No more rookie hazing

The recent uproar between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins has severely threatened the tradition of rookie hazing in any sports program.

The acts of heckling and playing pranks on rookies of a sports team have long since been an intricate part of any athletic program.

From professional athletes leaving rookies to pay $15,000 dinner bills to high school and college athletes forcing younger players to carry their equipment, hazing is sometimes viewed as just fun with no real harm.

But the allegations against Incognito, which include death threats and racial slurs, border the line between innocent fun and outright bullying.

While certain people enjoy a good ribbing, there are those who feel rookie hazing is an abomination to the integrity of a sport.

"There is really no place for hazing in sports," said Gifford Lindheim, head coach of Santa Monica College's football team. "Any activity that is degrading or humiliating or makes one person feel less than another isn't productive for any party."

Lindheim said he does not allow hazing on his own team.

"We don't even talk about whether a guy is a freshman or a sophomore," he said, adding that his players are given equal opportunity and value no matter what the position or level.

Rookies might be newer to the scene, but they are not slaves. Having to carry other players' equipment or cleaning up after their messes is something that should be obliterated from sports altogether.

That kind of behavior portrays a lack of leadership and equality within a sports team. It seems that veterans do this less for having fun and more for feeding their own damaged egos.

Rookies on a team generally have to adjust to a new team, new coaches, and new systems. From my time playing on sports teams, rookies have been subjected to ridicule when they are not able to pick up a system as fast as players who have been on the team for a longer time.

After a year or so, rookies are then considered veterans with a bone to pick. They feel inclined to dish out the same treatment they were given as rookies, therefore, humiliating new rookies by making them parade around in their underwear or having them run a mile carrying another player's equipment.

Being a rookie does not necessarily mean that a player's skill level is weaker than that of a veteran. Rookies often take a team by storm as soon as they set foot on a basketball court or a football field.

Just last year, quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III quickly outshined the rest of their teammates, as well as other veteran quarterbacks throughout the National Football League, both leading their teams to the postseason.

This year, SMC's own freshman running back Melvin Davis has played an intricate part in the Corsairs' success.

A player whose skill set is leaps and bounds greater than that of his or her teammates should not have to be made to be any less on the team solely because veterans on the team cannot match the talent.

The Incognito-Martin case, however, brings a much more disturbing aspect of rookie hazing to the table.

When players feel the need to toughen up younger players using threats, racial slurs and verbal harassment, then they are taking the act of hazing and turning it into flat-out bullying.

In 2012, La Puente High School's men's soccer team underwent an investigation after four players were accused of sexually violating freshmen team members with poles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Stupidity is taken to astronomical heights when athletes defend this excuse for bullying because they feel rookies have to tolerate such abuse in order to "earn their stripes."

Athletes prove their worth by showing what they can produce, and not by how much humiliation they can take from older teammates.

A simple joke can be tolerated, but these idiotic acts of raw abuse should ultimately lead to the extermination of rookie hazing altogether.

"I anticipate hazing will soon be a thing of the past and outlawed, as it should be," Lindheim said.

That would probably be for the best.

SportsJonathan RamosComment