When I was 16 and a sophomore I lettered for my second year in varsity golf at my high school and was also named MVP of the golf team. This did not sit well with football players in my sophomore class as they busted their butts on the field and didn't make varsity. But, of course, they didn't know how to play golf. When I passed them in the hallways, the football players would make snide comments to me, and the upper class men refused to let me join the Varsity Club. They too didn't know how to play golf.
On the last day of classes that year, one of the football players in my class, we'll call him Mike, was screwing around in P.E. class and cheating in the "Kick Square" game. He also had a can of Right Guard that he was spraying everywhere. Everybody told him he was "out" again and again and ought to go to the end of the line. But he refused and kept kicking the ball everywhere, though I seemed to think he was kicking it at me, or was it coincidence? Finally as everyone told him he was "out", he came over to me (Why to me?) and said "What did you say (my last name)?" I stood up to him and said with complete confidence, "You're out!" He took his can of Right Guard and hit me square on the face with a right cross. The blow sent me reeling about 25 feet sideways, but didn't knock me down. I had never been sucker punched like that before (or since) and of course, at that age, I totally lost my composure and came running at Mike full steam and we rolled around and fought for what seemed like forever. About 35 guys were watching, cheering the fact that a fight was happening (I was disappointed that nobody stepped in to help me against this muscle-bound football player). Mike actually fought like a girl, pulling my hair. He never let go of the Right Guard can. I never gave up the fight until the P.E. coach (who was also the Football coach) finally intervened and said "that's enough!" (as if a little bit of fighting in class is permissible). The game of Kick Square did not resume, so I think in that sense, I was the winner.
I could have prevented the fight (in retrospect) at the point when I realized that the Kick Square game was out of control, I could have bowed out and stood off in the background. Especially when I thought the ball was being kicked at me. But when you think about it, if the fight did not occur that day, it may have occurred another day. I guess, sometimes you have to take your stand in life and just do your best.
One Freshman guy said to me afterward, "Doug, I didn't know you knew how to fight like that!" Just what I needed, a compliment for fighting! And then someone came up to me and said that the Vice Principal wanted to see me. So I walked into the office. My golf coach's office was right there near the front of the school office. He somehow knew that a fight had happened, and he has the nerve to tell me (knowing that I'm a Christian and he isn't) "Hey, weren't you supposed to 'turn the other cheek?' " .... wow the insults just keep coming. I should have said, "Wow, coach, when did you become a theologian?" The coach had just named me as his MVP and that's the best he can say? I was so disappointed with the golf coach, that I boycotted the golf team my Junior year. But as a Senior I dropped my grudge long enough to rejoin the team and win MVP again.
Five years later (after graduating from college) I was on an American Legion basketball team and we played the town liquor store, that's where this bully (Mike) then worked as it was owned by his family. Before the game, I went over to him and held out my hand, hoping bygones could be bygones. He refused to shake it and actually spit on my hand, trying to impress his buddies next to him. This guy is one of the most class-less people I've ever met and so are his friends. Our American Legion team beat the liquor store handily.
Last year I was listening to a Christian radio station talk show. They had a special guest in the studio being interviewed by the host. They were talking about bullying and how Christian teenagers react to being bullied. They both agreed (astonishingly so for my ears) that if you are strong enough and have the courage, it's sometimes better to take on the bully and give him his own medicine, even fight him. That gave me a sense of vindication but I always will wonder if any route could have been better? What if, when the can of Right Guard hit me and sent me reeling, what if I just kept walking and went to the school office myself and ask to use the phone to call the Sheriff to file a report for assault & battery? Would it have made any difference?
About ten years after the incident, one of the former school bullies named Brad had turned his life around and had given up bullying, gotten married and was now a missionary. We saw each other at a Sunday School class, at a church I almost never attended, but did that day that Brad visited. He gave me a hug and profusely apologized for the high school days when he was a true jerk and ran with the wrong crowd, including with Mike the bully. I was so glad to see the change in him. Then he told me something that totally shocked me. He said, "Do you know why Mike hit you that day and fought you?" I said, I didn't really know. Brad said that it was because of something that happened in Geometry class (Brad and Mike were both in my Geometry class). One day after class (probably many days actually), some of the kids stayed after class and would joke around with the teacher, and he was the most popular teacher on campus. I could hear people using every foul word that exists, over and over, especially the students. That day I went home and as a 16 year old, my mother always asked how school went today. I told her what I heard after Geometry class, all the unchallenged foul language like I had not heard before.
Unbeknownst to me, my mother called the school principle the next day and informed him and told him that was not appropriate. Bear in mind, my Dad was the School Board president at the time, so lots of teachers and staff didn't like my Dad because he would tell them to do this or that. I guess this was the principle's chance to get back at my family. He went to the Geometry teacher and told him that my mother (by name) had contacted him about the foul language. The teacher, for his part, really screwed up at this point and informed these foul-mouthed students that Doug's mother had finked on them, that Doug had finked to his mother.
All this, Brad told me ten years later. And here I thought it was because I was a golfer! Or maybe all the above. You think to yourself, "Can't a 16-year-old kid tell his mother what happened at school without being attacked for it?"
Despite it all, I consider myself a winner. I did my best with the information I had at the time, and I fought like hell and didn't get hurt. I was a gentleman then, I was a gentleman at the basketball court, and I'm still a gentleman now. God bless you all.
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