Whatever school you went to, you can probably name the person at your school who just couldn’t get along with anyone. For whatever reason they just never seemed to have many friends and more often than not it was because they weren’t all that likable. Harsh, but true. This is the short story of the day that that person at my school decided he would challenge me to a boxing match, gloves and all.
I played on the junior varsity football team that year and everyone on the team was required, during third period, to take athletics as it was called. Just a class where we would lift weights or in my case hide from lifting weights. I was one of the smallest guys in my class up through tenth grade and having a bench press max that was pretty much just the bar itself at 45 lbs. was not something I cared for everyone to know. So I did all I could to keep from lifting weights. Yes, I know it’s difficult to believe that I once was not the strapping young man that I am now. Or that I was ten years ago at least. Anyway, one day someone decided it would be a good idea to bring some boxing gloves to school and many times during break, which was right before athletics, we would hold impromptu boxing matches on the football field in front of the field house.
I had never had particularly pugilistic tendencies and had I lived my whole life without ever donning a pair of boxing gloves I think I could have had a most fulfilled, meaningful life. Fate had other ideas for me.
As we stood and watched two guys flail and swing like broken windmills at one another, the guy who had few friends made his way toward me. In hindsight I think I sort of new what was about to happen. I was about to be called out. The two guys who were boxing finally finished, probably without no clear winner because both of them had probably completely exhausted themselves swinging wildly into the air and landing about .75% of their punches. Those of you who have been lucky enough to have witnessed one of these type bouts know exactly what I mean when I say “wildly.” Friendless guy then, in words that I can’t repeat here, challenges me to a match. Yay. I was very excited.
For those of you who have been or still are “little” guys(this is not you Lee), you know that no matter how big your heart is there are still physical limitations that will usually prevent you from winning too many competitions where size, height, and weight may be a factor. I was smart enough to realize this but was not smart enough to say “no thanks.” That doggone male pride thing. It is second only to trying to impress a woman in causing us to make unwise decisions. Put those two things together and what you have is a recipe for disaster. A perfect storm of sorts which creates in the male species the illusion that one is ten feet tall and bullet-proof as the old adage goes.
So, on go the gloves. In my mind I pictured myself deftly and gracefully moving around the ring, the grass actually, dodging Friendless’s powerful but slow punches. I knew that he was a bit of a bleeder and I’d seen more blood come out of his nose than you would see at a Friday the 13th movie festival. All I had to do was land a punch or two flush on his proboscis and some merciful person would step between us to keep me from doing further, undue damage to the face of this poor soul.
That was in my mind.
In reality, there on that small patch of grass in the middle of that circle of bloodthirsty teenagers, most of them my friends, both male and female, I was absorbing the first of probably five or six blows square to my face. From beginning to end the whole affair lasted maybe fifteen seconds. A long fifteen seconds. And on about blow number six I determined that I had had enough. I may have landed a couple of blows myself. I may not have.
The gloves we used were not the lace-up kind but the kind with elastic around the wrist to keep them from coming off while punching. They didn’t come off when I punched. However, when I raised my hands in surrender and slung them rapidly back to my side and down toward the ground they flew off like a pair of flip-flops would fly off the feet of Chuck Norris while performing one of his lethal roundhouse kicks.
They hit the grass with a thud and as the tears of complete humiliation began to well up in my eyes, I began my long, lonely trek back toward the gym. The first 50 yards were okay. Then I ran into two popular, pretty female friends who asked why I was crying. “Because I just got punched in the face six times” is what I wanted to say. “You’d be crying a little, too!” Now that I think about it, “crying” is probably too strong a term to describe what I was doing. The tears were not leaving my eyes and rolling down my cheeks so technically I wasn’t crying at all. Anyway, what I said to them was more along the lines of, “I’m not” as I hurried on my way.
That day was a bit of an epiphany for me. Just because someone isn’t very likable and may not have as many friends as you do doesn’t mean that they can’t beat you up if they take a notion to even if you were voted “most mischievous” by your classmates. In fact, it may very well serve as a motivational device. If I have picked up another pair of boxing gloves since that fateful day, I don’t remember it.
The good news is this: Because of the abbreviated length of the fight, I was able to get to the snack bar in the gym before it closed and was able to soothe my damaged ego with an Eskimo Pie. Then I thanked the Eskimo Pie for being cold so that it could sooth my damaged head. I hastily called a news conference that was attended only by Julius Farley, the school custodian, and announced my retirement from the boxing profession, effective immediately.