Sweep the Leg, Johnny

Several times a year, some major league athlete/asshole does something profoundly stupid and socially unacceptable. They issue a public apology, give an interview with a major sports news* outlet about how the situation got away from them. They get suspended or fined by the league and they get some sort of token legal punishment. There are several hundred hours of commentary on the twenty-four hour networks but that's pretty much all there is to it: some chit-chat and a slap on the wrist.

Notice, though, that these overgrown teenagers never really get hurt, not in the literal sense. Commercial athletes are, by virtue of their profession, in very good physical condition, highly confident and of larger than average stature. Generally speaking, they're not the kind of guys that get their asses kicked in public.

For a few months during my junior year in college, I bounced at one of the toughest clubs Atlanta. (This connects, I promise). Most such establishments hire steely-faced men better than six and a half feet tall to marshal their patrons. This makes a certain degree of sense. Your run-of-the-mill bouncer type is intimidating and can, without being overtly hostile, get what he wants out of people simply by his imposing size and threatening glare. This works very well if you need to inspire fear in belligerent frat boys. However, if you club is full of disenfranchised skinheads, bar-wrecking urban motorcycle gangs and South American futball hooligans**, then you have a plurality of your clientèle that is constantly itching for a fight and that probably knows how to win one. Simply being big and mean-looking doesn't cut it with any these people.

During my time at the club our security staff consisted of one former prison guard, one Marine reservist, three former cops, five discharged Army Rangers, and five part-timers that all had day jobs as martial arts instructors. One of those part-timers was a one-hundred and five pound woman named Liz who I once saw shatter a cinder block with her bare hands. Then there were a half dozen college kids like me that were all aspiring bartenders or DJ's. Most of us didn't know how to handle people when we first got hired but the "fifteen brass men" brought us up to snuff pretty quickly. Nobody on our security staff was taller than 6'1" and we were very good at marshaling an inherently violent clientèle, even when outnumbered.

Well-trained bouncers can easily marshal a person, even a person that outstrips them in size, without causing injury. That is unless the person being marshaled is gunning for an all out fight and is sober enough to actually have one. That usually ends with the instigator taking a ride to the hospital.

What happens if one of these pampered tough guys from the world of multi-million dollar emotional children were to get in a row with someone like one of my old colleagues. What if they got in a fight with someone with the experience and wherewithal to competently fight back? Suppose a star NFL quarterback were to swing a broken bottle at my old friend Liz and ended up with a shattered kneecap, a blown-out elbow and thirteen fewer degrees of peripheral vision than when he arrived? Exactly this did happen to a pipe fitter. He spent six months in jail for assault and, when he tried to sue the club, he lost and was successfully counter-sued.

I doubt it would come out that way if the pipe fitter had been a nationally famous athlete. Sure, he might have spent the night in jail or in the hospital but he wouldn't have actually done time. His suit probably would have been successful and, though his athletic prowess is probably insured through Lloyd's of London, he'd be awarded a million dollar judgment against a working class woman who was only defending herself against a man thrice her size.

People wonder why I hate sports so much.

*"Sports News" might be an oxymoron.

** This was on Sundays, Thursdays and Saturdays, respectively. Ska night, 80's night and Brazilian Carnival night.


Snoozepossum said...

"What if they got in a fight with someone with the experience and wherewithal to competently fight back?"

Nail, meet hammer. This is the crux of it - the type of overblown spoiled brat that pulls these kind of temper tantrums is a coward.

They show off to people who are either afraid or have bought the hype, not people who can meet them on even ground. If any of them had their asses handed to them the first time or two that they acted up, without an agent or coach to threaten that "my lawyer is bigger than your lawyer" over their shoulders, they wouldn't make these plays.

The general public is no help; our culture's hero worship is focused far more on assitude than actual hard work and accomplishment, and the masses mistake cockiness and entitlement for courage and substance.

nursemyra said...

Is parachuting not a sport then?

Tom Harper said...

"I thought you'd be bigger."

(Name that movie)

krissthesextatheist said...

Actually i read this last year, but I didn't leave a comment. i love sports, but I sure do hate when a privileged athlete "gets off" when a normal citizen would be in jail (and if I ever went to jail, I certainly couldn't bail myself out and would have to rot in there).

On defeating a pretty boy jock in combat...I used to train at a dojo where a lot of cops also attended (and some military and prison guards)and when a college loser "I'm going to be a pro (insert sport here)" came in for a "try" all we had to do is mess up their hair, they would get distracted and then...well, you know what comes next.

So awesome bro,