Jocks Rule

I graduated from high school in 1969, so I caught only the tail-end of the 1960s. At the time, almost everybody had a cause of one kind of another. ‘For or against the war’ was probably the biggest one. But there were the civil rights movement, spiritual seeking through drugs, the environment, and lots of others. One of my causes then was the struggle against the high school social structure. I didn’t like the way that school administrators and much of the faculty allowed—even encouraged—the athletes to run the social scene. I’ve never been the rebellious sort—I never rebelled for the hell of it, ever—but one of the good things about the Sixties was that they made you feel more free to speak up about things that you found oppressive, even when you were in the minority. In my senior year, I started getting into arguments with athletes in class about their dominance of the hallways. Over the course of the year, I became increasingly hot about it.

One afternoon the school held a pep rally for the football team that everybody had to attend. The rally was held in the school gym, and everybody was sitting in the bleachers. The football coach, Mr. Thrasher, gave a pep talk about the big game happening that evening. During his talk he called the team down to the gym floor. We were all supposed to stand up for them, but I refused. I could no longer give them that kind of respect. I thought it ludicrous. I didn’t do this to bring attention to myself. I didn’t think anyone could see me. I was surrounded by people who were standing. I intended it as a private protest. At the end of Thrasher’s speech, the school band started up the fight song and the football players returned to the bleachers. While the band was playing and the students were clapping and singing the fight song, one of the football players came running and dodging up the bleacher seats, grabbed me by the shirt, and pulled me to my feet. He was red in the face and screaming about my disrespect. I dug in my heels and screamed back at him. I don’t remember what I said. I know it was hostile. The altercation was somewhat concealed from the rest of the student body by the loud music and the bodies standing all around us. Eventually he let go of me, pushed me backwards, and went back to where he’d been sitting. I was livid, of course. I kept thinking, “What gall! What gall! What kind of person is it who can say ‘You have to stand up for me!‘?”

Recently I received an email from an old high school friend. She told me that the guy was recently elected to a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

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8 Responses to “Jocks Rule”

  1. Lynn B. Says:

    Oh BOY.

  2. Shelley Says:

    He is among many like minded comrades…….

    We will all be told to stand sooner than later. Let’s hope everyone possesses the courage to remain sitting.

  3. Rain Trueax Says:

    Wow, as a Republican?

    • markbittner Says:

      He’s a Democrat, centrist, I think, with mildly liberal tendencies. I don’t want to name him. I don’t want to hold him to account for something that happened 44 years ago. He may have changed some.

    • There's a DSM word that applies to bullies Says:

      No. People don’t change. Barring a mental disease or head injury, personality is pretty fixed in most people who are older than 14 or so. I agree with the premise of the 7 Up film series – to wit: show me the boy and I’ll show you the man. In other words, people don’t change. Not by much, anyway.

      This person is probably still the bully it was in 1969. I’ll call it Bully. If Bully showed contempt for you then, how much contempt does Bully feel (and perhaps shows, or will eventually show) for the American public now and in the future?

      Team sports are all about encouraging people to feel patriotic – that is, to be loyal to their chosen team(s) and to turn against their team(s)’s competitors. That’s why the news media devote whole sections and blocks of airtime every day to the subject of sports. Here, you didn’t show support for the team that represented you and your schoolmates. Bullies always target people who are different and they are easily angered by anyone who disagrees with them, who dares to (even mildly) criticize them, or who doesn’t give them what they want. They have no empathy or respect for others. And they don’t ever change.

      Harrumph!

      * End of rant. *

  4. Kathy Says:

    As an underground statement, perhaps the geeks rule. Not the narcissists. This may be a comeuppance for them. Fight the GOOD fight.

  5. Margaret Benbow Says:

    Mark, the bully/politician probably remembers that incident completely differently than you do–boyish horsing around, right??–and has bragged more than once that he knew you. A lot of politicians think that reality is whatever they prefer to believe. I wish you’d given his name.

    • markbittner Says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he claimed not to remember it. It was early in the school year, probably November or so, and I didn’t have any further trouble from him. Shortly after that incident, a few friends and I started a crusade to end mandatory attendance at pep assemblies. Mr. Thrasher called me into his office and forced me to soft-pedal my beliefs. But I went ahead and we won. We were all stuck in a kind of GItmo, a study hall where gloomy silence was strictly enforced.

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