I’m not a violent man.
No really, I’ve never been involved in anything remotely violent. I got into a shoving match in a hallway during my Freshman year of high school, but no punches were thrown. And that’s it.
So that makes what happened my first week at Chagrin Falls High School so unusual, because it’s the only instance I can recall of ever letting my anger erupt in violence toward another person in my life. And boy, did I pick the wrong person.
The back story is: after the end of my Sophomore year at Williamsville South High School, my family moved from the ‘burbs of Buffalo, New York to the ‘burbs of Cleveland, Ohio, specifically Chagrin Falls. It was a tough adjustment. I wasn’t in love with the move, and the first few days at my new high school went as awkward as possible.
Despite being quite uncoordinated and lacking athleticism as an adult, I was fairly active as kid, playing little league baseball, pick-up games of football and basketball, and even indulged in six-month of soccer before wising up. So gym class, that was something I actually looked forward to. Dodgeball? Bring it on. Softball? Sweet. Flag-football? I’m down with that. Or so I thought. I hadn’t counted on one thing: Tom O’Malley.
Tom O’Malley was brother to several other O’Malleys, spread through the grades at Chagrin, and had earned a reputation akin to a Boston mob family that might appear in a The Departed. You didn’t mess with them. Unfortunately, this information was not presented to me prior to this particular gym class.
Teams were split up for a game of flag football, and it started amicably enough. At some point after a play had ended, I picked up the football and carried back our huddle. Unbeknownst to me, the ball had been sitting at the line of scrimmage after plays, so as a walked back our huddle, Tom followed me. I reached the huddle and realized this, and made a comment like “can I help you?”
“I go where the ball goes,” Tom replied. I was not aware of this particular aspect of flag football, and so I responded with the best thing my 16-year old brain could come up with as I shoveled the ball into his stomach: “Then get it the fuck outta here.”
This did not go over well.
Tom lunged for me, yelling, “what’d you say big nose?” Now, I know I don’t have a small nose, but I’m no Barry Manilow. Almost immediately, people got between us, but that didn’t stop me and Tom from whiffing on a few punches and more “big nose” insults.
In what seemed like forever but was more like a few seconds, Tom walked back to the defensive huddle and we re-huddled as well. I suggested a running play, and went out to play wide-receiver. Of course, across the line matched up against me was my new friend, Tom.
As I lined up, Tom notified me that he would be on my ass all the way down the field, to which I replied, “I don’t think so, you know why?”
“No, why?” Tom asked incredulously.
“Because it’s a running play,” I responded as the ball was hiked, and I jacked Tom in the chest with two hands as hard as I could.
And with that, my interaction with Tom ended. Afterward, I was informed by my fellow Juniors that Tom was a Senior who had many brothers, all of whom would be looking to kick my ass for what had transpired. This never occurred, and managed to survive my year thanks to a class schedule minus any interaction with any O’Malley, as well as a crafty decision to avoid the cafeteria by eating in the library.
In retrospect, that decision might have been influenced by the fact that I knew nobody and wanted to avoid the embarrassment of eating alone, but it’s all irrelevant at this point I guess.
As it stands, that’s been my only brush with one-on-one violence, and I hope to keep it that way.