Punching Bag Report


August 15, 2009 by David Gillaspie



The city is never far away.  If something bad happens it’s always worse in the city.  At least it seems that way when small town bullies turn into an urban problem.  A visitor explains:

“A woman strolls along the city streets with her date one night.  They turn a corner and see a man mistreating a woman.  The woman and her date inquire politely about the beating. 

The beater said, “It’s okay, she’s my wife.”

The date couple moves on, unsure what to do.  She is cultured, a writer and a singer.  She’s not the problem, her date is.  He didn’t engage when it mattered.  Where do you learn how to do that?


Sport teaches how to respond in this situation: step up.  Remember the John Lennon line about ‘if you are not a part of the solution then you are a part of the problem?’  Sport presents problems to be solved and obstacles to overcome.  A wife beater is a problem.   

The skills sport teaches carry over to what some call real life; at least that’s the idea.  Sport encourages us to act, to intervene, to make an effort.  In short, sport teaches us to try and make a difference in the moment we share with others in a game, in the classroom, or at work. 

Would a real athlete walk past a man pounding a woman?  Would a real athlete accept poor behavior at their kid’s games?  A real athlete steps up to the challenge and try’s to make a difference in spite of the conventional wisdom that says don’t get involved.

If you’re going to get involved, don’t do it like this: 

I left Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland one evening and noticed someone bumping into the bus kiosk across the street.  A closer look showed one person getting smashed up against the Plexiglas wall.  Probably two hobos in a beat-down over the last beer, I thought. 

I could have walked home, but it looked like one person was taking a beating.  I crossed the street to find a man punching a woman into the glass. 

I intervened, got punched in the face, bled a little, then had the guy arrested in front of his gang who took too much interest in me.  I pressed charges the next day.  The assistant DA took me into his office, stood on his chair, raised a rap sheet printed on folded computer paper over his head, and let it drop. 

The puncher had lots of arrests for minor things, a few weapons charges, a few fights.  What impressed me was the number of times a knife was mentioned.  The assistant DA asked me who I thought I was, the last of the good Samaritans?  The only thing that worked out right that night was the woman stopped getting slammed, which was the goal. 

What does sport have to do with this situation?  I saw an uneven playing field with a distinct underdog and learned one of life’s lessons: Acting in good faith with the best intentions doesn’t guarantee the results you hope for, just as training and dedication to a sport isn’t always enough.  Sport teaches us to make an effort, to make a difference, and accept the results.

We try.  We are conditioned to try.  We see a problem and try to solve it.  We see things through.”


3 thoughts on “Punching Bag Report

  1. […] If anyone catches you shadowing a wrestling match on TV you’ll never live it down.  That’s not a bad thing, but they’ll bring it up the rest of your life, like you used to be some sort of a nut case.  Chances are if you’re a nut case now, you’ll be a nut case later.  But you’ll be a winning nut case. […]

  2. David Gillaspie says:

    Good points. If an intervention to help turns into a worse conflict, who benefits? The puncher went to anger management classes. The punchee stood by her man. I got smashed between the eyes by a 5’4″ bantam weight.

    The funny part was the glasses I wore. New glasses, photo-grey lenses, wrap around ear pieces that turned into earrings when the punch snapped the nose piece. In spite of a broken nose and bleeding punctures I stepped away.

    First place: The guy got off easy.

    Second place: The girl didn’t get punched any more that night.

    Third place: Everyone who gets between a man and woman fight, but what else is there to do? Third on the charts but first in our hearts.

  3. RootDoctor says:

    There’s this trick in screenwriting/storytelling called “Saving the Cat” in which you have your protagonist do something good, say on page fifteen or so of your screenplay, that way when the movie ends, and your character beats back the bad guys, the audience will be glad for him, and feel contentment about the story they just experienced. It’s true in life too.
    That said, next time you want to lash out at your boss, or cheat on your wife, or shoot the finger out your window, stop. Your character is revealed by the decisions you make under pressure. And nobody cheers for the winner when he doesn’t have character. Just say to yourself, today I will finish third. It was good enough for Lance. (and apparently good enough for an old oregon hillbilly)

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