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Tough talk from a little guy

“We’re the boys from Easton, Mass S No one here can kick our ass.” My high school buddy, Teddy Powers, would far too often, issue that pugnacious declaration at keg parties and public gatherings. Teddy’s bravado was misplaced; many people could in fact kick our ass.

Or, at least, many could kick Teddy’s. Teddy wasn’t very tough. He was small, loud, often funny, but he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.

Teddy also was fond of walking up to the prettiest girl at a party or a bar and say, “Hey beautiful, if you play your cards right, you could come home with me tonight.” I used to love to watch the women’s response as this cocky little runt with bad skin and teeth educated them of their good fortune. Most simply looked shocked or disgusted, some actually laughed; none ever took him up on his offer.



That is not to say that some local toughs did not call his bluff.

My friends and I were more than once sucked into the trouble, which Teddy started with his bombastic declaration. Of course, this was back in the days when high school fistfights most often ended with only minor cuts, bruises and black eyes; Teddy rarely suffered even a scratch.



As well as I can recall, Teddy never received, nor delivered, a single punch.

You might ask, considering his behavior, why any of us went to parties with Teddy Powers. Well, he was funny, crazy and his older bother used to buy us beer, but as much as anything, it was force of habit. What finally caused us to issue Teddy the ultimatum that he keep his mouth shut was Keith’s broken nose and hand.

About four us, including Teddy, were at a “Battle of the Bands” in a nearby town. Teddy had been sipping Boone’s Farm apple wine most of the night. Halfway through the evening, my short little friend walked over to a group of older guys from a nearby college and yelled out his stupid, “no one here can kick our S” challenge.

It turned out a few of them decided to take him up on his offer. Our buddy Keith was trying to pull Teddy away from the crowd when someone threw a punch that missed Teddy but hit Keith squarely in the face. Keith knew right away his nose was broken and in retaliation he threw an ill timed, poorly executed, round-house-punch that missed his attacker by a foot but hit Teddy in the back of the head. The impact broke Keith’s hand.

Bedlam ensued and in the confusion we managed to get out of there without any further injury.

Driving home, despite a sizable knot on the back of his head, Teddy was elated. “We showed those wimps. That’ll teach them to mess with us. I think one of them cowards punched me from behind.”

Rather than pull the car over and beat up Teddy myself, I pulled over and we all began to reason with him. Actually we screamed at him first, then reasoned.

We told him challenging everyone in the room to a fight had stopped being funny a long time ago. We told him that if he had continued to behave that way, we would no longer continue to be his friends and protectors. We reminded him we’ve all been lucky that no one, other than Keith, has gotten seriously hurt.

I suggested that his cocky attitude probably came from some sense of insecurity on his part and I would no longer be a party of his attempt to overcompensate for his shortcomings, perceived or real.

Teddy almost started to bawl. He said all his life he’s been the little ugly guy who everyone laughed at. He admitted that he just loved talking tough but that he would never have done so if he didn’t know we’d come to his defense.

He thanked us for being his friends and said, though he’d continue to suggest that pretty girls “play their cards right” he wouldn’t challenge the entire room to a fight ever again. He made good on his promise.

I haven’t seen Teddy Powers in 30 years, but I’ve been thinking about him lately. I’ve been thinking how much courage it took for him to admit his insecurities, to end his aggressive posturing, and to no longer rely on others to validate his manhood.

Teddy Powers would make a great president.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KYSL radio, and read in several mountain publications. He lives in Breckenridge.


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