|Prince Amukamara (20) took an ice bath courtesy of teammate Jason Pierre-Paul. (US Presswire)|
This stuff still goes on in the NFL. Hazing. Bullying. One bigger, stronger person dominating another, and why? Because he can.
Meatheads, you know that? They're meatheads, all of them, and not just Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants, the freakishly built defensive end who picked up little cornerback Prince Amukamara during training camp and dumped him into a tub of ice water.
Jason Pierre-Paul isn't the problem here. He's a symptom, the manifestation of something malignant.
Pierre-Paul is the cough. Hazing is the cancer.
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And it's still happening in the NFL, which boggles the mind on one level but then, frankly, makes all the sense in the world on another. It's mind-boggling that grown men -- professionals, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars at the very least -- would still carry on like drunken frat boys or insecure high school cowards. And it's mind-boggling that their employers, representing franchises worth upwards of a billion dollars, allow it to happen.
But it's not surprising, really, that NFL athletes would carry on like the Giants were carrying on in that video. Giants punter Steve Weatherford has apologized for posting it, but I'm grateful he did. It started a conversation the NFL needs to have, given that professional athletes are children who never grew up.
As kids they were the biggest or fastest athletes on the block, and because of that they were rewarded with attention and affection. Nothing fundamentally has changed. They were the biggest or fastest in high school, and then college, and because of that they made it into the NFL -- where the attention and affection is still there, more than ever.
Some of these guys never grew up, never matured, never hit a level of personal development where it occurred to them that, no, it's not right to dominate a smaller, weaker person just because I can.
See, this is much bigger than Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara, though I'll admit to this: I now dislike Pierre-Paul. He's just another bully, a bigger kid who lacks the courage or compassion to realize it's not OK to dominate a smaller kid. I don't know much about Pierre-Paul, and I don't want to know, so save your emails about how great he is, how misunderstood. I don't care. He's a team leader who picked up a much smaller, much less valuable teammate, threw him over his shoulder like a bag of dog food and dumped him into ice water. That tells me all I need to know about Jason Pierre-Paul.
But Amukamara? I feel for him. Although he's part of the NFL's Never Land culture, he's also the grown man who was chucked into a tub of ice water. The defeated look on his face when he got out of the water was heartbreaking, so I did some research on Amukamara the person. Him, I wanted to know more about.
Turns out Amukamara graduated in 3 1/2 years from Nebraska, where he goes back to train. While there a few months ago he worked out with some kids at nearby Lincoln High School and remembered the days as a kid when his own youth coaches would have buy his cleats. Amukamara wrote a check for $10,000 to Lincoln High to buy the team cleats and practice jerseys.
That's Amukamara. And this is Jason Pierre-Paul: a 6-foot-5, 278-pound monster of a defensive end, a Pro Bowl player, a man too big and fast for NFL offensive tackles to stop. What chance did the 6-0, 207-pound Amukamara -- who had a decidedly un-Pro Bowl-like season in 2011 -- have against him? None. That's why the video shows Amukamara quietly accepting his fate even as a teammate screams, "Stand up for yourself!"
As if it's that easy.
That's the evil of hazing, and yes, I called it evil. It is. There are various levels of evil, so don't play the Sandusky card on me as if anything that falls short cannot be called evil.
Nonsense. Hazing is evil. Bullying is evil. Hazing is bullying, and here's where some of you will rush to the message boards below this story to type, "Doyle was probably picked on as a kid!" Not that it matters, but I wasn't. Which makes me one of the lucky ones, because bullying is a real scourge, happening all over the map. The strong pick on the weak. It's what mentally tiny but physically large people do to make themselves feel important. It's a lie, but when your friends -- or teammates with the New York Giants -- are rooting you on, behaving as if Jason Pierre-Paul is the most entertaining, charismatic man in the room, how can a person tell the difference?
Notice how I've not written "think of the kids!" There is a component of that -- kids are watching, kids without role models at home, kids who think Jason Pierre-Paul has any clue what it takes to be a real man -- but this isn't a plea to think of them.
This is a plea to stop bullying. The truth is, bullying can kill -- one way or another. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people, with bullying victims up to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, and in the case of a drum major at FAMU, bullying was literally the cause of death.
It will never stop, because big, strong people -- whether strong by themselves or strong in numbers -- will always exert their dominance over the vulnerable. That's life, but it's not right. It happens on a school bus in upstate New York and it's a shame, cruel kids being cruel kids. But it happens in an NFL locker room, one millionaire athlete bullying another as teammates cheer it on, and it's pathetic.
Jason Pierre-Paul, you're pathetic. But you're not the malignancy here. You're just the cough that reminds us that bullying is a cancer -- and the NFL is sick.