A fair fight

Jan 23rd
Posted by shambo  as Culture, Growing up, guys, philosophy


Let me say this about that.

“Well, at least it was a Fair Fight”.¬† We’ve all heard this expression since we were kids.¬† A “Fair Fight”, as a way to settle differences of opinion, is as much a part of the American lexicon as the ‘right to bear arms’.¬† That’s what we Americans are all about …..¬†every man¬†with an equal¬†chance to win -¬†no¬†whooping up on a weaker guy – no gangs attacking a single opponent – a “fair fight,”¬† that’s the American way.

Well, maybe not – at least not anymore.

My¬†father¬† was a man who was grounded in a black-and-white sense of honor.¬† There was ‘right’ and there was ‘wrong’ and everything on God’s green earth fell into one of these two categories – there was no third category, no ambiguity, no waffling, no gray area.¬† It was right or it was wrong – period.

In today’s world, ‘ol Dad’s views would be as out of place as a Pterodactyl in a¬†bird cage.¬† There are no ‘fair fights’ in today’s world.¬† Why?¬† Probably because…¬†¬†¬† a ‘fair fight’ in the modern world most likely¬†would be fought to the death.¬† In Dad’s day, when one guy got the best of the other in a fight, the loser pronounced the winner as the “better man” and they¬†both wandered off to have¬†a beer.¬† No more.¬† In today’s society, the end of a fight is more likely to be appended by comments from the loser like “…. oh, this ain’t over futhermucker” or “…. be careful when you start your car, you sockplucker” or ” …. die infidel”, or something equally as charming.

I think the transition from Dad’s sense of a ‘fair fight’, to my own sense of ‘self preservation’ began when I was seven years old.¬† It was in the¬†early fifties and the¬†social norms¬†of blue collar Americana ruled (note: for you¬†folks under 40, watch a few “Happy Days” reruns and you will get a sense of what America was like before you politically correct weenie-boys dumbed it down to what it is today).¬†

There was an older kid who lived across the street that was the kid equivalent of Attila-the-Hun, at least for a one-block radius.  He was a lot bigger than the rest of us, he stole our marbles, he pushed us around, he broke our toys and generally made it impossible to go outside to play without running the risk of getting beat up.

One Sunday at church, the Sunday School teacher read us the story of ‘David and Goliath’.¬† Unbeknownst to me at the time, it seems that if God was on your side, you could not lose a fight.¬† Man, oh man, this was the secret weapon I was looking for.

That afternoon, flush with the glow of the Holy Spirit, I marched out into the yard to confront my nemesis.¬† This pint-sized Goliath will now reap the vengeance of¬† ‘Kid Shambo’, as I will smite thee and run thee back across the street to thyn own yard.

And there he was, twisting some poor little dweeb’s arm and kicking him in the shin.¬† I ran toward the bully and head-butted him at full speed, and then stood back to¬†enjoy the scene of¬†him fleeing the field of battle.¬† But hark,¬†flee he did not.¬† He released the other kid and hit me in the eye so hard I thought I was going to puke.¬† A field of sparkling light, that would make¬†4th of July¬†fireworks pale by comparison, covered my field of view as blood oozed from a cut¬†beneath my eyebrow.¬† I had hit the ground barely a fraction of a second when the kid started kicking me in the stomach.

I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t do anything but wonder where in the¬†hell God had been during all of this and began crawling away as fast as I could, bleeding and gagging all the way back to my house.¬† As I passed through the front door, I had gained enough air to begin sobbing and gasping to my Dad that “the big kid hit me!”¬† My Dad, being the sympathetic and doting father that he was, looked at my wounds long enough to determine that I was in no mortal danger and then gently picked me up and threw me against the wall.

At that point I had¬†my great¬†epiphany – “I don’t think God is on my side”.

As I lay on the floor, I heard my Dad say something that I could¬†barely¬†understand, except the word “pussy-boy”¬†clearly made up the dominant portion of his sentence structure.¬† The next thing I knew I was again airborne, with no unobstructed landing zone in sight, and braced myself for the ensuing crash.¬† With an unceremonious thud, I single-handedly dismembered a kitchen chair with my face.

Once again, my doting father stood me up and examined me for any signs of impending fatality and then gave me a choice:

“Son, you can go back outside and stand up against that kid like a¬†man¬†- or – you can stay in here with me.”

At that point, Goliath did not seem like such a bad choice.  Clearly, he was going to kick my ass, but I was almost certain I would live through it.  Inside the house with my Dad, maybe not.

Back outside I went, trying to cultivate¬†a plan of survival that accommodated the obvious absence of the Almighty.¬† And at that moment, I had my second epiphany of the day that began my transition from¬†my Dad’s¬†concept of a “fair fight”¬† to a more modern doctrine of “survival”.

After a brief consultation with my five-year-old brother, I strutted out to the edge of our yard like Marshal Dillon from the old TV series “Gunsmoke”, and dared ‘Kid Goliath’ to cross the street.¬† He seem happy to oblige and¬†charged across the street¬†to complete¬†a task he thought¬†he had¬†already finished.¬† Just as he made his way across the center line of the street, my little brother popped up from behind some hedges and flung a brick at the advancing neighborhood aggressor.¬† I could not help but think¬†¬†“…… Jeez, this¬†would be¬†just like David & Goliath, if David had a little brother.”

The brick hit the kid square in the forehead and dropped him like a bad habit.  Blood spurted everywhere as the kid lay motionless.  His mom ran into the street screaming that we had killed her kid as a neighbor administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  The cops showed up, an ambulance showed up, the whole neighborhood gathered around to enjoy the show.

The kid finally regained consciousness and the ambulance guys got the bleeding stopped.¬† The cops asked the kid’s father if he wanted to press charges and he replied: “Oh, don’t worry about it¬†- the kids were just playing.”¬† It occurred to me that ‘Kid Goliath’ had a dad just like mine when he told the kid to go back¬†into the house and that he wanted to have a little talk with him.¬† Poor kid, I knew what was coming.¬† I expected neither of us would run the risk of “having a talk with our fathers” by getting into another fight, ever again.¬†

Did I learn a valuable lesson that day¬†about¬†my Dad’s concept of a¬†‘fair fight’?¬† Oh hell no, but I learned¬†one helluva lot about the value of teamwork.¬†

When the whole episode was over, my Dad gave me and my little brother a little wink and an approving nod.  Then he said something that made my blood run cold:

“Son,¬†when your Mother gets home, you need to explain to her¬†how that blood got on her carpet.”

Oh, crap.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.






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