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The Locker Room and Smarts
February 14, 2014 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Today, saw the release of Ted Well's report on the ongoing harassment of Jonathan Martin by his Miami Dolphin teammate, Richie Incognito. One tidbit from the Stanford educated Martin writing to his mother "I mostly blame the soft schools I went to, which fostered within me a feeling that I'm a huge {deleted}, as I never got into fights." Does the NFL distrust players who are educated? What happens when a player chooses academics over immediate NFL success? The Rejection of Myron Rolle

In the history of the NFL, there have been just 3 Rhodes Scholars turned players:

Bryon White, Pittsburg Pirates - 1938, Detroit Lions - 1940, US Supreme Court 1962-1993
Pat Haden, LA Rams 1976-1981, Broadcaster, Athletic Director USC 2010-?)

The last was FSU's standout Myron Rolle (wiki). Prep school educated, Rolle faced similar distrust during his FSU days until he boxed his way into his teammates' trust. Once projected to be the 18th draft pick, Rolle received the Rhodes and went to study at Oxford. Returning to the NFL draft a year later in 2010, he slipped all the way to the 6th Round, drafted by the Tennessee Titans. After two more years floating on practice squads for the Titans and Steelers, Rolle announced he was retiring without ever playing a down in an NFL game. Don't worry though he's got a Foundation to run and he's in med school to pursuing a degree in Neurosurgery.
posted by drewbage1847 (14 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and yet that kind of intellect/education still doesn't protect you from being labeled a thug when you have a testosterone-fueled moment after a testosterone-fueled game that isn't much worse than what happens on Capitol Hill.

[Nicely done FPP, by the way--thanks]
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:09 PM on February 14 [10 favorites]


What happens when a player chooses academics over immediate NFL success?

He gets the last laugh as his ex-teammates succumb to mental and physical damage.
posted by Renoroc at 6:09 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Drew Magary of Deadspin had a couple good complementary/reaction pieces, one on how football players bond and one on why non-assholes always want to impress assholes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:11 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


he's in med school to pursuing a degree in Neurosurgery.

Oh, such a loss to society to have anti-intellectualism fester in the NFL...
posted by ocschwar at 6:26 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


He gets the last laugh as his ex-teammates succumb to mental and physical damage.

I understand this point but not everyone has the education or aptitude or wherewithal for something like a degree in Neurosurgery, and it's not like the job market is so great that choosing academics guarantees you a success.

There are a ton of problems with football, the biggest of which is the horrible damage it inflicts on the players, but implying that everyone in the NFL made the choice between "academics" and "mental and physical damage" is not very charitable, especially when there's a tone of righteousness about the damage happening to those who didn't choose academics.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:33 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]


I'm a tactics and strategy nerd - I love the defensive side of the ball. The last Superbowl was ok by me since it was a defense demolishing the other team. A second confession - I'm a life long Florida Gators fan, which explains my double joy at the Manning defeat and should put an emphasis on how much I see to admire in someone like Myron Rolle, since he played for the enemy, FSU.

I do think its sad and limiting that things have reached a state that a man with his talents both physically and mentally can't strive for both.

And I really find fascinating the question: did Rolle's unabashed desire to delve into Neurology play a factor into the unease during this challenging time of CTE, etc. Who knows, maybe he will be the guy who cracks the nut that is concussion trauma in football while serving as an example that we don't have to run a thug image across all of our athletes, particularly those of color.
posted by drewbage1847 at 6:53 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I don't think this phenomenon is restricted to the NFL. If you have good options, the bosses have less freedom to treat you like shit. When Sam Houston fought Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto he burned the bridges on his retreat route so that his troops had nowhere to run; it was victory or death. Same deal. So-called great leaders play dirty with their own followers if it gives them an advantage.

Loose enough definitions permit the equation of loyalty with obedience with team-play. Bosses dig obedience. Does Myron Rolle look deferential to you?
posted by bukvich at 6:58 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


So, are we still pretending that playing in the NFL doesn't grind away at the intellectual capacity and emotional control of these men, because that seems relevant to me in discussion about whether or not great intellects get dropped into that blender.

As it turns out, no:
Given Rolle's activism on health care-related issues while at Florida State and Oxford, it's easy to see teams imagining Rolle becoming an unofficial spokesperson on brain trauma, just as Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo took on similar roles concerning gay rights. Significantly, both were released in 2013. Perhaps the NFL wasn't scared of Rolle simply because of his intelligence, but because they were afraid of how he might use that intelligence.
Jesus, did you really have to hide the ball 3,642 words deep?
posted by NortonDC at 7:14 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]


I don't wish to dispute the claim of anti-intellectualism among participants in this particularly brutal activity, but the paucity of Rhodes Scholars among NFL players proves little -- I don't think there's ever been a professional baseball player who was a Rhodes Scholar, and I think only two NBA players (Bill Bradley, Charles McMillen; both were Olympians and served in the US Congress). Closest I can find is Charles Keith, who played baseball professionally in the minor leagues 1906-1909.

Knowing what we know about the mental and physical consequences of American football, I'm with Malcolm Gladwell on this: it needs to be ended at every school.
posted by PandaMomentum at 7:39 PM on February 14


...and yet that kind of intellect/education still doesn't protect you from being labeled a thug when you have a testosterone-fueled moment after a testosterone-fueled game that isn't much worse than what happens on Capitol Hill.

I enjoyed this article as much as the OP! The easiest way to spot a filthy casual the past month or so has been to hear their negative, uninformed (projected) opinion of Sherman.
posted by young_son at 3:06 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's ever been a professional baseball player who was a Rhodes Scholar,

That's most likely because the path to the Big Leagues in baseball didn't used to run through college and still mostly does not. It is pretty hard to get a Rhodes Scholarship while playing for the Modesto Nuts.

I'd also point out there are not that many Rhodes Scholars (83 allocations - 32 in the US and 11 in Canada) so the statistical likelihood of any of them being professional level athletes in any sport is quite low because the statistical likelihood of them being any particular thing is quite low.
posted by srboisvert at 6:52 AM on February 15


that report is amazing. it's both surprising and not surprising. i still cannot figure out why incognito said the report would "bury" jonathan martin.
posted by nadawi at 7:00 AM on February 15


Um, in 2013 there were at total of 83 Rhodes scholars. This seems an odd metric.

I'm much more concerned with the graduation rates of athletes from some schools that are athlete mills. http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/newmedia/public/rates/index.html
posted by vapidave at 7:38 AM on February 15


i still cannot figure out why incognito said the report would "bury" jonathan martin.

Because no one has told him "Dude, you're being an asshole. Stop being an asshole," since he was about 14. Ever since then, he's been in a culture that allows these things when not actively encouraging them. So he figured the report would say "Incognito is no worse than anyone else in the NFL and Martin is being oversensitive." He doesn't realize that the rest of society isn't like that not because we can't be but because we realized that we don't have to be.
posted by Etrigan at 8:34 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


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