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Saturday Night's All Right


Published November 19, 2007 at 2:38 p.m.

I don't know what was going on this past Saturday night. I myself witnessed three street fights, two in front of Nectar's and one in front of Mr. Mikes. Was it something in the air, the water, the moon, the stars? It is uncanny how Burlington seems to express a group energy. Some nights are all peace, love and understanding; others it's downtown Baghdad, outside of the Green Zone.

Most so-called bar fights might originate within the confines of a bar but quickly spill out onto the street. Hence the term "bar bouncer": these guys are trained to "bounce" the warring parties out of the premises. The city of Burlington strictly enforces it's liquor laws so the bar owners do everything in their power to subdue the combatants. Too many fights, out-and-out brawls or fights resulting in serious injury, and the bar is looking at a suspended license.

As a long-time observer of bar fights, I have two points to make.

First, it's never about money, sport teams, politics or religion. Men (and these altercations are 99.9% testosterone-fueled male affairs) may argue, even vehemently, about all sorts of things, but they only come to blows about one thing: women. These fights are always over the girl.

Second, when one of these fisticuffs break-out, it looks nothing like anything you've ever seen on TV or in a movie, or, for that matter, in a boxing ring. Regular guys fighting in the street are like two cobras going at it, throwing punches as fast and furiously as they can. There's no technique involved, just throw, throw, throw and aim for the other's guy's head. It's ugly.

The last fight of the night was the worst of all. I was idling in front of Mr. Mikes Pizza at two in the morning, awaiting a couple of students. Suddenly, like a human tsunami, two guys come hurtling out the door, locked in a desperate embrace. In the frigid night air, they began wailing on each other - nose, eyes, neck, wham, blam, slam.

I threw my taxi in gear and shot up to Church Street where, late night, you can always find a couple police officers. Pulling up parallel to a cruiser, I honked, lowered my passenger window and shouted, "Bad fight at Mr. Mikes. There's two guys really goin' at it!"

The officer said, "Thanks," clicked on the blue lights and called for back-up. Fifteen seconds later, I watched him screech to a stop in front of the restaurant and jump out. A minute later, back-up arrived and the phalanx of cops managed to break it up.

And here's my guilty confession:  A part of me loves watching these fights. From the very beginning - the traded insults, the posturing, the shoves - to the bloody denouements, I'm transfixed. The last fight in which I was a participant took place in fifth grade. Yes, it was over a girl, and, yes, I lost.