Turning the Page

Bullying hinders a team's success

My two best friends have always been a blank page and a basketball, which is why I do what I do.

The ability to capture in print what I have seen first-hand has generally something that has always come naturally to me. I love the amount of skill it takes to pain a picture in someone’s mind. Even if you think you have no imagination whatsoever, if you’re the most logical thinker on the planet, if you dream in stick figures, I have always been told I can blow that out of the water and paint something masterful.

Now, on to the basketball. My natural athletic ability is for all intents and purposes nonexistent. As a kid, I went through some things that led to me overeating. Before I knew it, I was 30-50 pounds heavier than all the kids in my grade. I couldn’t run without wheezing. I had more stretch marks than friends. I was miserable.

This leads to me to what the buzz all over the sports world has been this week — bullying. A big outrage has been sparked in the Miami Dolphins organization with accusations of one offensive lineman bullying another. While I have not experienced bullying as an adult (and I find it rather ridiculous), I did participate on a number of sports teams as a kid, despite my size. I was bullied on every one of them.

I suppose my weight made me an easy target. I suppose my lack of popularity contributed to some of the ridicule. Regardless of what the reason was, it was brutal. As worthless as I felt to begin with, this increased the feeling tenfold.

Eventually, people grow up. I did, so did the people around me. I didn’t drop the weight until I got to college, but the bullying went away as people matured. I don’t know what’s going on in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, and I’m not going to try to speculate. But what I do know is bullying has zero place in the sports world, especially on one’s own team.

If I’m playing a game of basketball, do I expect to hear some trash talk? Yes. Do I expect to hear someone tell me I’m terrible if they make a move and get to the rim on me? Absolutely. Is that bullying? No. Bullying is when the game ends, so does the talk. I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. A lot of things are fine within the lines of competition. Once the buzzer sound, the whistle blows, the clock runs out, you drop the attitude and treat people like equals.

The realistic possibility of this happening in totality is not realistic. There is plenty of room for a jab or some playful banter between people striving toward the same goal, but tearing someone down has consequences that could sink the whole ship. See: Miami Dolphins.

Bullying is never okay, and often a drastic physical reaction makes it even worse. Even if you can’t stand a teammate, keep it to yourself.