I was reading Hammer's post about being bullied in school and it got me to thinking about the last time someone tried to bully me.
I have been a tall kid all my life, and Hammer's comments really struck home. I was always a target for short kids looking to prove something, or smart kids trying to put one over on me. I took it all in stride and laughed off as much as I could. When I snapped, it was a messy sight to behold.
What really sucked for me was going to an all male high school. Talk about proving ground. It was all I could do to get through the halls without some form of hassling from upper classmen and peers. I managed to back down from many confrontations, but one that sticks out in my mind is the last time I ever fought in anger.
I played football through sophomore year. I was tall and the coaches thought I could fill a hole on the defensive side. I wasn't going to break any sack record, or sign a letter of intent, but I could hold my own. On the opposite side of the ball was my practice nemesis, Richard. He was a total d*** in the truest sense. I have known him since grade school. I don't know why, but he felt if there was some grudge there that required taunting me and baiting me into a fight. For whatever reason, he tried vainly to provoke me during practice. Every practice. Before practice. After practice. In class and out, too.
Whatever beef he had with me, it came to a head about mid way through the JV football season. I don't know what it was, but I was not having a good day. I was missing calls and blowing plays left and right. Richard was there at every turn picking on me. I did my best to ignore it and drive on, but he was having none of it. That Saturday practice was a killer for me. I had enough and went to hand in my gear after practice was over. Our head coach was out of town that day and the head Varsity coach was running practice. I've known his family for years and he is an easy person to talk to.
I entered his office near to tears from the stress and we talked for a good two hours. He got to the heart of the matter and just told me what most all coaches would say, "Do what you have to do." Did I mention he was also the Dean of Discipline at the school? He gave me carte blanche to do what needed to be done with regards to Richard. As I understood it, I would get a free pass if anything happened.
The more I thought about it after the fact, I know he was doing right by me when he said that. He was helping me grow up and fight my own battles. Coach M has always been fair with me and never did anything to outright bust my ass. I got busted when it was necessary, but never over and above what another student would expect. I also never received preferential treatment from him. It was well known through the school that my dad was on the Board of Directors and the school's attorney. Administrators and faculty tended to tread lightly around me. After all, I could have decided their fate, and have done so in certain circumstances (not while a student). It was refreshing to be treated like a normal kid.
Practice was over, I was done talking with Coach M, and on my way out the door. Coach offered me a soda from his protable fridge and I was carrying that and my gear outside with Richard struck. He grabbed my soda and said, "Give me that Coke, you pu**y!" I snapped. I entered what my psychologist at the time called a fugue state. It was surreal what happened, and I remember every little detail from an outside perspective. I don't remember anything that happened from my point of view, but it was like I was a video camera overhead taking it all in.
He grabbed for the soda and I went to town on his head with my football helmet. Richard had pushed me back into some smaller lockers, and I remember feeling the lock hasps digging into my back. I had one good nasty welt right betwixt the shoulder blades from that. The only wound I would suffer. I had a death lock on the soda can and my helmet and was trying vainly to land upper cuts and hooks to Richard's head. I finally managed to drop everything when I realized I could not hit him with stuff in my fists and decided to kick him in the crotch. He felt that. I landed about five solid toe punches to his boys. I was wearing Chuck Taylors and distinctly remember the feeling of his testicles doing their level best to flatten out under my foot. I was pulling him by the ears into each successive kick when I remember two other teammates pulled me off him.
The whole time this happened, I was yelling and screaming that I was going to kill him. I had every intention of doing so. I didn't care what happened as long as he suffered for it. He was the center focus of all my rage and frustration. All my life until that point was a study in self-control. I was raised from an early age to never strike out in anger and never fight with people. This was my momma's teaching and it, unfortunately, stuck. I remember only three other knock down fights in my lifetime before that. Nothing about those three fights compared to this. It wasn't a fight, it was a release.
Richard was holding his junk as John, one of the fastest free safeties in our school's history, bum-rushed him out the door. The fullback, and Coach M's son, Blake, did his level best to restrain me from behind by pinning my arms back. He was by far a superior and stronger athlete than I was, but was begging for someone else to help him hold me back. John came back and basically took my legs from under me so I would sit down. Coach M came back and grabbed Richard by the scruff and hauled his butt back inside. He was crying and screaming like a little schoolgirl from my recollection. At that point, I exploded into his soft, pudgy midsection. My legs were pistons as I drove him headlong into the bathroom area of the locker room. Coach M later commented to my mom (waiting outside) that that was the best tackle he's seen as a football coach. The fundamentals were ingrained in my legs as I blew though Richard's body with every intention of splitting him in half. John and Blake witnessed it and said Richard's feet never touched the ground until I drove his head under one of the bathroom sinks. I guess I managed to lift about 220lbs. approximately 4 to 5 fee in the air and move it laterally 10 meters before landing. I landed two more sucker punches to the face before two football coaches and three football players could pull me off him and restrain me in the back corner of the locker room. I think, at that point, they stuffed me in an open locker.
The fight left me then. I had nothing left. What seemed an eternity lasted approximately two or three minutes. Richard got a good lesson in leaving me the hell alone with the serious threat from Coach M that I would be allowed to finish what I started if he ever came after me. The other coach and players were in shock that I would react like I did. It was like a bell went off inside my head. *DING* Whip his ass!!!!
So I did.
Mom was waiting for me in the parking lot after practice. She was watching the locker room door and only saw Richard fly out yelling, "My nuts! My nuts!!" Coach M came out to talk to her before he let me go home. He quietly explained what happened and she just laughed. I came out and climbed in the van to go home. Mom took me to Jack-in-the-Box and I crashed for the next three days.
Richard was waiting when I came back on that Tuesday. Our lockers were two down from each other and he was waiting as I came to school. He pushed me into my locker and started talking tough. He threatened to kick my ass after school that day and I immediately stuck my thumb under his jaw and pounded his head into his open locker door. I got close enough to whisper and said he was welcome to try anything he wanted. He tried it again in second period Bio class. I hit him upside the head with a textbook. He got detention with Mr. C. Mr. C. was the Martial Arts club sensei at the time. He had a penchant for using detention students as punching bags and his personal sparring partners during practices.
After that, I don't recall having any more problems from Richard. He left my school after that year ended. My fame was short lived. I got a lot of high fives and cheers from people, but I was just the same dorky 6'3" goober that roamed the halls. I lived my own life with my own friends. What mattered in the fame and popularity department didn't bother me a whit. I realized that if someone had a problem with me, they were facing an unknown variable. What once was an easy target for bullying and harrassment was now a force to be reckoned with. I didn't lord the fact that I wailed on Richard over other people. It was not a crutch to support my teen-angst whateveryouwannacallit emotions. I earned respect where respect was due, and a second look from those that would consider doing the same as Richard did by me.
I learned those lessons long ago. I am glad I did. High school was where I cut my teeth on becoming a man. Each and every day we had to prove ourselves to our peers and teachers. I learned that it was allright to stand up and fight. Looking back on it, I don't see why people today are so afraid of what they once had to live through. I was one of the last lucky ones. If I did that same thing today, I'd be in jail for assault and battery. My parents would be disgraced and sued out of their shorts, and the school would have expelled me under a 'zero-tolerance' policy against violence.
If that were me today, I would probably have to pen up my anger and aggression until it finally boiled over onto my MySpace page. I would write nasty notes and deathly dark poems of hate and frustration. Daddy's guns would be my release as I walked the halls hunting down those who tormented me.
I grew up in a time where knocking heads together built character and helped me mature. Now, I have to monitor my own kid's growth so he or she won't end up in jail or juvenile hall for going through the same growing pains.