Incognito used to be a term just to describe how someone who conceals his or her identity. Now the term conjures up thoughts of a bully.
That's what happened after Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman for the Dolphins was accused of bullying a teammate and suspended.
It's a rap the NFL can withstand given the reputation of a league where controlled violence is celebrated as part of the game and off-field violence is dismissed as an inherent aggressive behavioral trait typical for a pro football player. Only in America is the public not surprised by the scandal that began in the Dolphins locker room that has triggered controversy about acceptable forms of hazing in sports.
NFL, college and high school football definitely dominates attention in November, even though the start of the basketball season has grabbed a few headlines. It's awesome the NBA is trying to redirect media attention with headlines noting the league doesn't tolerate bullying. Nice try, Commissioner David Stern. The NBA doesn't really need to divert attention from its thug image by making a statement about the NFL's failure to control "mean boys" and bullies in the locker room.
Incidentally, Heidelberg's football team's recent loss to Division III football powerhouse Mount Union definitely grabbed attention of the Tiffin community, which packed the Berg's relatively new athletic complex. The attendance had to be close to a record since the Student Princes began hosting home football games back on their campus in November, 2009 after a 45-year hiatus.
Despite its home field being back on the campus, Heidelberg still is a generous supporter for the campaign to upgrade the turf, track, lights, stadium seats, and scoreboard at Frost-Kalnow stadium, home of the Tiffin University Dragons, Calvert Senecas, and Columbian Tornados. Especially in recent months, there has been a greater appreciation extended to acknowledge the huge fundraising efforts in an original stadium campaign under the leadership of Elaine and the late Bob Hunt. Now the time has come to finance tall-order renovation items in a community-shared athletic complex that provides a magnificent environment for home teams while also generating revenue through championship events.
Two former Tiffin University students turned NFL players (Nate Washington and Chris Ivory) competed at Frost Kalnow stadium. Hopefully they will contribute to the stadium renovation project, along with Heidelberg's Mike Preston, also in the NFL. There is no doubt local support has been extended by the many, many local families that have enjoyed numerous events on the turf and track over the years.
It is interesting to consider family connections in the NFL, such as famed quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning or coaches John and Jim Harbaugh who competed against each other in last year's Super Bowl. Plenty of other brother acts have competed professionally. In fact, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has statistics for more than 300 siblings who competed in the league.
One of the earliest NFL stars to have a brother also play professionally was the great Jim Thorpe. Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, former president of the NFL Players Union, had a brother (Marcus) who competed six seasons for three different teams. Atiim Kiambu Hakeem-Ah "Tiki" Barber, former NFL pro-bowl running back, competed with brother, Jamael Orond "Rond" Barber, a Pro-Bowl cornerback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Shannon and Sterling Sharpe were another notable set of NFL siblings, but the brother act of Clay and Bruce Matthews were seemingly invincible after suiting up for a combined 547 NFL games over 38 seasons. Ironically, Bruce Matthews shares the NFL all-time record for the most Pro Bowl appearances (14) with Merlin Olsen, the 1962 draft pick who starred in Little House on the Prairie.
Olsen had two siblings (Orrin and Phil) who played in the NFL along with another player-turned-actor, Alex Karras who starred as George Papadopolis on the 1980's "Webster" sitcom. Karras's brothers (Lou and Ted) competed on five different teams in the fifties and sixties.
Here is a good trivia question. Beside the Mannings, what four popular (recognizable) quarterbacks also had a brother who competed in any position in the NFL? Here is a hint: All four quarterbacks were active in 2002.
Answer: Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Matt Hasselbeck, and Michael Vick.
Cunningham's brother Sam played nine years with the New England Patriots; Flutie's brother Darren had one season with the San Diego Chargers; Hasselbeck's brother Tim played quarterback for four different teams; and Michael Vick's brother Marcus played with the 2006 Miami Dolphins.
Imagine the pride of a family with two or more sons who make it to the elite level of the NFL. That pride seems to have origins on the sidelines of so many small community fields in every corner of America where small tykes suit up in shoulder pads and learn to compete in youth leagues coached by dads and brothers and uncles. It is in sport that so many youths learn early-on the important value of teamwork, character, dedication, and leadership which are foundational characteristics for success in everyday life.
Too bad Richie Incognito forgot some of those lessons.
Stay tuned next month for more interesting sport stories from around the world to our small community in northwest Ohio.
Bonnie Tiell is the associate professor of sports management at Tiffin University.