"I am a student at a small western college and I never thought this could happen to me..."
This past week a short clip from the internet sent me back in time. The clip was nothing exceptional, except that it reflected what happens when someone is pushed too far and reacts violently and it sent me whirling back through a vortex of memory almost as soon as I watched it.
In the late 1980's I was a student athlete at a then small commuter school, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, more commonly referred to by the populace as UCCS. It was a time of transition, as we only had 3 varsity sports on campus - basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Our soccer program had recently changed from a club sport, with talented part time students, to being NAIA Division 1 with not-so-talented-have-you-ever-seen-a-soccer-ball-okay-you're-on-the-team full time students and it was pitiful. I was one of those.
Given the small time nature of our soccer program, we had a tough time also getting a coach. Enter Weido Xu, a newly arrived Chinese national who was just what we needed. Weido was an ex-Olympic athlete for China and even though he was well into his 60's, he presented a strong father figure and Zen master and could literally run circles around us. He was old school. Fixed all ailments with Tiger Balm and was generous with his time and insight and soft spoken, but was an exacting task master. His broken English, at first a point of consternation and confusion, became something that we loved once we picked up an ear for his inflection. He drove our team from being a clusterfucked mess, to a fairly good competitive group.
Our opposition during this time period was also a mixture of good and bad. There were top flight programs (Colorado College, Denver University, Air Force Academy) and there were bottom of the barrel programs like us (Western State College, Kansas-Neuman, Colorado Christian)
The last one, Colorado Christian University, was one of our most hated rivals. We hated them not because they were good, both skill and character wise, but because they were bad. Very bad.
They had a shit program and were so hard up they had almost zero facilities of their own and had to use another university's field as their HOME field. They were also the dirtiest team in the league, and the irony of being called a "Christian" university didn't escape us. We managed to beat them handily every time we played them, but the games were always contentious.
In 1988-89, we were mid-way through the season and it was our second game against CCU and this time we had to travel to their "home" field, which I think was on the campus of Metro State in Denver.
I was playing defense at right back and by the second half we were up 2-0. Their lone striker had been an asshole most of the match, talking trash and clipping our legs each time after we cleared the ball. He didn't have the speed or skill set to beat us, so he took pleasure at kicking us when the play was away so the ref and linesmen didn't see.
Up to that point, through youth soccer, high school soccer, club soccer, the worst infraction I had ever incurred was a yellow card for dissent, and I think that was for yelling "Fuck!!".
I played fairly clean and generally kept my cool, but that was about to change. After being kicked for the 5th or so time, I warned their striker if he did it again I would, "fucking hammer you". Well, I guess it was not very intimidating to him because not 2 minutes later, after I beat him to the ball and passed it forward to our midfield, I get kicked hard in the back of my legs by him.
*cliched movie scene where all things slow down and all you feel is your own heartbeat*
I didn't think, I didn't speak, I just reacted with a level of fury that made his eyes grow to the size of saucers and he made a weird guttural utterance like someone in a epileptic seizure. I had grabbed, lifted and body slammed him to the ground in one motion. He lay there on the ground, wind knocked out of him and wheezing for breath. It all happened so fast, the next thing I knew or saw was their ENTIRE TEAM rushing me as I stood over his crumpled form.
*insert sudden return of all auditory functions and the blare of the referee's whistle*
Chaos, people grabbing, cussing. The referee didn't waste any time and reached for his pocket, red card. BOOM. I kind of stood there stunned and numb for a moment and then turned to their player on the ground and said, "I told you not to fuck with me." and walked off. I was a mess and that was all I could come up with.
On the sideline, Weido was unleashing a loud torrent of Mandarin and it all sounded angry. I thought he was going to lay into me, but instead he was busy directing his venom at the CCU players and coach. It turns out he had seen what led up to it and was not angry with me at all. When I got to the sideline, he said to me in halting English, "I am proud of you, that asshole deserve it." All I could say in return was, "Sorry Weido."
Despite all that was going on, it was the first time I had heard him use anything close to a cuss word and it made me smile a little.
The game ended with no further controversy, but the CCU players left the field in silence and refused to shake my hand.
Back on the team bus ride home, I found out that I had earned a new nickname, "Body slam Boyd". It stung. The embarrassment of losing control was not as funny to me as it was my teammates and that misstep has stayed with me over time...as has the damn nickname.