The videos are all over the Internet. Teenagers squaring off in Kennedy Park or in some empty lot behind a downtown tenement. There’s a lot of dancing around. Punches are thrown but not many of them land. Shirts are ripped, knees are scraped, knuckles get bruised from errant blows to the back of the head. In accordance of brawling bylaws, there must be at least one person in the circle of spectators to gasp at regular intervals.

Average fight time, three minutes. It usually ends when someone hollers “cops!” and the footage gets crazy as your cameraman takes off running.

The afternoon bout is over. You can post it to YouTube, but not until after you’ve had your dinner and finished your homework, young man.

Boys have been fighting boys since the invention of the fist. In Puritan times, combatants flung insults at each other in the florid language of the day before getting down to it behind the schoolhouse.

“I bid you come hither, cur, so that I may thrash you soundly. Your mother be a crone!”

“By Job, I will blacken both your eyes with my pointy reckoning! My mother be innocent a witch!”

“Gasp!”

A hundred years later, boys were still at it. They went in overalls to that place down by the creek reserved for fisticuffs. Occasionally, one of the lads would pick up a switch with which to beat the other. Mostly, it was just an exchange of words and hands.

“By gum, I will trounce you. Your mother ain’t got no book learnin.'”

“Put up your dukes, then. I reckon it is your mother who ain’t learned.”

“Gasp!”

In the ’60s, boys fought with flowers in their hair. In the ’70s, they fought in bell bottoms. Now it’s the technology age and they fight before the cameras. The gaspers still gasp, shirts keep getting ripped, and sooner or later, some figure of authority is going to appear and everyone else will take off running.

In a hundred years, they’ll take off running with jet packs, which will mark the only difference between brawling then and brawling now.

After news of the fight club in Turner broke earlier this month, I heard from a number of strangers who had passionate thoughts on the matter. Most of them were parents of the teenagers involved in the ring and they had much to say about the sanctimony of punishing kids for something that all kids do.

“We seriously cannot believe,” said one woman, “how blown out of proportion this became.”

But those were people with personal connections to the fight club. The court of public opinion was more divided on the matter. On one side of the playground is the group that feels that adolescent fisticuffs are part of growing up. It builds character and eye-hand coordination. This is the boys-will-be-boys group.

On the other side are those who believe that kids who fight today are knocking over banks and mugging people on sidewalks tomorrow. Kids who have appetites for fighting, they maintain, are bullies, regardless of whether their opponents are willing.

The debate is so fierce, you wonder if people are willing to come to blows over it, which would be irony super-sized. The conflict can be witnessed in the following exchange, which was gathered during an exhaustive survey (Facebook) I conducted myself.

“I’m glad the police got involved and busted it up before someone really gets hurt bad,” said an Auburn woman. “Leavitt was never known for that kind of thing, but I guess anything could happen anywhere these days. Kudos to the police.”

“We always had fun throwing each other around when I was younger,” said a man in his 40s. “It was always volunteer only, no one was forced into it and we shook hands when we were done. Let them have it.”

“Let them have at assault?” responded the woman. “I don’t agree. Who’s going to pay the medical when they break each other’s noses?”

“Kids will be kids,” said a 31-year-old Auburn man. “They aren’t going to stop. They just need to use a little common sense and not broadcast the fights online.”

“Unlawful prize fighting?” growled a 45-year-old father of two, as much as one can growl on Facebook. “How wussified has this country become? As kids we beat the crap out of each other, way before there was a fight club. Now they can’t even play dodge ball. It was a mutual thing and other than trespassing, sounds like much ado about nothing.”

And so you have it, a very unambiguous divide with little room for a gray area. Only, there IS a gray area and it’s occupied by the chronically uncommitted, like myself. No matter how I look at it, I cannot form a lasting opinion on the matter.

Is it the fighting that bothers people? Or the fact that it was organized?

Either way, the participants of the fight club will pay fines and be told to sin no more. They have learned about obscure laws pertaining to prearranged combat, but are there other lessons to be gleaned from this?

Beats me.

So to speak.

All I know is that boys have always fought with other boys and will likely continue to do so. The difference here is that boys used to fight because they have differences to work out. In Turner, it seems, there were no such differences. They fought for the sake of fighting. Does that make things better? Or worse?

I reckon someday, we’ll evolve out of our violent tendencies altogether. If not, kids will continue to scrap with other kids, probably on the moons of Venus. By then, it will be done telepathically. Combatants will simply stare at one another, flinging psychic jabs at their mothers and trying to overpower one another with mind melds. It probably won’t make very good video and it will be hell on certain spectators.

It’s very tough to gasp when you’re doing it with your mind.


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