Richie Incognito's Year of the Bully
Illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio
The jockstrap arrived at 2:31 a.m. like a foul-smelling firebomb. Jorge heard the glass shatter and pedaled over. The gray-haired security guard pulled up on his Huffy just in time to see a Ford Bronco disappear in a cloud of burnt rubber. A fat, pale middle finger wagged out the driver's window like a wayward kielbasa.
It didn't take Jorge long to find the missile amid the wreckage. Ten years of professional football had imbued the XXXL cup with its own pungent potpourri of blood, Bengay, and ball sweat. Locating it was easier than spotting a streetwalker on Biscayne Boulevard. The jockstrap was wrapped around a brick fastened with athletic tape and addressed simply: "To the Dildos at the New Times."
The next morning, this humble reporter unfurled the putrid package at his desk. The athletic supporter was the size of a baby's blanket, every square inch of fetid, faded cotton covered in childlike scribbles. It wasn't a warning, however — no threat for New Times to back off its investigations into steroid abuse in baseball, police shootings, or local corruption. Instead, it was a letter to the editor:
What's up, pussies? Richie Incognito here. The Miami Dolphins' most offensive offensive lineman. Pro Bowler. All-Star Wild Child. The NFL's dirtiest player and proud of it. I'm #68 on the field but #1 in secretly squeezing a dude's scrotum during a Monday Night Football man-pile. (It's called the "Rich-around." Get it?)
Listen up, you blog-typing twats. I read your articles about me, including the claim I drove that rookie biatch Jonathan Martin bonkers by harassing him. All I have to say is: Take a whiff of my cup and wake the hell up. That dude is softer than my supple Italian foreskin. This is professional football we play, not some tea-cozy crocheting competition.
I'd be angrier if I thought you were singling me out, but all your newspaper seems to do is print politically correct crap. You have a rapper as a columnist, a stripper who writes sex advice, and a newsroom full of MFAs. Let's start with your so-called People issue. You profiled a human statue, a community activist, and a kid in a chicken costume. Seriously, guys. What fucking city are you living in?
Take a good, hard look at 2013 and show me when a community activist accomplished anything. The only statue anyone cares about is the Heisman. And for god's sake, someone strip that kid of his chicken suit and suit him up in some pads so he finally gets laid.
What about Miami's real badasses? What about the ballers like me who get the dirty work done? The amoral assholes who pull no punches and spare no shady dollar in an all-out blitz to win?
Here's an idea. How's about you print my People issue? No charities. No children. No gourmet coffee roasters or French fashion bloggers. Just the bullies who truly boss this town.
P.S. Can you guys crochet me a new cup?
What a lovely surprise to receive your, uh, letter the other day, but do the Incognitos not believe in mailboxes? It's taken our unpaid interns three days to pick up the mess. One cut herself pretty badly and, without health insurance, had to use your jockstrap to stop the bleeding.
To address your complaints: We're sorry you don't agree with our coverage of your suspension from the Dolphins, but calling your teammate a "half-n****r," threatening to defecate in his mouth, and saying you'd kill his family was, let's just say, excessive. Compared to that, making Martin pay $15,000 for you to fly to Vegas and taunting him by saying you had sex with his sister almost seems quaint. Almost.
As for your argument that our recent People issue ignored Miami's "real badasses," we must point out that our issue focused on the coolest and most creative people in the city, not its most cutthroat and powerful.
But you're right. More than any year in recent memory, 2013 was dominated by bullies like you. From Gov. Rick Scott to rogue neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, corrupt politicians to bad cops and even worse criminals, steroidal sports stars to scamming team owners, 2013 was the year that Florida's Freudian id came roaring back in full force.
This was the Year of the Bully. So let's see your list, Richie. What psychos and sadists make up your People issue?
Richie's response arrived a few days later. This time, it was penned in ketchup on the greasy cardboard containers of a 16-piece family dinner from KFC:
Growing up in Jersey, my father would grab me by the collar in a horseshoe tackle and pull a Joe Pesci on me. "Son, don't take no shit from no one," he'd scream. "If you let anyone give you shit now, you're gonna take shit your entire life."
Of course, he also told me that Bill Clinton was Beelzebub and that "pretty boy Patrick Swayze wouldn't last a day in the real shit" while watching Red Dawn, but that might have just been the Vietnam flashbacks and Wild Turkey talking.
Big Richie was always trying to toughen me up. If I came home with a bruise, he'd tell me the other guy better have a black eye, or else I would. When I first kicked a kid's ass — some nerd who'd been calling me fat for months — my dad didn't ground me. He gave me ice cream.
When my football coaches couldn't see the talent hidden underneath my chub, Big Richie would collar me again and say, "Payback is going to come, Richie. When it's time for you to have your payback, you open up the gates of Hell and make them stare at the Devil." I never really understood that last part, but it sounded pretty badass.
So when I made it big at the University of Nebraska, that's exactly what I did: I put other people through hell. I teabagged my teammates in the locker room, blindsided the freshmen on the practice field, and punished our opponents on the weekends. I even perfected the Rich-around. I was a mean motherfucker, but I was a blocking machine.
Even when I went AWOL after flipping over my coach's desk and getting cut from the team, Oregon still wanted me. And when I gave another coach the finger for telling me to see a shrink, the NFL nonetheless came calling.
And that's my point. I'm like Dick Cheney: working in the shadows, getting my hands dirty, humping the ugly chick so others can look glamorous in the spotlight. I keep the quarterback with the cute smile and shampoo commercials safe from the vicious dudes on the other side of the line of scrimmage. But I ain't a saint.
You may not like it, but we bullies have been the unsung heroes this year. Let's start at the top. Everyone has been angry at the government this year. People keep saying it's gotten to be like Big Brother, whatever that means. But without your big brother, you'd just get your ass kicked all the time, right?
Sure, the NSA is reading your emails, tapping your phone calls, probably tapping your wife too. Meanwhile, some stooge in a suit is taking your taxes. And TSA agents are poking your bunghole with latex fingers. Big Brother is a bully, but it's better than having America the Beautiful overrun by jihadis. You'd be speaking Arabic or Urdu or something right now, buddy. Think about that. Urrrr-duuu.
It's not just the feds who did whatever it took to save us in 2013. Take a look at here in Florida. Rick Scott might look like a poached testicle, but our gonadal head of state governs like a boss. That man brushed off a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud like a blown tackle. He ground out an election nastier than any NFL fourth quarter. Sure, his poll numbers tanked harder than Tim Tebow. But instead of spending 2013 making nice, he doubled down on being a dick. Every morning, he stepped over the Dream Defenders protesting outside his office like they weren't even there. Scott let the kids camp out for weeks — sleeping on linoleum floors and surviving on Styrofoam cups of the capitol's cruddy coffee — before telling them to get lost: Stand Your Ground was here to stay. What a sadist! LULZ.
Scott's lieutenant governor resigned in disgrace — some scandal about lesbians and gambling, which sounds like a good time to me — but bossman didn't even bother replacing her. His hot-as-balls attorney general, Pam Bondi, delayed the execution of a cold-blooded killer so she could throw herself a party. The guv was going to let donors hunt an alligator for $25,000. My shotgun and I would have been there in a heartbeat had you morons in the media not found out first. And when Scott's Republican buddies in D.C. took a stand against tyranny like food stamps and social security checks, so did the guv. He refused to reopen Florida's parks. Fuck the economy!
What a terrific asshole. And why not? You're only governor once, Rick — at least with Charlie Crist now in the race. YOGO!
If Scott is the tyrannical quarterback for Team A-Hole, then Miami-area Mayors Manny Maroño, Steve Bateman, and Michael Pizzi are his trio of wide receivers. Or at least they were, until they were arrested.
As the big, swinging dictator in Sweetwater, Manny Maroño was Scott's number one supporter. He even shaved his head like the guv. In return, Scott made him president of Florida's League of Cities and allowed his mini-me to start a business development firm named after the governor's job creation plan. Maroño managed to get his wife, mom, uncle, and buddies on the Sweetwater payroll. And his two tow companies took over the town by bribing public officials and jacking cars whenever they felt like it.
If I may say so, Maroño was the Richie Incognito of Miami mayors. Remember when the Dolphins made a video of me playing croquet and asking fans to remain civilized? It was funny because I really am an asshole, like that time just months earlier when I used a golf club to sexually assault a woman during a team outing. Hilarious, right?
Well, that's what Maroño was like as mayor of Sweetwater. He launched a nationwide witch hunt on bath salts, blaming the drugs not only for the Miami Zombie but also for any two-bit break-in or any bum biting a cop. (Personally, I prefer booze before biting.) All the while, Maroño was really the one screwing over Sweetwater residents.
In Homestead, Mayor Steve Bateman didn't have the patience to stock the city government with supporters. Instead, he pulled an RGIII (pre-knee injury) and did it all on his lonesome. When a local developer had trouble building a health clinic, Bateman offered to grease the wheels — at the cost of $125 an hour in secret consulting fees. YOMO, Steve! YOMO!
Michael Pizzi made Miami Lakes politics his personal bitch. He went from the top of his University of Miami law school class to the top of local government. Then the mayor was caught taking $6,000 in kickbacks for federal contracts. But unlike Maroño and Bateman, who both pleaded guilty, Pizzi came out pissing into the wind. "I am innocent," he announced after a hearing in October. "And I will be exonerated and found not guilty at trial." Makin' me proud, Pizzi!
But the biggest baller in my book was Barry Layne Moore. The 51-year-old hillbilly mayor of Hampton, Florida, was caught dealing oxycodone to his entire town. Talk about a big fish in a little pond.
Then there was Raphael Herman, a dude who boasted about killing Osama bin Laden while running for mayor of Miami Beach. He missed his own election after getting jailed for swinging a six-foot flagpole at black people on a public bus. A flagpole! What a patriot.
Herman lost, of course, but the guy who won was an even bigger bully. Philip Levine spent a small fortune — roughly $2 million — to win a job that pays just ten grand a year. He's like a tropical, totally not handsome version of Leo DiCaprio in that Great Gatsby movie. Only there's not even a hot chick he's trying to bang. Levine dropped $354 for every vote he won by buying TV ads and treating old people to free punch, pie, and salsa music.
Attaboy, Phil! Making it rain on those wrinkles like senior night at the strip club.
Your father sounds like the type of guy who made you watch him kill small forest animals with his bare hands when you were a child. He probably didn't even wash up before dinner. I'd tell you to go see a psychiatrist, but you'd just flip my desk and try to dry-hump my sister.
As for your list, well, it's a tad full of criminals. Rick Scott may have escaped the clink, but his band of merry mayors won't. Levine bought himself an island, but that doesn't mean he's legit.
Besides, the politicians you mentioned are part of the problem, not some superhero solution. Across North America, politicians are abusing the bully pulpit, from serial dick-pic-sender Anthony Weiner to compulsive fur-coat-consumer Jesse Jackson Jr. to the crack-smoking, prostitute-loving mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. These liars belong in jail, not on a best-of list.
These scumbags set a terrible example. They show that bullying is not only OK but also the way to get ahead. No wonder kids are taking the message to heart. In Polk County, two teenage girls bullied 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick until she killed herself in a cement factory. One of them later posted on Facebook: "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don't give a fuck." Somehow, prosecutors still dropped the charges last month.
In Hollywood, two angelic-looking teens attacked their own friend because the girls were "beefing." They restrained, beat, and taunted the poor 15-year-old as she was raped by a male gang member on video. Then they let their bloodied victim stumble around the neighborhood looking for help.
Here in Miami, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers at Florida International University posted nude photos of women they had slept with for one another to see on Facebook. One member posted a pic of a woman wearing a Pike shirt next to the caption: "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GIVEN FATTYS OUR SHIRTS!!!!! THEY WEAR THEM!!!!!" The frat brothers also boasted about hazing pledges and pranking other houses by putting pig heads on their doors. Even after New Times broke the story, however, FIU cops declined to make arrests.
Like the FIU frat bros, Florida's most infamous bully escaped justice this year. George Zimmerman stalked unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin before fatally shooting him in the chest. Yet a jury acquitted the self-appointed neighborhood watchman of murder in July because of Florida's insane Stand Your Ground legislation.
Since then, Zimmerman has gone off the deep end. He's been pulled over three times for speeding, once with a gun in the glove compartment. And on November 18, his new girlfriend called 911 to say Zimmerman had smashed her coffee table and pointed a shotgun at her head. When police arrested him, he had five guns on him, including an AR-15.
Zimmerman is the worst kind of bully: one backed by bullets and barristers. After all, it was the National Rifle Association that crafted Stand Your Ground here in 2005. Not only does the NRA own the Florida Legislature, but it also has your boy Rick Scott in its pocket. No wonder Scott shot down the Dream Defenders by refusing to reconsider the law.
Federal agents pinch our personal info like schoolyard bullies shaking down kids for lunch money. Power-hungry politicians play constituents for fools. What other crooks do you have on your list, Richie?
Another letter arrived. This one, at least, was on paper — a weathered, water-stained (or what we hope was water) copy of the NFL Rule Book. The section "Unnecessary Roughness" was highlighted in blood red. "Personal foul" was adorned with a winking smiley face. And scribbled next to a paragraph about locker-room etiquette was the phrase "Mangina time!"
On the back cover, under a hand-drawn diagram of the Rich-around, Incognito had written his rebuttal:
George Zimmerman! How could I have forgotten him? My brothah from anothah mothah! Pudgy, violent, and without remorse, just like me. After his acquittal, that dude would come over to my place in Fort Lauderdale. We'd get shitfaced, play Call of Duty, I'd call him a "half-Mexican" (or Peruvian, whatever), and we'd end up punching each other until we passed out.
You can rag on Zimmerman all you want, but he wasn't the only bully with a gun and a badge to make it big this year. Far from it. Cops left more bruises on 2013 than a Dirty Harry interrogation. And they did it by borrowing from my playbook: harassing brothers and blindsiding opponents.
In New York, cops have been stopping and frisking people — well, black people — for years without a problem. But then, this August, a federal judge got all riled up over something called "racial profiling." What are cops supposed to do? Arrest anybody who flips a desk, starts a bar fight, uses a golf club to sexually assault a woman, or harasses his co-workers? C'mon.
Now this sappy political correctness has even spread to my own neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. Thanks to New Times, cops are in trouble for pulling over black guys on bicycles. Ever since you wrote your exposé "Biking While Black" showing that Fort Lauderdale Police use bike registration laws to hassle minorities, the police have begun stopping — wait for it — nonminorities!
Don't worry. They won't bother me. It has nothing to do with me being white or a hulking NFL lineman. It's because I don't ride bikes. They're for poor people. You know what's not for poor people? Bentleys. And I've got plenty of those. Black ones too. See? I'm not a racist.
Another casualty of the PC brigade was Miami Gardens Chief Matthew Boyd. So what if his officers were caught on camera arresting innocent black gas station employees a couple (hundred) times. That Quickstop is in the ghetto! That's just what you do in the ghetto: arrest black people. Right? And so what if none of the cops is black? Or if they rifled through the store without a search warrant? You bleeding-heart liberals call that "shredding the Constitution." My boy Boyd calls it "proactive policing."
Speaking of being proactive, guess what happens nowadays when a cop chases down a fugitive and arrests him? He gets shit for doing his job. That's what happened to Miami Beach Officer Jorge Mercado in August. Granted, the fugitive was really just an 18-year-old graffiti artist named Israel Hernandez. And Mercado might not have needed to Taser the kid to arrest him. And, oh yeah, Hernandez died because of the stun gun. Minor detail.
The good news, however, is that Mercado is back on patrol! So don't let these little hiccups get you down, Blue! What would my bully list be like without you?
Bad cops. Bad criminals. Bad politicians. All bullies. But what about sports stars like you? You guys are celebrities and millionaires, yet you keep treating Florida like it's your personal pissing mat. Nobody is more responsible for what went wrong this year than you.
First, there is Florida State University football phenom Jameis Winston. In November, news broke that he'd been accused of raping a drunk FSU student in Tallahassee in 2012. Cops bungled the investigation for a year. Then, earlier this month, prosecutors suddenly dropped charges against the star quarterback for a "lack of evidence." Some media outlets stooped to suggesting the victim simply had loose morals. Incredibly, Winston emerged as the Seminoles' scandal-seasoned leader and won the Heisman. He may have outrun justice, but that statue is forever coated in sleaze.
This was also the year New Times exposed an even greater sports scandal: the massive steroid operation still staining America's pastime. This newspaper outed baseball superstars including Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colón, Nelson Cruz, and the $275 million man himself, Alex Rodriguez, as clients of a shady Coral Gables clinic called Biogenesis.
When we broke the news that A-Rod and others had been receiving illegal performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis chief Tony Bosch, the players all denied knowing the fake doctor. A-Rod, in particular, came out swinging (and missing). He hired a legion of lawyers, filed a handful of lawsuits, and took to the airwaves to angrily deny juicing. But his big-league bloviating and bullying didn't work. MLB still banned him for a record 211 games. The other players named in New Times' report received 50-game suspensions.
Even your multibillionaire boss, Stephen Ross, played the bully in 2013. Demanding $170 million from taxpayers to fix up Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins owner blackmailed fans by warning them Miami would never get another Super Bowl otherwise. When he didn't get his way — and we didn't get a Super Bowl — he threatened to take down the politicians who opposed him. Then he enraged South Floridians by turning around and dropping $200 million in a private donation to the University of Michigan as if to prove a point.
Then there's you, Richie. A bully growing up in New Jersey and Arizona. A nightmare at Nebraska. A no-show at Oregon. And the nemesis of the NFL. You spat on opponents, abused your teammates, and got into fistfights on and off the field. While playing for the St. Louis Rams, you showed up shitfaced to practice and still managed to step on the field often enough to incur the most personal fouls in the league. You fought with the fans whose tickets paid your salary. And you were named the NFL's dirtiest player. Even worse, you somehow made Warren Sapp — a thug synonymous with blindside hits — seem sympathetic by racially abusing him during games.
Just like in college, you were cut, briefly bounced to another team, and then landed with the Dolphins. You got a phoenix tattooed on your arm — right under your "Made in the USA" tat — because you said you kept rising up after knocking yourself down.
But you should have stayed in the ashes. Because despite the video of you dressed in a cardigan while playing croquet with a cocky smile on your face and asking Dolfans to behave, you were still an uncivilized asshole.
Your first season with the Dolphins seemed to go well. You even made the Pro Bowl for the first time. But a few months later, your demons crawled out of hiding. You had a few too many drinks at a Dolphins charity golf tournament in Aventura, so you sexually harassed a resort employee. When she ignored you, you took a driver and rubbed it against her vagina, stomach, and breasts.
Then you knocked the sunglasses off her head, pressed your pudgy six-foot-three frame against her backside, and began grinding like R. Kelly. Finally, you poured a bottle of water over her face while yelling, "Let it rain! Let it rain!" Because that's how classy you are, Richie.
A half-dozen Dolphins employees apologized on your behalf, but you didn't bother. Your victim "felt like [you] didn't care and thought the whole incident was in fun and games," according to a police report. Yet, once again, you didn't face any criminal charges, because your team bailed you out and paid the woman to keep quiet.
Strange that after all that savagery, it was a sophisticate with a classics degree from Stanford who took you down. When second-year offensive lineman Jonathan Martin went AWOL from the Dolphins in November, suspicion slowly fell on you, supposedly his best friend and mentor. But when your phone message to Martin eventually leaked to the media, it became clear that your mentorship was really more of a mental assault.
"Hey, wassup, you half-n****r piece of shit," you said. "I saw you on Twitter — you been training ten weeks. [I want to] shit in your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face."
Then you laughed and added, "Fuck you. You're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
You claimed that you were being quoted out of context and that you and Martin were just ribbing each other. But it was too late. You had become the poster child for a year chock full of bullies.
Richie's last message to New Times appeared in our email inbox late one Saturday night, shortly after the Dolphins permanently suspended Incognito. This reporter clicked on the video file, and Richie's giant, baby-like body filled the screen. He was half-naked in a hot tub somewhere in Arizona. Saguaros stood on the horizon behind him, while a graveyard of empty glasses and half-eaten animal parts — ribs, chicken wings, and a T-bone or two — surrounded his small, bubbling empire. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a month.
"Wassup, bitches?" he slurred, but the edge was gone from his voice. Even the soaring phoenix tattooed on his forearm seemed sedated.
"Y'all make me sound like a criminal," he said, his eyes not quite fixed on the right part of the camera. "But I'm just Richie being Richie.
"Take that chick at the golf tournament," he noted. "She said her job was a hole monitor. A hole monitor. All I did was say she could monitor my club in her hole anytime she wanted. She got all hot and bothered, though, so I thought I'd cool her off with some water — on her boobs.
"And Jonathan Martin? That dude is dead to me now. We were like family. He was the half-black brother I never had, didn't really want, but then got to kind of like because I could make fun of him all the time. The problem was he was always quoting Plato or some shit instead of talking about pussy like the other guys. Coach Philbin told me I had to sort Martin out before he quit the team to go to law school.
"And that's my point. You can call me a bully. But I'm what you've made me — just like the cops and criminals and politicians you complain about. Want to toughen up a rookie? I'm your man. Block 300-pound defensive linebackers who want to run train on Ryan Tannehill? I'll do it. But don't expect me to be Mother Fucking Teresa as soon as the fourth quarter ends.
"Besides, unless we embarrass some sponsor or create a scandal on ESPN, y'all don't really give a crap what happens to us ballplayers anyway," Richie said, slugging back a tumbler of Wild Turkey and tossing the glass over his shoulder into the sand. "You don't care if we're concussed out of our minds or end up shooting ourselves in the chest so scientists can figure out what's wrong with our heads. You only want to know about our injuries when you might lose money in your fantasy football league."
Richie stood up in the hot tub completely naked, now wagging more than one shriveled, pale kielbasa.
"It's not just football, either. South Florida is built upon shit like this, like a swamp. You don't ask where the money for skyscrapers or art museums comes from; you just smile and throw a party. Then you act surprised when some corrupt politician goes to jail.
"You need bullies like me because we do the dirty work that lets you stay clean," he said, pointing a pickled finger at the camera. "So that Ryan Tannehill stays pretty and sells shampoo. And so that you get a good show on Sunday."
Richie slumped back into the hot tub, grabbed another glass, and flashed his $4 million-a-year grin.
"See you dildos next season."
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