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The Locker Room

Happy Tuesday, sports fans! Hope you had an outstanding Veterans Day. We are blessed to live in a great country where our freedom is afforded to us daily. What a great November this has been thus far, and will continue to be.

Dominating sports headlines of late has been the saga that is the Miami Dolphins, where offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin have spurred a national trend on bullying and hazing, not only in sports but everyday life.

The story has evolved into a volatile one, with many different sides. Many players are taking sides. Critics argue Jonathan Martin is soft, while others proclaim Incognito is a racist bully. I am going to reserve opinion on that aspect as nobody outside the Dolphins knows the true story, but I can certainly relate and give you a perspective into athletic locker rooms.

The locker room is a special place, and it truly is a different culture. Athletes feel at home amongst the guys, as if they can say or do anything without being judged. This allows players to get to know their teammates on a whole new personal level that some of their closest friends may not even say. I saw a quote recently of a former hockey teammate of mine who said, “Hockey friends are different than normal friends. Hockey friends are much closer.” I can concur that this is a true statement. In any sport, people who you put so much effort and emotion into shared life events will naturally become very close with you. Love or hate, the emotions are strong and different than someone who sits across from you in 2nd period English class.

Sadly, many teams feel as if there is a “brotherhood” to teams similar to that of a frat, where extensive hazing and bullying does take place. In the NFL, I do not know how extensive this is, but some of the allegations sound rather rough. It is understandable that first year players may be subject to some pranks or have some extra cleaning duties in the locker room, but I’m a firm believer that hazing is crossing the line. Joking or teasing may be appropriate, but to put someone in a state of harassment against their will is wrong on so many different levels. Disrespecting somebody’s humanity does not make you a bigger man or tough; it makes you a coward and an ill-hearted human being.

The highest level of athletes I’ve been around was the USA U18 hockey team. As I turn on the NHL Network and watch some of them putting up great stats in their young NHL careers, I remember sitting in class and sharing seats on the bus with them just 4 short years ago. I am so glad to say I was never hazed on that team, even though I was one of the younger players when playing with the U18s and I joined the team after the start of the regular season. There were some players who really strayed lines off the ice, including a 2nd round pick who had spent some time in cocaine rehab during the year, but none of them ever disciplined or threatened to put me in a situation against my will. Unfortunately, other squads have felt the need to, which has caused me to respect them less. True teammates are ones you have a love for as a brother on the field and, even more importantly, off of it. Hazing has no place in sports, and I hope that the truth is revealed in this story sometime soon. I know our freshman here at Penn are some great ball players and great people, and I can’t wait to see them help us win a championship. I don’t need to see them suffer or do me personal favors, I need them to help me get a ring. Can’t wait for May 2013!

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