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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Offensive Lineman

Did you hear about the time an offensive lineman called a sousaphone player fat?

It could almost be funny, stereotypically speaking. The two are, after all, functional equivalents. But it's no laughing matter when a professional athlete sees fit to verbally abuse college band members, as Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola did with members of the University of Wisconsin's Badger Band as the took the field in Green Bay. Raiola reportedly called tuba players fat during pregame, upping the ante at halftime where he questioned members' sexuality, made fun of another players' weight, and used other offensive language. He has since apologized, spoken with Badger Band director Mike Leckrone, and promised a sizable donation to the band.

I am fortunate that I never had to know firsthand of the band nerds vs. jocks dichotomy that plays out on so many schools. The majority of my former marching band was varsity athletes, and being a member was far from the social stigma it can be elsewhere. Still, I'm well aware that this is alive and well in many places, and one of those places seems to be in the mind of a 34 year old center making over 3 million dollars a year. That he should see fit to bully college students who have the opportunity and honor to march onto a pro football field is beyond belief.

For the sake of argument, I can even entertain the possibility that Badger Band members started it. It may be unfair to the band, but their reputation precedes them - though while we're talking reputations, this isn't Raiola's first brush with non-players. Still, consider that the Wisconsinites were likely to be in support of the Lions' NFC North rival Packers, or that Raiola graduated from Nebraska, now a Big Ten foe of the Badgers and their opponent in last year's Big Ten championship. I can envision a scenario where, when in close proximity, verbal jabs occurred, possibly even in a lighthearted manner. Even if that did occur, it shouldn't matter one bit. As a 295 pound lineman, you've got to be the bigger man, literally and figuratively, and not engage with them. If it did happen, I'm strangely pleased that Raiola didn't stoop to the level of "they started it!" - perhaps he realized how foolish it would have made him look. Still, regardless of reason, by engaging with members of the Badger Band, Raiola makes himself look like a meathead who never progressed beyond his high school social strata.
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