Suffield Observations

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Andy Sauer

Fighting Times

About 30 years ago, I was proofing patrons at a college town bar in Upstate New York. The place was a dive, but the beer was cheap and the vibe, kitchy, so it drew a good number of students.

One particular night, trouble was brewing. Two groups had been going at each other, and the tensions escalated from verbal sparring to fighting words. The bartender asked one of the groups to leave the bar, and they complied.

But there was one guy who didn’t want to leave. He was huge — built like a defensive tackle, and he resolved to finish his beer. The situation deteriorated, and the remaining group of aggressors, about a dozen of them, were told to leave. They left, but not before they made it clear they’d be waiting for the big guy outside. The giant guzzled his beer and made for the door. I stepped in his way and told him “If you go out there, they’re going to kill you.” As casually as if he were opening a curtain, he pushed me aside and walked out the door.

Some people just want to fight.

I think of this story a lot lately because when I read the news, whether it’s international, national, or even local, it just seems like everyone is primed to fight. I have mixed it up myself now and then, but I am astonished at the level of aggression people bring to things as serious as global conflicts and as banal as politics or driving. People just want to fight.

Which brings me back to that drunk giant in Upstate New York. After shoving me aside, he stumbled into the middle of the street and squared off with that group of aggressors, who promptly descended on him like a pack of dogs. It was ugly. He was down as punches and kicks rained down mercilessly on him. A friend of mine watching from inside the bar noticed a guy running out into the street in an effort to break up the fight. “Oh, man, what does this idiot think he’s doing,” he asked. “Oh my God, that’s Andy!”

I had run out there in an attempt to break up the fight. I had wedged myself into the scrum and was taking a few punches including one to the head that made me see stars. As I began to regret my predicament, I saw one of the assailants literally get lifted off his feet and thrown aside. A few others were hip checked off the pile. My friends had jumped into the fray in the nick of time. Thankfully, the arrival of the police ended things pretty quickly.

There are some people who are determined to duke it out, no matter what the cost, and there’s not much anyone does about it except hope it doesn’t escalate wildly out of control. If you’re of the mindset to break it up, you better ready to take a few punches and hope you have friends who have your back.

As for me, I am getting too old to get punched in the head trying to keep people from wanting to beat each other up.

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