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Monday, December 19, 2011

You Probably Need Your Ass Whipped

I will probably get into trouble by writing my opinion today. For once, I can't find any logical research to back up my beliefs, but today, I'm writing from the gut. So, here goes. Feel free to criticize.

As a young man, I played junior high and high school football. I will always remember my first experience with the game. The initial recollections I have of the sport cannot be classified under "motivational" or even "pleasant." I can't help but think that many others have stories similar to mine. From grade to grade, football slowly became an "acquired taste" as I became bigger and more skilled at the sport. Yet my first year of participation could be filed under "hell." Let me tell you about it.

When I was in the 6th grade, I moved from a school without a football program to one with the sport , and I soon felt both the desire and the pressure to join the team. Even then, I already admired many aspects of the game -- the colorful uniforms; the skills such as passing, kicking, and catching the ball; the roughhouse attitude.

Even though I thought about playing on the sixth grade team, I didn't. I was content to play recess football while getting adjusted to my new school and new friends. That year I took a lot of jeering from my classmates about not playing the game -- you know, the old "you big pussy" ridicule.

So, my 7th grade year, I decided to give football a try. I was a pretty decent athlete then, already involved in organized baseball and basketball, so I figured football would suit me just fine. Besides, since I enjoyed other sports, I needed something to keep me in shape during the fall, and "ball" of any kind was in my blood.

Filled with enthusiasm and curiosity, I went out for the 7th-8th grade team. The first couple of weeks was just conditioning, mainly running, exercising, and reinforcing basic skills. These days were exhausting but no big sweat. I was doing well, keeping up, and benefiting from the workouts.But soon, we woke up to the day of our first full-contact practice.

I was pretty nervous at school that day, but an uneventful day of classes progressed and soon closing announcements sounded from the P.A. Contact football time had arrived.

In the locker room, I struggled while putting on my uniform -- to be quite honest, I had no idea how to position all the necessary apparatus and tighten the numerous straps and laces. Naturally, I watched others and learned to dress by imitation, enclosing myself in a cocoon of pads and protective gear. The loosey-goosey helmet, the weighty shoulder pads, the ever-moving thigh and knee pads, the restrictive hip pads, the gagging mouthpiece -- after getting completely suited up, I had no idea how anyone was supposed to play football while wearing all this stuff.

As we stepped outside to the practice field, I clattered and puffed with every move while constantly readjusting pieces of my "armor" and futilely trying to find a good way to see between the bars of my face mask. I felt the straps of my shoulder pads digging into my flesh, which was immediately baking from the heat of the August sun.

Then, the coach appeared and blew his whistle to signal the start of practice. We began by running a couple of laps around the field and exercising. All I could do was struggle to breathe and try to keep my equipment in some kind of workable rhythm as I jogged and fumbled through calisthenics and drills. I thought, "Why in the hell do people want to play a game that requires wearing a uniform that feels like a sweat lodge?" I knew then this sport was definitely not like baseball or basketball.

Soon, the coach barked out, "Time to hit!" He gave us some brief instructions about tackling and blocking, probably knowing all along that novice players like me would not be able to do either since we could hardly stand up in our pads. And after that, we began the task of beating on each other -- seeing who could absorb the most punishment and "deliver devastating blows."

Having no conception of how to use my muscles and leverage to block or how to execute a safe, successful head-on tackling maneuver, we new guys proceeded to "chicken fight" and arm tackle and take "shots" from the others, generally providing clownish entertainment for all the veteran players. We soon become the "girlies" and "'fraidy cats" of the team and were demoted to human tacking and blocking dummies.

Being practice cannon fodder for the experienced 8th and 7th graders, I soon found out what it meant to have my "bell rung," to receive "stingers," to get caught beneath the many cleats of a sweep, to play "smash mouth," to get blindsided, to square off in "bull in the ring," and to fracture my nose. I began, after dozens of failed attempts to realize the advantage of "staying low" and "keeping my neck bowed." But, even with all the pads, the contact hurt like hell. Of course, we were told these kamikaze body sacrifices would "make men out of us."

After what seemed like an eternity of mutilation, the coach lined us up for endless wind sprints, which seemed to be designed to have everyone puking up colorful chunks of their school lunches. I had never been so thirsty in my life, and the coach had already told us "no water until after practice." In fact, in those days (the early '60s) we were encouraged to take salt pills before practice. Go figure? I had visions of St. Peter and the Pearly Gates before finishing the sprints. And, of course, after practice ended, the "newbies" had to carry all the practice equipment back inside.

Hobbling, drowning in sweat, and hurting all over, I slowly made my way back to the locker room after the ordeal. The coach paused and began the speech I remember to this day. He said, "Now many of you found out today you don't want to play this game. This game isn't for sissies. So, those of you pussies who want to quit, just turn in your equipment to me now. I'll be in the coaches' office. Today was an easy practice, and tomorrow will be much harder. So, you quitters, get out now. I will see you men tomorrow." With that, he turned his back on us and left the locker room.

I remember that none of the new guys looked up. We all just got dressed in silence. I really don't know who quit that day. I didn't want to know, and I didn't care, but I did know I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit so badly that I nearly ran to the coaches' office. I thought, "This shit is stupid. I'm going to take a beating from my own team the whole season."

I was on the verge of turning in my pads, but instead, for some reason that I still don't understand, I sneaked out the door and into my mother's waiting car. She inquired about practice, and I didn't mention anything about wanting to quit or about the torture I had faced.

I didn't have any fun playing football that year (at least as far as I can remember). The team was mediocre, and I got to play some because I could catch any football that was thrown remotely close to me, yet I came close to quitting many times in the 7th grade. I convinced myself I was involved in some insane initiation and the hazing seemed to lesson as the season progressed. 

I always prayed for a deluge during school days so that practice would be cancelled. Those days the temperature was not a factor in modifying equipment for health concerns or calling off practice. On the field I made some improvement, but I usually took a pretty good beating since we new guys were so awkward and unskilled. We were expected to improve by rough experience (more bruises and cuts) and by "getting tougher" and "shaking it off." By the way, the "no water" policy continued and we smuggled lemons in our pants to suck during practice - don't ask me why we sucked lemons to relieve thirst. The veteran players did it so we other idiots followed their lead.

What's the point of this story? I did learn to love the game, and I became a pretty good offensive and defensive end. By my senior year I made First Team All-Conference, and I set a couple of school records for receiving. I never played with a tighter, more brotherly bunch than my high school football team. I did learn football skills, and I became pretty proficient at performing them. In addition, I did learn a certain affinity to violence and causing some pain. (For example, we were always told to hit our opponent with all of our might on the first play to see if he would soften up and quit. And, we were frequently instructed to knock our opponent out of the game. Of course, all of this we performed within the rules of fair play.)

But, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned by playing football was that "someone is always tougher than you and you are going to take an occasional ass whipping." These personal ass whippings took a toll on my body but they also instilled a great lesson in my mind. The statement reverberated each time the player over me delivered a blow that reinforced the truth of the warning. Even when we won, the guy over me occasionally pounded my ass. Sometimes, the ass whipping lasted the entire game, and after the contest, not only the bruises to my body but also the bruises to my ego hurt for weeks. I became a true believer -- someone can always humble you, often when you least expect to be humbled.

I believe I learned to be less boastful, more respectful of others, and more appreciative of my own ability to endure hardships by getting those "occasional ass whippings." In fact, that physically violent side of the game offered no logical retreat. I had to take my punishment in front of my entire community or be carried off the field due to injury. An embarrassing ass whipping did also act as my incentive to be better prepared, stronger, and becoming more worthy of facing high competition.

Many people would probably disagree and say that the sport of football shouldn't entail the actions of people intent on delivering a deliberate ass whipping, but ask football players about that. They will readily admit they have tried to do it to an opponent. And when it came their turn to bow and be bloodied by their opponent on the playing field, the physical abuse they took, the humiliation they endured, and the lasting effects of "knocking them down a peg" brought important character into their lives. Only then, they found out, too, that they were not the "cock of the walk." Mere bravado is useless in the face of concentrated skill and overwhelming power.

Why Everyone Should Have an Ass Whipping

In this entry I want to extol the virtue of receiving an occasional ass whipping (in the correct context) -- the action may be physical, as was my experience with football, or it may be mental, as is inherent in any righteous success that puts a person's ignorant opinion in line - an attitude adjustment. We learn from these body and mind bruising sessions. They are not pretty, and, granted, they may be very dangerous and hurtful, but, at times, they may be warranted. I am an advocate of weapon-free, physical violence only when participants are competing in a controlled environment or when it is absolutely necessary for the sake of defense.

I am not in favor of solving problems with ass whippings. Far from it -- I believe problems are solved with love and understanding. All I am saying is that most people benefit from a well-timed, properly administered ass whipping at some time in their lives. These times often happen when they needlessly put themselves in potentially violent situations and "ask for it" or when they have proper supervision and adequate protection when playing a contact sport.

With the present society so intent on worshiping power and violence as elements of fame and success, each individual needs to understand (first hand, up close and personal) the reality of receiving pain and humiliation.  There is no glory or fame in violence or fighting, and individuals who have experienced the losing end of such confrontations surely know this.

Blowhards, tyrants and hoodlums seldom "walk the walk" and, instead, prefer to emulate violent actions and symbols. They risk only what they know they can lose and revel in bloodying others but avoiding all potentially harmful contact. And, if you notice, they prefer the protection of groups for overwhelming odds.

True warriors, veterans of combat in war, seldom even discuss their service. They have experienced the horror of killing and all its bloody components. All of those who return understand the meaning of getting their asses whipped, and few believe themselves to be "John Waynes" or heroes. They will tell you that the dead are the heroes, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. These people know the lessons of defeat on a personal,  unparalleled level.

I have heard people say that ass whippings (And, no, I'm not extolling any benefits of corporal punishment on children or gang fights here.) merely scar a person and negatively affect self image. I disagree to this extent-- until most cocky, bullying individuals experience a defeat by someone, they continue to build their image of toughness through intimidation and senseless violence. They often think others are their pawns.

A bully or an unconquered brash person always relishes a fight with someone physically smaller or someone he perceives is inferior to him and to his bloated self image. A bully thrives on making threats and causing pain to the defenseless. That is, until he encounters someone who is a worthy opponent and who politely delivers him his well-deserved ass kicking.

Take it easy - I said these adjustments may be administered mentally or physically. In addition, I understand the principle that "violence breeds more violence." But, sometimes, in the case of people who build a hideous reputation while preying on others, a decent ass kicking from an opponent will actually save them from worse outcomes -- more serious physical harm, imprisonment, substance abuse problems, social rejection, and even death. 

I know the research says bullies derive a sense of self-worth from their anti-social activities and it suggests that this may be reinforced by others. And, I know, the research indicates bullies tend to come from homes where aggressive strategies to conflict resolution are modeled. So, when I say an ass whipping can be beneficial, I'm not talking about a parent administering a beating on his/her child. This is clearly child abuse, a  horrible, harmful, criminal act.

In conclusion, I can say that I'm glad that football humbled me. Without facing competition and some opponents that completely overwhelmed me, whipped my ass, I think I'd be a worse person today. And, perhaps, I would have experienced my share of getting my ass kicked in far more dangerous situations.

You will likely face at least one serious fight in your lifetime in defense of what you believe is right. If you accept the challenge and win that  fight, you are justified in your victory. If you lose the fight, you will learn the lesson that "someone is always tougher than you." That loss may prove to be a very important learning experience in your life. It may motivate you to become stronger or it just may make you reexamine the consequences of defeat. 

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