The continuation of the series started here, this is Mike’s side of the story.
Mike’s story is simple and sweet, not unlike Mike himself, but a good deal shorter than he is. He’s my younger brother, but not my little brother. My family hasn’t stopped reminding me of that since high school, when Mike inched past my five and three-quarters feet while he was still attending the junior high.
When I got back from teaching overseas, Mike was in college, working on a graduate degree. With the gap between our ages, we have never been the closest brothers, and my time abroad furthered the distance. However, we kept in touch, and after he proposed to his fiancée, he even asked me to be his best man. I suspect family loyalty played a large role in his request. Not that there weren’t other factors, but Mike has always done what a Midwestern son is expected to do, and I have never won a brother-of-the-year award.
He understood early on in life that if you do X, and you do Y, then Z happens. Life is logical, and he struggles when it doesn’t adhere to the formula. He studied in high school and joined the football team so he could go to college. He took out student loans to go to college and studied business so he when he finishes, he will have a good job that will repay the loans. He dated young women and was respectful to them even when they weren’t to him, so one day he could marry a good one and have a good family; X + Y = Z.
When Mike called on a Saturday afternoon, I was surprised but happy to talk. Mike started the conversation with: “Hey, I need some advice.”
“What’s up?” I assumed it was about the usual topics, our family or his fiancée.
“I was arrested last night, and I’m not sure what to do.” I couldn’t remember him ever having an altercation with an authority figure other than our father. Mike was also over 21 and had never touched a drug in his life, so I had no stereotypical early-adulthood pitfall to guess at that might have caught him.
Mike started his story by explaining that “a football friend from high school came in town.” The night before was a Friday night, so they went out to a bar with some other football players from the college Mike attended. I had watched Mike play during his final year of eligibility, so I knew the guys were all bound to be big, but not Division I sized.
They began, and finished, their drinking at a small bar they regularly visited, close to the campus. Mike has a voice and personality to match his size, so I am sure that he and his friends were noticed by the few other patrons in the bar. Mike’s high school friend, James, found himself to be the odd man out in the group of college friends.
Whether James wanted attention and got more than he hoped for, wanted to prove himself, or simply became bored, he found a fight with a group of locals. After they had exited to finish the argument in the parking lot, like a bad television show, the bartender informed the remaining football players that one of the guys mentioned having a knife as he walked out.
Mike knew that drinking and loud guys sometimes led to fights and might have let James sort out the mess on his own, but the news of a knife brought him out to the parking lot. Hearing Mike describe the scene reinforces the parallels to a bad television drama. The fight had finished as quickly as it started, and James had won without help before his drinking companions made it outside. He emerged with nothing worse than a single slash down his arm.
Also, like a bad television show, everything is caught on tape. A security camera outside the bar videotaped James’ brief fight. It recorded Mike coming out as well, and catches him holding back a football player who thought the fight might continue.
The videotape is the only piece of evidence in the trial besides witness testimony. After a lull in action, it shows some new men in street clothes talking to the football players. Because it happens so suddenly the low-quality footage does not quite capture it, and you might have trouble seeing the punch one of the strangers throws without warning. But you can watch the boy fall to the ground afterwards. You can also watch Mike, once again restraining a fellow player, until both are pushed to the ground and handcuffed.
Sadly, you can’t hear anything. You can’t hear the inciting words when one of the strangers tells a player to get himself, and “his gay-ass haircut,” off the property. You also can’t hear any of the strangers identify themselves as police officers, and you definitely can’t hear them read the boys their rights; because none of those little legalities were ever spoken.
The next day, Mike paid his bond and left the police station with his fiancée and the charge of assaulting a police officer hanging over him. He spent six hours the night before, not sleeping and not knowing why he had been put in jail.
He spent most of Saturday dealing with phone calls. The first one from jail went to his fiancée. His fiancée called our parents who in turn called the police station. Mike listened as a woman working at the station—he doesn’t know if she was an officer or a civilian dispatcher—answered and refused to put Mike on the phone. When she hung up, she gleefully informed the precinct that “the big boy’s daddy wants him to call when he’s done.”
The police report doesn’t mention the taunting. It doesn’t mention Mike restraining his teammates. It describes an event that doesn’t resemble anything caught on tape, but one where a boy is sucker-punched for a Carroll-ian act that simultaneously was resisting an arrest for impeding the arrest of someone else, and where Mike puts an officer into a chokehold who is actually his teammate. To be fair to the police, their version of the events is much more entertaining, whereas Mike’s story is a bit depressing.