JOHN L. PITTS: Not every workplace is peaceful




When I was barely out of college, not long after the discovery of fire, I worked in a sports department at a Nashville newspaper where we all were routinely threatened.

This was not some good-natured teasing. The guy in charge of the department at night regularly threatened to take one of us “out to the loading dock” and thrash us if we didn’t straighten up.

None of us ever really stood up to him. If we had, maybe we would have gotten fired.

Today, of course, he’d be the one to get fired. That may not be a good thing – truth be told, we needed to straighten up. He was right.

All of this came to mind in the wake of the story about some sort of trouble in the Miami Dolphins locker room between veteran white offensive lineman Richie Incognito – ironic name – and a younger black colleague, Jonathan Martin.

The wall-to-wall analysis of the story – ESPN was calling it a “scandal” without much evidence from Day 1 – is trying to sell us on the idea that it’s a tale of workplace harassment.

But a football locker room is not a newsroom or a cubicle farm full of insurance agents. Maybe it’s more like a firehouse or an operating room, where the stakes are higher than simply whether someone’s feelings get hurt.

Our need to quickly identify the “good guy” and the “bad guy” in every story often ignores the complexity that’s baked into modern life.

Maybe Richie Incognito is some kind of monster, or maybe he’s really a great teammate. Maybe Jonathan Martin isn’t cut out for the game, or maybe he just has some growing up to do.

Or maybe the truth is in middle there someplace, as messy as it often is.

Random thoughts

• Oregon went up in my esteem a little bit by showing some grit and guts at the end of its loss to Stanford. I assumed the Ducks didn’t have any grit.

• The wide gulf of perception about Ole Miss football by the AP poll voters (68 total votes) and the coaches (6 votes) is rather striking.

• Isn’t it a missed opportunity that M.C. Hammer doesn’t show up at some point in a Thor movie?

John L. Pitts ( is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He shares more random thoughts on his Twitter account, @johnlpitts.

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