because they weren’t willing to put in the work.  I’ve lost more still to distance, some to lack of interest in maintaining one, and a few to simply the fact that I have nothing in common with the other person involved. 

All in all, I’ve found over this time frame that relationships are worth it.  They are worth the pain that they inevitably bring, they are worth the time sacrificed to cultivate them, they are worth the stress and the sorrow.  The vast majority of relationships in my life I value I’ve started and built in the last four years.  This was an intentional step, because a failed marriage in 2014 helped me see how much I wanted to have good relationships, and also how much they can’t just happen by accident.  Since that time, I’ve lost some of my oldest relationships as well, because when I finally objectively looked at them, I realized many weren’t good for either party. 

Today, I’m writing not a blog, but a break-up letter.  I’ve found a relationship that has been poison for me.  Honestly, I’ve known about it for a while, but I was so committed, I couldn’t let it go.  Outside of family, it’s the relationship I’ve held the longest in my entire life, but it’s time to say goodbye.  It’s Dear John time.  I’m sorry it had to go this way, it hurts me deeply, but it’s for the best. 

Miami Dolphins, I quit you.

For many of my friends, that past sentence may take a minute to absorb.  It’s shocking, stunning, and unfathomable to many I’m guessing.  I have had people approach me in public places and say hello after a decade or more of not seeing each other.  I don’t really look the same, but they recognize me from a distance because of my Dolphins garb.  It’s a rare site in north Idaho, and anyone who’s known me a long time, expects me to be in it frequently. 

For those that don’t know the history of my relationship with the Dolphins, I’ll create the back story a bit.  I was born in Miami and lived there for the first four years of my life.  My family packed up their bags and moved to north Idaho in 1990, I was four years old.  At the time we moved, I didn’t know what the Miami Dolphins were.  I didn’t care about sports at all until around my twelfth birthday.  I’m from there, but that’s not the reason I’ve always been a fan. 

As a young child, I was not excited to move from Miami to Coeur d’Alene in the slightest.  I remember very little of living there, but among the memories I’ve retained, one is vivid.  It’s when my parents told me that we were going to be moving to Idaho, and I replied “I don’t want to live in Idaho, there’s nothing to do there.”  From that moment on, being from Florida became important to me.  I loved Florida, and four year old Taylor was hell bent on making that chunk of his life a cornerstone of his identity. 

A few years later, I was in Cascade, Idaho, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family.  We had stayed through the weekend and the family was watching football on TV.  My Uncle Les was captivated by a game on the television, cheering on his beloved San Francisco 49ers against a team called the Miami Dolphins.  As far as I can remember, that was the first time I learned that such a thing existed.  Young Taylor immediately fell head over heels in love with the Dolphins.  I was at that absolutely obsessed with aquatic life.  Sharks, whale, dolphins, etc.  They, along with Legos, were the interests I defined my life by.  So to find out that there was a team from my identity-bestowing city of Miami, named after the oceanic idols in my prepubescent life, I was hooked. 

I ran to my factoid books that I would read obsessively, and scurried to the section listing off the Super Bowl champions, and quickly learned that Miami was the first team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls, and the only team to win one following an undefeated season.  I was quick to let Uncle Les know about both, and inform him of his team’s inferiority.  I spent the remainder of that game cheering on my beloved Dolphins.  I don’t know if they won, it didn’t even understand the game.  I was a committed Dolphins fan about six years before I ever actually cared about football.  I would let my friends know that Dan Marino was the greatest unabashedly before I ever even learned the name John Elway, I was livid when the kids in my neighborhood started to praise the name of some schmuck named Brett Favre (and I’m still right, Marino was better).  I didn’t really understand what they did, but they were mine.

And that was about as good as things ever got.  Dan Marino retired about two years into my football following life.  As soon as I was actually interested in following the sport, the Dolphins almost immediately stopping giving me a reason to be interested in following.  I’m a blindly loyal person in many ways though, I can handle the losing, I really can.  The Dolphins were really the only sports team in Miami when we moved, I didn’t latch on to any others.  I’m an A’s fan, and the losing doesn’t bother me a bit.  It’s just part of being loyal. 

Other things started to wear on me though.  Geographic separation being chief among them.  Long distance relationships are hard.  That is true for almost anyone, but it’s harder when television access is the only way to build your relationship, as it was for me and the Dolphins.  In the pre-Sunday Ticket days (dark days indeed), I was dependent on Miami games being aired in my area on either them being decent (earning Sunday or Monday night games), or them playing the local teams (Seattle or Denver) to get on TV.  Generally, three times a year was the maximum I’d get to watch them.  It’s hard to be passionate about a sport, and almost never get the chance to watch your favorite team.  Taylor’s loyalty was wavering though.  Go Phins. 

Fast forward twelve years.  I’m married, a college graduate, and for the first time, Sunday Ticket enters my life.  The geographic distance no longer has to interfere with the quality time I can give my beloved Dolphins.  What became a real issue between us at this time, was that they were dreadfully boring.  The annual expectation was 6-8 wins.  Never bad enough that you could enjoy watching great players go off against us, but never good enough to actually generate any belief that a team could be something special.  Never bad enough that we’d be drafting high, in an obvious rebuilding mode, hoping for something better in a few years, but constantly looking for the “guy” in free agency to get us over the hump to 9-7, and still nowhere near a championship.  This wore on me greatly.  It’s one thing to always be bad, it’s another to routinely leave fans with no hope of being better later.  That was the rut I was in. 

Still, it was survivable.  I hated that we didn’t have any exciting players, that wins were always 21-17, and shootouts never turned up, and shut outs weren’t an option either.  Mediocre across the board isn’t a ton of fun to watch.  One thing that adult Taylor did not share in the least bit with child Taylor is that adult Taylor truly and passionately loves the sport of football.  If Miami couldn’t give me good football, I didn’t have to stop cheering for them, but I could choose to stop watching them.  I’ll come back when it’s good, in the meantime, I have Red Zone, and Packers/Cowboys game on channel 710.  Miami understands, the local fans don’t come to the games either.

Of course, that became another point of division.  I’m a fan that longs and strives to be all in.  I’m a die hard.  Among my favorite things about all sports is the community that comes with them.  The unique fan culture that breeds and grows among groups of like-minded followers is what long ago caused me to favor college football over the NFL.  Miami has none of it.  The city is infamous for shallow fandom.  If you don’t win, we’ll go to the beach.  If you’re 6-6, the stadium is half empty.  They don’t care.  That is not a fan culture that matched well with me.  The relationship is getting rocky.

Of course, the fact that the local fan community where the team plays is also largely a nonfactor, because I’m 3000 miles away.  They are literally the team in pro sports furthest away from me in the United States.  The community that makes me love sports so much isn’t even an option for me, even if they’re winning, and that’s a problem for me.  In my entire life, I’ve met fewer than ten other Dolphins fans, I don’t just suffer, I suffer alone.  I’m also a trash talker by nature.  I can find fun in fandom, by being in a community with my rivals, and exchanging hatred too, but alas, also not an option.  Buffalo, New York, New England, those are the rivals, and their fans aren’t really around here either.  I know two Patriots fans, one really prefers hockey, the other soccer.  They both have no real reason for cheering the team, and are kind of just bandwagon folk.  That’s fun either.  The relationship isn’t over yet, but I’ve been reviewing my options.

Being a fan has gotten expensive now.  I’ve been through a divorce I didn’t see coming, I’m stuck in a house I can’t pay for.  The date is September 27, 2015 and the Dolphins are hosting the Buffalo Bills.   They enter the game 1-1 and their season has been hyped as one for a breakout.  Some big offseason acquisitions and the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill has fans pining for a real playoff run.  The Bills look to be going the other way.  This is the back on track game, we’re at home, we’re loaded with potential, and we’re going to start winning after fifteen years.  I settle in to watch the game that I’m paying Directv money I don’t have to view, and I don’t care, this year it pays off. 
Three hour late, Buffalo 41, Miami 14.  Final.  I turn the game off at halftime and get an early start on some Christmas preparations. 

Miami and I are now separated, but now actively looking to hire a divorce lawyer.  I have decided that I can no longer handle being a Dolphins fan, but my heart is not ready to move on.  I’m hurting, and I’m trapped.  My life is rife with instability, I can’t quit them, but for the first time I acknowledge that I should. 

Two more years have passed, an actual playoff appearance occurred, and while my passion isn’t what it used to be, I’ve come to terms that I need to make this marriage one where we “stay together for the kids.”  I’m not expecting much from Miami, this season, or really much in the future, but I’m going to make it work.  Miami has one thing going for it, my boy, my all time favorite Boise State Bronco (a loyalty that is not on the rocks) Jay Ajayi has landed on the Dolphins roster.  He’s not only there, he’s the cornerstone of the offense, toting the rock frequently to bleed the clock and limit the mistakes the defense and subpar quarterbacks can make.  He’s not Barry Sanders, but I love him, and he’s a legitimately exciting player to watch.  After two plus years of being non-committal on Miami, I pull the trigger and renew financial investments in my team.  On Wednesday, October 4th, 2017, I order a new jersey for my champion Jay Ajayi, I’m ready to back the Phish full steam.

October 31, 2017, I awake to get ready to work the same as every morning, alarm blaring at 7 AM.  As I always do, because I’m sports obsessive, I check ESPN for breaking news to start my morning.  I’m greeted with the news that the Miami Dolphins have traded Running Back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 4th round draft pick.

And then I realize that despite my commitment to the Dolphins that they aren’t committed to me.  I had lived in denial that teams aren’t loyal to players, and that any loyalty based on a player is a doomed iceberg to be floating on.  Throughout the day, rumors swirl that they are looking to trade Jarvis Landry as well (my second favorite player on the offense), they don’t pull the trigger, but it’s abundantly clear to me that our relationship isn’t going to work.  I’ve tried to make it work, but it takes two for a relationship to succeed, and we don’t have that. 

I’ve always been afraid to move away from Miami as my team.  I feel like I’ve made a commitment to them.  I don’t break commitments.  I take a long, hard look at my decisions before I make them, and even if I make a bad one, I try to stick with it and accept the consequences.  I didn’t willing end my marriage, I didn’t short sell my house when it made all the sense in the world to do so, I haven’t given up any of my pets even though they make finding housing a nightmare on a consistent basis.  But I’ve realized how foolish it is to take that stance with my sports teams. 

I didn’t make a vow with the Dolphins, I’m not married, and what’s more is that they don’t actually rely on me at all.  Staying with them doesn’t help them, it only hurts me.  We’re not a good fit.  Their fans don’t fit me, their team doesn’t fit me, their location, despite the arguments of a four year old me, doesn’t fit me.  We’re not meant to be together.  

Three weeks ago, I went and spent some time in Oakland with friends and family.  We soaked in a plethora of sports events while there, the capstone of which was a jaunt in the Black Hole at a Raiders game.  Those people fit me.  They are loyal.  They have been bad just as long as Miami has, and they are loyal.  The team left for twenty years, came back, and are leaving again, but they remain loyal.  They scream for four quarters, they hate the other team and let them know it.  The team stinks, and that’s okay.  They are close enough (and still will be after the move) that they won’t require a miracle to watch, or a loan to see in person.  I didn’t go thinking my fandom was for sale, three weeks after coming back, I realized that fandom should need to be bought, it should simply be desired. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve desired my Dolphins.  It’s time to stop making my fandom a chore, and look for happiness in it.  I’m doing that now.  Miami, it’s not me, and it’s not you, it’s both of us.  You’ll always have a place in my heart, but it’s no longer going to be first place.  It’s bittersweet, it hurts, but it’s time.  We are through, but I hope you find success without me. 


My heart has a new home in Raider Nation.  Just win, baby.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Final Week of Regular Season: Top 25

Ladies and gentleman, we have arrived.  A long season filled with questions about all the undefeateds, who gets in, who gets left out, and who deserves respect uncharacteristically worked everything out on it's own for us.  More relieving than the fact that we have a relatively clean finish to our season is the fact that we have survived the BCS era.  The last slate of BCS games are out and in the end, for once we got a slate of games with almost no controversy (one small controversy but better than seasons past).

I for one feel this warrants a celebration and I plan on doing just that.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing an opinion on the best way to handle a reconfigured bowl system and for all the BCS haters out there, a top ten list of the biggest flops of the BCS systems over the past ten years.

But now, let's get to the last top 25 until we have a national champion crowned.

1. Florida State - A stat flashed briefly on my screen while watching the ACC championship game on Saturday.  I was surprised that the commentators made no mention of it, at all,  the state appeared, left, and the broadcast moved on.  The stat?  The Seminoles kicker, Roberto Aguayo, has outscored Seminole opponents on the season.  Knock the schedule if you want but this is the best team I've seen on a college field since the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

2. Auburn - No debate from me here on who gets the second spot.  They compiled a great won-loss record against mostly light-weights through the first ten games of the season but successive victories over Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri make it obvious who has earned this spot.

3. Michigan State - Unlike most voters, I take into consideration the fact that the Spartans are conference champions when deciding where to rank them.  I know Alabama is good but Michigan State won their conference, played an extra game, and won the biggest game on their schedule.  Alabama didn't do any of those things, so Sparty gets my vote here.

4. Alabama - If Saban calls a Hail Mary instead of a field goal attempt, we are drooling over the prospect of Alabama-Florida State.  He didn't, we aren't.  Alabama may be the second best team ever to not win their conference (behind Alabama from two years ago).

5. Baylor - Think about this for a second, the last three BIG 12 champions are Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Baylor.  Over those three seasons combined, those schools spent less on their football team than Texas did this year.  Baylor's conference championship caps the best season in school history and maybe the most unlikely BCS AQ conference winner ever.

6. Stanford - Times have really changed when Stanford is disappointed to be playing in the Rose Bowl as a two loss team but I think that's how the Cardinal have to feel.  Stanford played that hardest schedule in the nation this year, beating seven ranked teams and playing ten games against teams going to bowl games.  The fact that both losses came to unranked teams, and one of only three teams on the schedule not going to a bowl, will make for a long offseason.

7. Ohio State - Two years into Urban Meyer's tenure as the Buckeyes head coach and we still have no idea how good they really are.  We know they are better than Wisconsin (beat them in each of his two seasons) but have no idea how good nationally.  The non-conference schedule is a joke and no team they've beaten in the 24 game winning streak has finished higher than 17th in the seasons final rankings.

8. South Carolina - Much like Stanford, the Gamecocks must be wondering how they won ten games, beat two teams headed to BCS bowls, and were the only team to beat Missouri in the regular season, yet they lost to Georgia and Tennessee.

9. Arizona State - One of my least favorite things about the BCS systems is that it penalizes teams for playing an extra game.  ASU has lost three times, yes, but they have played 13 games.  Two of those losses are to Stanford, no one else ranked ahead of them had to play Stanford once.  I refuse to penalize the Sun Devils for playing an extra game and believe they belong in the top ten.

10. Missouri - 11-2 is a really nice record and a miraculous turnaround from last year, however, Missouri beat up on a lot of teams that were in the midst of being destroyed by injuries.  Ranked wins of over Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss do not look as strong now as they did when they occurred.  Missouri, like Ohio State, will have a lot to prove in it's bowl game.

11. UCF - Probably the hardest team for me to rank because they have that "play to the level of your competition" stink all over them.  The Knights looked tough, gritty, and like a legitimate top ten team in early victories over Louisville and a hard fought loss to South Carolina.  At the end of the day though, they managed to win seven games by seven points or less, making South Florida and Temple look just as tough as Lousiville.  I'll respect the record and be very curious to see how they play the Fiesta Bowl against a Baylor team that could run away from them in a hurry.

12. Oklahoma - After the blowout loss at Baylor, I think the nation wrote off Oklahoma as a contender this year.  They quietly won out from there and capped the season with an upset of the rivals Cowboys in Stillwater.  Both losses were against strong teams and they also compiled wins over Texas Tech and Notre Dame along the way.

13. Oregon - The record and reputation made me instinctively think they should be higher but when you really analyze this team, they played sooooo bad down the stretch that even placing them here seems generous.  The two losses were bowling-shoe-dropped-in-an-outhouse ugly.  The final score in the Stanford game does not do justice to how hopelessly outclassed they were almost the entire game and the blowout loss to Arizona was just embarrassing.  Then they come back and barely survive an Oregon State team that was coming off a 42 point demolishing at the hands of Washington.  The Ducks don't deserve to be in a BCS bowl this year.

14. Clemson - The Tigers also fall into that category of "who knows" with Ohio State and Missouri.  Nice record, they play in an AQ conference, but their best win was against Georgia (seems like I've said that a lot, says a lot about how their season went) and that was on opening night.  Since that night, Clemson was beaten by the only two ranked teams they played, and the loss to FSU was the worst home loss in school history.  The Tigers best win since then is probably Boston College.  The Orange Bowl will be fun to watch and see who wants to lose the game less between them and Ohio State.

15. Oklahoma State - Season ends in disappointing fashion against the Sooners but the thrashing of Baylor at home remains one of the best victories for any team all season.  The Pokes are finally playing well on both sides of the ball as well, watch out for these guys next year.

16. UCLA - The Bruins haven't quite yet learned how to win all the big games but it shows a lot in how far this program has come that they can win all the smaller ones.  UCLA dropped games against Stanford, Oregon, and Arizona State on the year, the best three teams in the conference.  However, they did pick up wins over Washington and Nebraska, as well as all the teams they "should" beat.

17. Wisconsin - The Badgers finished off a season that was better than it had any right to be by winning nine games.  Coming off of a five loss season and losing their head coach, that is a great accomplishment.  The season ending loss to Penn State is bad but the other losses are to Ohio State and a highly controversial loss on the road at Arizona State.  Really, I'd say their record is 9 1/2 - 2 1/2.

18. LSU - The Tigers of 2013 did not look like the ones we are used.  Instead doing enough on offense and pulverizing teams on defense, LSU was inconsistent on both sides of the ball.  The only team to beat Auburn and make Johnny Manziel look like a foolish dancer behind center also dropped games against Ole Miss, Georgia, and then simply gave up at halftime against Alabama.  This team had a lot of turnover from last year and will be back in the top ten next season.

19. Louisville - Just like the UCF team represents the Cardinals only loss, this team spent the second half of the season playing to the level of their competition and the competition was bad.  After losing to the Knights, you could say that they "Oregoned it" and decided that they shouldn't play hard for anything but an unbeaten season, just play hard enough to win.  Bridgewater is a stud and the defense is among the countries best when it wants to be but they just did not play a very complete season.

20. Northern Illinois - I love cheering for the little guys, and I really want to put NIU higher than this, but I just can't.  In the preseason, I thought they had a great chance to go unbeaten this year, after they struggled to pull out early wins against Idaho and Eastern Illinois, I wrote that idea off.  Somehow they almost did it anyways.  Jordan Lynch is a Heisman worthy quarterback and that win over Iowa looked better and better as the season rolled on.  That being said the rest of the schedule aside from Ball State and Bowling Green (who beat them) belong in the bottom thirty of the entire FBS.  Hard to put them any higher despite the record.

21. Duke - The Blue Devils had the greatest season in school history.  After getting crushed by Georgia Tech and then losing a 58-55 shootout to Pitt, it would have been easy to accept this as a season just like last year.  That team beat bad teams and then let good teams score as much as they wanted.  The losing streak ended at two.  From there the Blue Devils would win eight in a row, including upsets of UNC, Virginia Tech, and Miami, before falling to the mighty Seminoles.

22. Fresno State - I have one bias that I will not deny. I hate teams that only play one side of the ball.  Teams that throw like crazy and give up points by the boatload, I hate em (Hint: Texas A&M doesn't make my rankings).  That bias comes into play here.  I could easily put this team up around 18 if I wanted to, but I don't.  Fresno State has allowed 37 or more points 4 times this season, including their one loss where they let a San Jose State that is 47th in the country ins scoring offense hang 62 on them.  David Carr is great, Davante Adams is great, but the defense is just awful.

23. Georgia - You have to wonder how far the Bulldogs could have gone if this team had been healthy at all this season.  The injuries started by halftime in the opening game against Clemson and got worse all through the season, culminating with Aaron Murray's ACL tear after 11 games of carrying the entire team on his back.  The four losses came by a total of 27 points and three were to teams that finished in the top 13.  Also, they did beat LSU and South Carolina along the way.  They faced one of the three toughest schedules in the country and faced it hurt the whole way.

24. USC - Not a bad finish for a team that decided to fire it's coach by halftime of it's fifth game.  The Trojans should be excited about what a deeper roster and a real head coach to start the season could mean for next years team.

25. Bowling Green - The MAC champions finish the season on a five game win streak that included a victory over the previously unbeaten Huskies of NIU.  Of the three losses on the season, two came by a combined 4 points.  It's not an overwhelmingly great season by any means, but it's only the 25th spot.

Also considered: Miami (FL), Ball State, Rice, and Texas

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From Incognito to Infamous

Usually I try to keep my writing light-hearted.  Lists, ranking, and shouting about how much I hate Alabama dominate the text throughout my blog.  Today, however is going to be a little different.  For the first time in seemingly ages, the Miami Dolphins are the center of sports media attention, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

Today, I put on my serious face and give my perspective on the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin debacle that is unfolding.  If you are not familiar with the story, check it out the link below.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9926888/miami-dolphins-kept-richie-incognito-control

I spent the majority of the morning listening to ESPN Radio, listening to every show my app could find that touched on the subject.  Mike & Mike, Tony Kornheiser, Chris Carter, Ron Jaworski, and Tim Hasselbeck all gave some insight to the story throughout the morning, but the best commentary I heard came from someone I'm usually very critical of: Colin Cowheard.  Cowheard described Richie Incognito as a sterotypical "tough guy."  A guy who pushes others down, tells anyone who is hurt, emotionally or physically, to just get over it.  A bully that that takes what he cans from others and uses his size and demeanor to stop others from standing up to him.

As Colin stated, the good news about guys like this is that they are dumb.  They eventually pick a fight they can't win, or wear out their welcome in whatever environment they are a part of and fall down the proverbial societal ladder.  Simply put, the bad guy eventually loses.

A nice sentiment but Incognito being the ultimate loser assumes that Martin comes out as the winner.  The problem here is that this situation has no winners.  Someone "winning" assumes that they come out from the situation in a better position than they were previously in.  I challenge anybody to find a party that comes out the better for this.

The easy answer is that Jonathan Martin is the winner but let's take a closer look at the situation.  Did Martin get Incognito out of his locker room?  Yes, it appears that he has, but Martin has perhaps an even bigger challenge left at this point.

You see football is not a great career choice for a player that struggles to stand up for himself.  Martin plays right guard and there are expectations that teammates have for any player on the offensive line.  The expectation is that you stand up and be a human wall.  Whether you are forcing a defender in a specific direction to open a running lane, or more frequently in the current landscape of the NFL, you are protecting your quarterback while he prepares to throw the ball doesn't matter.  Your job is to be a force that protects one or two specific players on your team.

As an offensive lineman in the NFL, you are looking down the barrel of a smoking gun at all times.  The biggest, strongest, meanest, and baddest men on a football field line up six inches from you.  They stare you down in silence waiting for that ball to snap and then they explode at you.  Whatever anger they are holding from their personal life, any issues with their role on their team, or even simple frustrations from the flow of the game, as a lineman you have to survive whatever motivation they have to be a force of destruction every time that ball leaves the center's hands.

Jonathan Martin will have a long fight in front of him to prove to anyone that he is up for that task again.  Offensive linemen, at all levels of football, know they have to trust the brothers by their side to do their job.  They know that the armor is useless with a single chink in it and the quarterback behind him knows that he may be the difference between a touchdown pass and a season ending injury.  Simply put, Jonathan Martin's job is to stand up and hit every big man coming his way, harder than they hit him.  To fight through hostilities and pain, to man up and protect the guy behind him.

The situation with Martin says to me that he is not ready to play football in the NFL.  Not because he is in the wrong, he isn't.  Not because he should have to put up with grief from other players or buy their meals, he shouldn't.  Not because he isn't talented enough to play, he absolutely is.  The reason is because a right guard has to be able to stand up and protect all the guys behind him and right now Jonathan Martin does not seem to know how to even protect himself.

Martin is six feet, five inches tall and weighs 312 pounds.  If a player is pushing him to far, stand up, punch him in the face during practice, and survive a shewing form your head coach.  For 100 years now, this has solved most conflicts on a football team.  Martin is a physical monster, he is physically capable of defending himself when necessary, and has chosen not to.  What is even more alarming to me though is not Martin's inability to defend himself physically but mentally.  Martin is a graduate of Stanford University, the best school West of Illinois at least, and was in the right, why did he not go to his coach or other teammates and resolve this.

Again, I have to point out that I fully believe that Martin is in the right here, but he should be ashamed of the way he handled the situation.  If you want to play football in the NFL, you can't solve disputes by saying nothing for 18 months, then deciding you need time to deal with emotional issues, state there are no issues with the team, and then wait for the league to come probing for an issue to admit that someone has been bullying you for almost two years.  No matter what consequences he feared could come from "ratting" out the treatment from Incognito, it would have been impossible for it to have damaged his team as much as this "solution" did.

Richie Incognito is certainly a loser in this situation.  He is suspended indefinitely, which means he is losing money, and regardless of what other news breaks one has to believe that his career could be done for.  Miami almost certainly will have to part ways with the veteran guard, for PR reasons at least, and based on on his reputation this would have to be strike three.  Three years of good behavior (supposedly) have helped many forget how problematic his career has been and it may be at a point where no one else will take a chance on him.  How this situation plays out is irrelevant, the NFL days are likely over for Incognito.

The entire Miami Dolphins organization is free-falling from this as well, they are not Penn State, but they have taken over Tampa Bay as the team that has the worst reputation.  There are reports of coaches being involved in asking Incognito to "toughen up" Martin.  Even if those are false, or the coaches are lower level and easily replaced, second year head coach Joe Philbin has egg all over his face and looks at the least painfully ignorant, if not completely dismissive.  Keep in mind that last year Sean Payton sat the entire season out despite limited evidence of any involvement in the "bounty" scheme.  Philbin may have to miss some time, even if he keeps his job.  Given the way that the NFL operates and how much your organizations public reputation has been made a heightened importance recently, I expect a "house-cleaning" to occur.

Philbin and the coaching staff are therefore also losers in the story.  What about the rest of the team?  Absolutely.  Perhaps the most concerning part of this story is the fact that Martin has absolutely zero locker room support right now.  Incognito is not believed to have been alone in this and keep mind that Martin plays right between him and the younger Pouncey, whose recent involvement with Aaron Hernandez will certainly gain him some accusatory looks as this draws on.  Keep in mind that Miami just acquired starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie in a trade less than two weeks ago.  If Pouncey ends up as part of this story, then only one starter on the Miami offensive line next week may have been starting just 14 days ago.

This is all happening on a line that led the league in sacks allowed when all the starters were healthy.  Ryan Tannehill is a young quarterback, that is only in the fourth season of his entire life playing the position. His pocket presence is sub par, he holds the ball to long, and is going to take a beating this season that may take years off his career.  The window for Tannehill to blossom is closing alarmingly fast.  There are defensive linemen being lumped into this story as well, so the defense might suffer as well.

The bottom line is that the organization is looking at an extraordinary loss of talent, general manager Jeff Ireland was already on the hot seat and seems assured to be fired by season's end once this team misses the playoffs.  The rebuilding process may be painful and slow if they lose all the talent as well.  The Dolphins don't draft well and haven't for years, and free agents don't typically walk into fires.  The fans are the biggest losers of this whole ordeal.

The NFLPA loses as well, they have to represent both players in the inevitable litigious process.  Veterans the league over are losing out as well, because you can bet your favorite team cap that the big meals on the rookie tabs and other initiations are going to be a huge center of attention this offseason and will be gone no later than the next time union agreements come up for bargaining again.  It's easy to overreact to stories but this one is going to linger and sting.

The real story here is that it may not pay to be a bully but being vindictive certainly is paying big dividends either.  I sympathize for stories about children that are bullied, the 40 pounder that gets beat down on the playground, the kid with a speech impediment that can't use his words to defend himself, but not behemoth that chooses to save voicemails and text messages in case he reaches a breaking point.

Bullying is a hot issue in our country right now but this is not bullying.  Bullying is when someone incapable of defending themselves is victimized by others who exploit that fact.  Martin chose not to stand up for himself, it's not bullying, it's just being weak, and hopefully players on both sides of issues like these can learn from the train wreck unfolding in front of us.