Ever since I was a little kid, football has always been my favorite sport, both to play and -- when it was obvious I wasn't going to be 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds -- to watch. But the NFL finally jumped the shark for me last week when the bullying scandal involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins broke.
According to news reports, Incognito was the ringleader of an ongoing harassment campaign against Martin, the starting left tackle.
I won't repeat the sordid details. You probably already know more about the obscene, racist voice messages and emails, the violent threats and the constant intimidation than you ever wanted to hear.
But what really shocked me was the reaction by NFL executives and the Dolphin players. According to them, Incognito is the good guy, and Martin is the bad guy.
His sin: violating the "sanctity of the locker room" by going public.
As one NFL front office man who preferred to remain, uh, incognito, said, "If Incognito did offend him racially, that's something you have to handle as a man." Translation: It would have been perfectly OK if he had beaten Incognito to a pulp.
If you and I were co-workers, and I did things to you even one-tenth as bad as what Incognito is alleged to have done to Martin, I would be out of a job before the day was out, and rightly so. But if you had punched me out in retaliation, you would be fired, too, because that's not the way grown-ups act, especially in the workplace.
In short, the only place where the rules don't apply is the NFL, where the law of the jungle is the only form of discipline. If someone harasses you at work, the proper recourse is to go to your supervisor or the Human Resources department. But Martin didn't have that option because, according to news reports, it was the Dolphins' general manager who turned Incognito loose on him in the first place in order to "toughen him up."
A lot of Dolphin players are saying Martin was somehow "soft" because he went to an elite school like Stanford. But he wasn't too soft for Jim Harbaugh, the toughest coach in football, who trusted him to protect Andrew Luck's blind side for two years.
The only one who has acted like a grown-up in all this is Martin. But the consensus among sports reporters is that Incognito has a bright future in the NFL -- the Raiders are already negotiating for his services -- but Martin will be lucky if he ever gets to play another down.
When the devastating PBS documentary and book "League of Deception" were released last month, detailing how the NFL systematically covered up the dangers of football-related concussions, even imperiling little kids in the peewee leagues, many pundits wondered if the next generation of parents would ever be willing to allow their sons to take the risk.
But now I have to wonder: What parent would want his or her son to work in a business that rewards bullying and ostracizes people who have the guts to stand up to it?
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys. Or Dolphins. Or Raiders. Or any other team in the league.
Reach Martin Snapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.