I was playing basketball today with a bunch of guys much younger than me, including several kids from the local high school. There are times on the court when tempers flare, and yesterday was no exception. Two kids had been needling each other throughout much of the game, but as the taller of the two went to the basket, the shorter kid shoved his opponent in the back to prevent an easy basket.
A hard foul, but not something I haven’t seen or done before myself.
Instead of the usual words of anger, however, these kids threw their fists into the air, ready to fight.
Being a teacher in the town where these kids go to school, I suddenly found myself in a difficult position. If these kids decided to fight and one or both were seriously hurt, what would that mean for me, a teacher in the district? Afraid to find out, I was forced to step in.
I started by imploring the guys to settle their dispute on the court, as is pickup game policy, but the taller kid responded to my suggestion with a less than diplomatic position.
“I’m going to kick his ass!” he shouted.
“Yeah, I’m gonna kick your ass!” the other kid answered back.
“No,” I said, stepping between them. “I’m going to kick both your asses so we can get back to the game!”
Thankfully, a couple other guys backed up my threat with their nods of approval and the two kids, faced with a handful of annoyed players, cooled down.
I went from being in danger of witnessing a fight between two teenagers to threatening two teenagers and possibly being forced to fight them myself.
The heat of battle is a dangerous thing.