At times I thought that maybe there was something weird about me. Maybe I had this kind of treatment coming. Maybe I was doing something to deserve it.
After awhile it seemed that the bully and I developed an unspoken agreement. I knew that I was going to be brutalized. He knew that I knew and simply waited for the right opportunity.
The velocity of life increased every time he picked on me and I realized that most of my thinking was directed toward figuring out how to avoid him.
And some days I did. I would actually go one entire, long summer’s day without an encounter, though the fear was always there. The bully might take a day off but my alert mechanism stayed on the job. It would be nice looking back to think that I woke up one morning and said I’d had enough. One of those epiphanies when hell yawned and I felt its hot breath. But it wasn’t really like that. It just kind of happened.
It was in the fall during a school grounds game of flag football.
Each kickoff was an opportunity for Wayne to run me over at full speed. On pass plays he followed me instead of they guy who caught the ball. During plays from scrimmage, he ignored the runner and simply ran into me on the pretext of blocking me out of the action, no matter where I was on the field.
No coaches or PE instructors were around to observe that Wayne was far more interested in harassing me than playing the game. Their only presence was the sound of conversation and occasional laughter coming from inside the gym.
So Wayne would knock me down with such violence that I was bleeding from several places less than halfway through the game. As the opposing team was getting ready to kick off again, a friend said to me. “He’s going to run you down again, Buddy.” I shook my head side to side and said, “Not this time.” At least I think that’s what I said. I know at least I thought it.
Let me switch to the present tense for a moment to better convey to you the full impact of what happened next:
The teams face off thirty or so yards apart and I make eye contact with Wayne. I stand up straight and motion for him to come on, waving to him maniacally, challenging him, taunting him, even giving him my best glare.
The kicker launches the ball into the air.
The other players on both sides angle away from the two of us, now running full speed toward each other. Getting closer and closer, twenty boys are now focused on us and not the football. Nobody even noticed the boy who caught the kickoff.
As we get closer I can clearly see that Wayne is red faced and contorted with anger, churning the ground, digging hard, building up enough momentum and speed to injure me badly. I try not to focus on that now. I avoid looking directly into his eyes as his frightening bulk gets closer to me.
At fifteen yards I pull up just a bit to motion him on, waving with both hands. Wayne’s face gets even redder. He hesitates, then charges across the final yards running like a bull toward a red cape masquerading as gym shorts. At this moment, for Wayne, I cease to be a person and become simply a skinny, 120-pound irritant to be dealt with.
What happens next remains to this day the most perfect timing of any physical act I’ve ever attempted. Astonishingly, my spontaneous plan actually works.
(Part Three Tomorrow)
Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.
Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.
Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades.