Reading T.J. Simers series in the Los Angeles Times about the not so delicate art of insulting the corn fed residents of the Cornhusker State – Nebraska – and particularly those who are fans of the Cornhusker Football Team – brought back some fond memories – and one not at all fond – memory.
Back in my fighting days, trash talking was a necessary part of my repertoire for three reasons. First, once my opponent found the person he was going to fight (moi) was a hundred pounds smaller then he was and often over a half-a-foot shorter, some guys felt embarrassed at how unmanly they would look ‘beating up’ someone my size, so they needed a little encouragement to fight. Luckily, smart ass that I am, I could generally arrange that to happen in 30 seconds – or less.
Second, after what happened to the first guy, the second opponent of the evening would usually then be even more reluctant to fight, but, of course, now for an entirely different reason.
So a few choice words about the size of his yellow streak or his lacking certain parts of the male anatomy to the point I felt sorry enough for him to volunteer to service his wife if should he ever want little ones running around – would usually incentivize him enough to cowboy up, even if it was clearly against his better judgment, much less his best interests.
But far and away the most important use was when my opponent was not just a lot bigger but was also clearly a serious and experienced fighter. This was particularly so if he was going to be the first fight of the evening and my dopamine levels were still dead zero – as opposed to the far higher levels they would be by the third fight of the evening. So my strategy was to get them so angry they would come with such haste it would be easier for me to get them to the ground, which was 90% of the battle for me, since I pretty much (comparatively) sucked on my feet.
And this all worked very well for several years until I discovered one dark and gloomy Texas night there was one place to never, ever go when it came to the Taunting Of Le Not So Petite Cornhuskeroise.
I was scheduled to fight just one man that night, who made his entrance with two other men – who appeared by their equally massive square cut jaws to be his brothers – and they were all attired in bright Husker red logo laden clothing even though we were far from Husker territory.
And after they entered, six foor three (plus) Tom walked over and stood by them to demonstrate to me that this one guy was easily six foot five, making him close to a full foot taller than I was, not to mention his outweighing me by more than a hundred pounds. It was then clear why they had declined to book anyone other than him to fight that night, even though we had asked for up to three guys.
I might add this was early enough in my career that while my strength was already up to where it needed to be and my skills were pretty much there – I still only weighted about a buck fifty, sixty tops as I seem to recall this was my last or second to last year at UCLA – maybe ’69, which would have been during my last couple years of serious stateside fighting before hitting the overseas fighting circuit after college.
And it quickly became clear my would be opponent was going to refuse to fight me – particularly since I was accompanied by some far more worthy physical specimens. And I should mention here that of the four guys with me, three instantly told me that I was not going to fight this guy - period - and that Bachelor would be fighting him - and even Lance told me that if I got in over my head, he would not stop the fight, unless my life was at risk, and that I would have to live with the consequences of being the complete idiot that I was, though quite a few other adjectives were also attached to that noun.
So when one of the bystanders helpfully offered me some suggestions on how to annoy this guy enough to make fight him, I was very thankful for his assistance though – at that time – I did not realize this particular person was the one who had bet the most money that my opponent was going to beat the crap out of me (and, yes, I really was that stupid).
So before Bach could issue his challenge, a quick flurry of insults from me convinced the guy to stand up against me, and I next prepared to get him to bull rush me so I could manage an 'easy' takedown. So I marched up to him and informed him that just beating him and humiliating him in front of everyone wasn’t going to be enough for me, but that was I was also going to do to him exactly what Oklahoma had just done to his beloved Cornhuskers (not that I had a clue as to what that was, of course), except I that was going to make him beg for it (this of course, being a somewhat sanitized version).
I then gave a slight nod to my new found 'friend' - who was by then already spending his guaranteed winnings – for having given me the ammunition I need to get my opponent to the ground.
Now the reason I can so clearly recall all this is because how deeply imprinted into my brain still is the expression on my opponent's face. Because instead of getting mad and charging me, the degree of anger on his face made it clear he was not going to get mad.
He was going to get even.
He quietly informed that that not only was I already a dead man – but that he had the shovel in his truck he was going to bury me with under the Cornhusker’s goal posts (a seriously cool line I later ‘borrowed’ and often modified for my own use).
He had also figured out my only option was to fight a ground game, so rather than wildly rushing me at me, he just stood there and… waited for me to come to him. And when I hesitated to come at him, he taunted me, reminding me I was the one who wanted to fight him while he suggested all the reasons why I was now too cowardly to fight him (none of which, of course, are remotely fit for a family rated blog).
He took an experienced wrestler's stance that made it very hard (OK – almost virtually impossible) for me to take a man of his size to the ground at my then pathetic weight. And the only way I could reach his jaw – would be to use a three step ladder. So I would have to come at him and with his reach exceeding mine by about a two to one ratio, his fists didn't have that hard a time finding me, much less keeping me away. And so before I had even a nick on him, my blue shirt was now a… bright red shirt.
Cornhusker red… as he proudly put it.
So I kept futilely charging him, trying to get even a single leg, when I suddenly was able to break though and get a full double leg just as he was falling – seemingly on his own accord and landing flat on his back - to everyone's laughter which totally puzzled me. I could see one side happy and cheering – but both sides laughing – made no sense.
And it wasn't until after the fight that I discovered that Mr. Cornhusker had done such a good job of painting the floor with my blood, that as he dodged my takedown, his right boot heel stepped in a sizable pool of my blood and he slipped and fell backwards just as my double leg takedown took hold; so I had grabbed two legs that were already off the ground – and heading down.
But he was down now and I was now on top and as a recent graduate of Tom’s ‘how to throw a three inch punch course’ after two years – and with a hell of lot more clearance than three inches to pull back my fist, in less than a minute I had jack hammered his face even worse than he had mine. And I was so into what I was doing, my own team was forced to pull me off of him before I did any permanent damage.
Now if this was a novelization of these events – I would leave the part of 'my team pulling me of off of him’ uncommented upon, leaving behind an image of four men struggling to barely tear me off of him. But, alas – this will likely be part of my memoirs – so I have to report that all that this ‘pulling of’ entailed was Lance walking over, slipping four fingers under my Levi’s waist band and then effortlessly hoisting me high enough in the air that my fists were suddenly hitting dead air rather than my opponent’s jaw (a considerably seriously less heroic visual image, alas).
Now since said opponent was no longer capable of asking that the fight be ended, Lance paused long enough for anyone with any money on the fight's outcome to object to his ending of it and, hearing no objections, he walked back to our corner and unceremoniously dumped me on the floor; seriously displeased I had embarrassed them by not ending my assault once it had been clear to them - though not me because with all the blood in my rapidly swollen eyes, I was practically blind – that the other guy was no longer capable of even defending himself, much less able to pose any further threat to me.
The two brothers (and they did turn out to be brothers - with the bigger of them being his fraternal twin) then had to defend the family honor and a deal was quickly struck that I would fight them back to back, but that there would only be one purse of money – and that it would be awarded to whoever won the second of the two fights, assuming I had survived the first one, of course.
And the extent to which they opened their wallets for this bet, made the others unusually generous in their donations to our collective wallets
By then, though, my brain was so ramped up on dopamine that the outcomes were never in doubt, as they quickly discovered, so they instead used their efforts to inflict as much pain upon my body as they could. But this time, each time I felt the fight go out of one of them, I took the proper pause to give them a chance to nod to show they were done and I then stood and extended a hand for them to get up, hoping to make up for my previous – though inadvertent – bad behavior.
And so while I did walk away with a lot of money, I also walked away with a lot of less of me than I had walked in with. This was because I left more blood, skin, scalp and even hair where their bare knuckles had raked across my scalp - on that floor than I had ever done in any fight and it was a long time before I could go out in public without terrifying women and small children.
And so when we all shook hands at the end, I made them – and, more importantly, myself - a promise; that I would never again insult in any way - the Huskers.
And with that pledge in mind – I will decline to mention the hugely lopsided score in yesterday's USC vs. Nebraska rout.