Attacking someone because the person is quiet, or reads books, or is somehow different from the group, is not the way. The overwhelming majority of football coaches, managers and players are wonderful people. This little fictional vignette is not about them.
Nemo me impune lacessit
Coach, can I talk to you for a minute?
Sure, Jonathan, what’s on your mind?
Coach, I’m confused about the advice you gave me the other day. Remember, you told me I should punch Anti Cognitive because he was hassling me in the locker room, you know, saying he was going to mess me up and then come after my family, stuff like that.
Yes Jonathan, I remember. Did you punch him?
Not yet Coach. I was a little concerned so I got some books on the subject.
Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan, what am I going to do with you? Don’t you see that reading books is making you stand out as different in the locker room? The only thing you need to be reading is a menu and your playbook!
Well, Coach. This one book is by a real smart sports writer. It’s about what happened to two NBA basketball players in 1977 when one guy punched the other one in the face. Just one punch broke half the bones in the one guy’s face and it nearly destroyed the lives of both men. And Coach, these NBA players were tall and thin, not real heavy at all; the guy who threw the punch only weighed about 230 lbs. Coach I have been lifting hard, I’m rocked and I tip the scales at 310 lbs.! Are you sure I should throw a punch at my teammate?
Jonathan, never pay attention to sports writers, what do they know?
Well, Coach, I figured the sports writer might have written the book, at least in part, so young guys like me might read it and think twice about throwing even one punch.
Jonathan, football players are different from those beanpoles in the NBA. We have different bone structure and thick skulls. Don’t worry, Anti Cognitive is the toughest football player in the League and he has the thickest skull in the country.
Ok, Coach. But what if things escalate?
Coach, suppose Anti gets mad and hits me with a beer bottle and I hit him back with a wine bottle or something?
Jonathan, football players don’t drink wine! A shot and a beer is what you should be drinking! Son, you’ve got to get with the program: no book reading, don’t even admit you went to that soft West Coast College you graduated from, in fact, try not to tell anyone you graduated at all, it’s not good for your reputation. Mix with the guys more, you know, video games, strip bars. Do I have to explain everything to you? And if you knock a few teeth out or get a Frankenstein scar from a broken bottle in a bar fight, that’s great. You’ll earn respect and fit in better with the guys!
Ok, Coach. But I read about this soccer game in Brazil. A player punched a referee because the ref gave him a yellow card. The ref then stabbed and killed the player and then the player’s family in the stands cut off the referee’s head with a machete and dragged and mutilated his body.
Jonathan, you’re talking about soccer fans for crying out loud. Everybody knows how crazy they are. Football players don’t carry weapons Jonathan. Nothing like that would ever happen here.
Ok, Coach. I read this other short story about this guy who was assaulted with a punch or a verbal attack or something, and he waited for fifty years to get his revenge. This story was a classic. The guy who was insulted lured his enemy into a wine cellar and chained him and then walled him in forever. All the while as the guy was screaming for his life! After fifty years!
Supposedly, the guy who was punched or hassled had a family motto, “No one insults me with impunity,” and he plotted his revenge for a lifetime. Coach, do you think that maybe guys don’t like being punched, threatened or insulted?
Jonathan, there you go with the wine again. Listen, that story is a pretend fable. Those things don’t happen in real life.
Well…Coach, I read this story recently about a guy in the Midwest who was punched and had a jockstrap put on his head in high school. That guy tracked down the guy who put the jock on his head fifty years later. He went to his front door and shot him dead right in the face. After fifty years! You think he was mad Coach?
Look Jonathan, that’s exactly what I am trying to teach you! An eye for an eye means sometimes you have to spill a little blood.
But Coach, should I spill the blood of my own friends and teammates? With knives and guns?
Jonathan, sometimes you have to get violent, even with your friends, to prove your toughness!
But, Coach, aren’t the jails full of guys who did just that?
Jonathan, listen to me, now, are you listening? Our GM and I did not get to our high positions in the Organization by thinking too deeply about these things. You can get all mixed up if you think too much. Football players are tough and they must be violent.
If some people get hurt off the field well that’s not our fault is it? It’s the other guy’s fault for being too weak to stand up to us!
Ok, Coach. I read one more book but it’s pretty tough, you might not be able to explain it. I got it because somebody told me it was about the worst example of bullying ever. And it all started with one punch, supposedly.
Let’s hear it Jonathan.
Well, Coach. I’m about half-way through book. It’s about this night called Kristallnacht. There were these guys in Brown shirts who were trying to toughen up the country. The leader of the Brown shirts said that these other people, called Civilians, were a little too soft, and smart and also a little different, so the leader of the Brown shirts wanted to toughen them up or weed them out of the country. Supposedly, a Civilian punched a Brown shirt and that started the trouble but a lot of people think that the Brown’s made that up because they just wanted to bully the civilians so the Brown leader could look tough. The Brown shirt leader sent his tough guys out on Kristallnacht to bash in all the windows of the houses and businesses of the Civilians. Also bash in a few Civilian heads in the process. The Brown shirts were real good at bashing the Civilians because the Brown shirts were tough, not soft, and the Civilians were not so tough. Later, the Brown shirt leader decided that he needed to weed out the Intelligentsia out of the country too.
People who read books, Coach.
Well, anyway, the Brown shirts weeded out the Intelligentsia and burned a whole bunch of books in the country and they toughened up the country real good. Then the Brown shirt leader became the boss of the whole country. Very quickly, the Brown shirt leader started bullying all the smaller, nearby countries. He was tough and they were soft. And he was real good at yelling and screaming and getting people to do what he wanted, sort of like Anti Cognitive. Then, the Browns developed this thing called Blitzkrieg, sort of a sucker punch for countries, and they rolled over all the little countries in the area.
That’s as far as I’ve read Coach but I think it gets much worse.
Jonathan, all that stuff happened a long time ago. And if the smaller countries were tougher and had fought back harder, things might be different. I’ll admit it’s tough to win a gun fight armed only with a knife and the smaller countries were fighting with horses against tanks but, damn it, they should have stood up like men and fought harder!
Ok, Coach. But there is this saying in the book, “Past is Prologue.”
What does that mean?
Coach, I think it means that what has happened in the past might happen again. Also, it’s a good idea to study history.
Jonathan, be careful about reading too much history, it might clog your brain with bad ideas.
So Coach, is there ever a time when I should pull my punch? When I shouldn’t throw a punch even though I can?
Listen, Jonathan. Nobody is ever going to know what goes on in our locker room. And I guarantee that anything that happens will not have the slightest impact on the rest of the world. So take my advice.
After all …
It’s only one punch!
Submitted by guest blogger Rob Ward