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updated: 2/17/2014 9:17 PM

Maybe we have this bullying thing backward

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  • Richie Incognito sure appears to be someone who needed help with the issue of bullying long before he reached the NFL.

    Richie Incognito sure appears to be someone who needed help with the issue of bullying long before he reached the NFL.
    Associated Press


A widespread concern is that the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal will trickle down to students in grade schools, high schools and colleges.

Maybe the real concern should be that bullying is trickling up from those lower levels to the professional level.

The Dolphins' mess has become a buffet for the amateur sociologist that resides in newspaper columnists.

So here goes.

The Dolphins' debacle is troubling because bullying is all around us, not just in the NFL.

Browns rookie offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey had to change high schools after being bullied. Last autumn quoted him on the Dophins' situation:

"It's pretty tragic. I don't care if you're a 24-year-old NFL lineman, bullying is the same as if you were a 9-year-old girl. It doesn't matter how old or how big you are, no one should have to go through that."

But many people, young and old, do have to go through it in schools, in workplaces, in homes, on the street, in the military, on the Internet and, yes, in professional sports.

Not all adult bullies started bullying when they were all grown up. Many bullied as youngsters or themselves were bullied then. Too often the transgression wasn't addressed forcefully enough.

Richie Incognito -- whom the Wells investigation determined harassed fellow Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin -- reportedly had behavioral issues at two universities.

Was Incognito allowed, even enabled, to be Incognito because he was a good athlete? Were even adults afraid of him? Was there much of an attempt to extract the bully out of him?

Incognito's conduct didn't start in the NFL; it transitioned there. Now he's on his third pro team, his reputation is as a dirty player, he has had issues away from football …

And last season his pattern of behavior came to an ugly head.

Incognito sure appears to be someone who needed help long before he reached the NFL.

Is bullying more prevalent these days? Or is it more prominent thanks to more media focus, including anti-bullying public-service announcements?

The fear has to be that bullying is human nature, or more precisely inhuman nature.

Bullies can justify their actions to themselves. They don't consider it senseless behavior but more something that needs to be done.

Considering how much bullying is occurring throughout society, it's possible that the instinct to bully resides inside all of us.

Somewhere down deep is a dark side that wants us to demonstrate that we're superior to others. One way is to belittle those who are the weaker.

Thank goodness most of us resist the urge to take out our own frustrations, inadequacies and inferiorities on others.

But then there are those who feel so frustrated, inadequate and inferior that they do to the physically, mentally or emotionally vulnerable what the Wells report determined Richie Incognito and teammates did to Jonathan Martin.

Generalizing about bullies is a precarious proposition. They're children who come from all sorts of walks of life and as adults enter all sorts of new walks of life.

Who knows why the same circumstances set off one person into bullying but not another person?

All we can hope is that the good stand up to the evil to protect victims and condemn villains.

Bullying is hard to eliminate, so the best scenario is that it's contained by rules and regulations established by persons of character and integrity.

Those persons were absent in Miami, and now the NFL has to address the issue, but so do other pockets of society.

Bullying can't be permitted to trickle up any more than it can be allowed to trickle down.

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