The Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin saga has opened up a whole can of worms regarding hazing and where the line is between team-chemistry-building ritualized teasing and outright emotionally harmful bullying. Some of this is very subjective of course and depends on one’s own personal experiences. What may seem like harmless ribbing to one person can in fact be incredibly traumatic for someone with different emotional wiring, and it’s important to keep all these different points-of-view in focus when considering this incredibly sensitive and divisive topic.
With that in mind, let’s listen to what Jared Allen has to say about the whole thing. You knew Jared would have a strong opinion about this subject because he always has a strong opinion about everything, and he’s not afraid to voice those opinions. This can lead to controversy at times, but at least you always have to respect Jared’s candor.
I say this because there are those who might not like where Jared is coming from this time. As regards hazing, Jared is firmly in that old school camp of guys who think the practice is a vital part of establishing locker room cohesiveness. Allen was asked about his own experiences with hazing when he was coming up and what constitutes a reasonable level of teasing.
“It just depends on when you came in,” Allen said. “Reasonable back in the day? Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard of worse [than what happened to Jonathan Martin]. I’ve heard of less. It depends. That’s usually how it is. But usually it’s a rite of passage you go through, so as a rookie from a football standpoint you go through stuff and that’s what kind of brings you together as a team.”
The Vikings themselves are governed by a Leslie Frazier-implemented no-hazing policy, but that doesn’t mean rookies aren’t put through at least a little bit of a meat grinder. As Jared explains, the Vikings’ version of hazing isn’t exactly in Incognito territory.
“We do little things like, ‘Go get me coffee,’” Allen said. “Nothing too crazy, but I appreciate it going through that because I had the respect of the vets. Then when it’s your turn, you don’t feel so bad giving it to someone else.”
My next question for Jared would be, “Is there no other way for young players to gain trust than by having to be humiliated?” Clearly Leslie Frazier feels humiliation is not a vital part of the initiation process. That’s a difference of opinion between Frazier and a lot of the more hard-core guys who think humans need their psychological defenses systematically stripped away before they are found worthy of “respect.”
But I’m not here to engage in an imaginary debate with Jared Allen, I’m here to present his takes. On Richie Incognito himself? Jared knows the man personally and has socialized with him, so he obviously has a different point-of-view than the people who are jeering Incognito from afar. Jared’s take on Richie is that maybe he’s a little…misunderstood?
“Richie has a good heart, he really does,” Allen said. “I know he’s catching some heat right now, but from what I know of Richie, we’ve always had a good relationship. He’s always been cool with my family. We have mutual friends, so it’s a bad deal.”
Perhaps Incognito is just an example of a person who deep down inside is good but being immersed in a certain culture for too long has caused him to lose perspective on things? Clearly he pushed things too far with Jonathan Martin. But there are those who will say the fault really lies with Martin for making too big a deal out of some harmless teasing.
No one who wasn’t in the locker room really knows what went down between Incognito and Martin. From the outside it looks really ugly though. I’m not going to blast Allen for taking Incognito’s side a little bit, nor will I take him to task for his arguably short-sighted view of hazing. We’re all entitled to our opinions.