By Dave Bruning
Bullying is the use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively impose domination over others. It’s not a pretty word and the actual act is even uglier. Yet the plague of bullying is a common aspect of everyday life, as the NFL has recently reminded us.
Johnathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins left his team because he felt he was being bullied, specifically by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito. Martin is 6’5” and weighs 312 pounds, yet feels bullied by a guy whose last name is Incognito. This story drips with irony and is only going to get uglier.
I think it is probably fair to say that we all have experienced bullying on one level or another. Hell, most of us have probably been on both sides of the fence. I can safely say as a bartender I have definitely been a bully; sometimes it’s a necessary evil and sometimes I’m just an ass.
The bullying moment that stands out in my life occurred in 8th grade. I was in a new school in Fresno, CA and had no friends. I was fine during class. It was between classes and during lunch that were a living hell for me. That was a terribly uneasy time for me. I felt like I was prey being stalked by a pride of lions.
On my fateful day the lions finally pounced. I was minding my own business when two guys bigger than me decided they wanted to deposit me upside down in a trash can. I tried to fight back but was no match for the two of them. As I prepared to enter the trash can, out of nowhere came another guy who steamrolled one of my bullies. He then confronted the other bully and would not back down until they left me alone. He had size for sure, but more importantly, he also had heart. His name was Eric Beck; I will never forget him.
Beck picked me up, dusted me off and made sure I was OK. He didn’t mention the tears I was trying to hold back. That moment is ingrained in my memory. He became my friend in that moment and my life in Fresno improved.
There is a fine line between bullying and good-natured shenanigans. This line is increasingly blurry. Bullies create bullies. The scope of bullying is limitless and its tentacles are long. I believe this starts with our children and is carried forward through life. The case of Johnathan Martin and Richie Incognito is excellent evidence of the plague of bullying that exists without respect for age. There is hope, though.
We all have a little Eric Beck inside. I’ve seen it and I know it’s out there. Take the opportunity to channel your inner Eric Beck and push bullying to the sidelines, where it belongs.