Young Traveler–Bronze Winner: Why I Beat a Girl with a PVC Pipe

By Kristin Repsher

All we wanted to do was to watch a good footy game. This seemed like a reasonable expectation, since we were sitting in the upper deck of Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, waiting for players to line up against one another for the second half of the second of three State of Origin clashes.

Origin, which pits the Queensland Maroons against the New South Wales Blues, draws Superbowl-like attention across the entire state of Queensland for three nights of the Australian winter; tickets sell out within hours of going on sale and, on the big day, everyone finds themselves either screaming at their own TV or screaming with the drunken mobs inside Suncorp. The entire stadium is coated in maroon, with only a few brave Blues fans proudly donning their jerseys and waving their flags.

My boyfriend James is one of these proud Blues fans. Even though he has lived in Queensland for more than half his life, he still pledges allegiance to the state he was born in. Of the five of us attending the game, he was the only one wearing the baby blue that makes anyone north of the border a marked man; to make it worse, he had a giant blue sign as well.

To counter this obnoxious display for the wrong team, I bought a large maroon flag, which bore a cane toad playing footy and stood on a PVC pipe that was about three feet long. As luck would have it, I spent nearly the entire first half waving it while James moped as his team got further and further behind.

As the second half began, three rowdy, drunken girls toting boy toys deposited themselves in the seats just behind us. They immediately made their presence known in the way that drunken high-schoolers doby insulting any and everyone around them while giggling profusely. James, in his baby blue and sporting an atrocious mullet that was the product of a dare, was the prime target. With a little discipline, they thought, he might come around and realize what a terrible person he was for picking the wrong (and still very much losing) team.

Thus, the fun began. Upon spotting James’ jersey, the ringleader (let’s call her Paris) proceeded to smack him on the head with her flag, which was anchored on a foot-long wooden dowel. Hoping it was a joke or an accidental twitch of the wrist, James turned around, fixed her with a glare, and returned to watching the game. Then she struck again, only this time, harder and accompanied by derogatory comments. This continued for some time, only broken by her dangling the flag in front of his face and her friend, Britney, hitting him on the head with her giant inflatable hand.

James’ hands were tied. What could he do? As a male, if he struck back, he would immediately become the bad guy, regardless of whether she had hit him first or even whether she had put a landmine under his seat. The anger made his ears grow red, but not nearly as quickly as a growing lump spread blue and purple all over the part of his skull just behind his ear.

I was unable to comprehend that someone could believe it was acceptable to harass and assault a person they had never seen before, but I tried to be calm and a voice of reason for James. “Just ignore them,” I muttered to him. “If you don’t react, they’ll get bored and find someone else to annoy.”

He didn’t take my advice, and I suppose I wouldn’t have taken my own advice if I was in his shoes. The next time Paris took a swat at him, he grabbed the flag and tossed it as far as he could. Unfortunately, he managed to pull the flag off but leave the offending implement in Paris’ hands, so not only was she able to continually beat him in response, but the flag gently floated to a halt a meager two rows in front of us.

As the flag drifted, Lindsay, the third drunken musketeer, grabbed James’ entire mullet in one hand and yanked as hard as she could. I knew it was a hideous mullet; I myself had been campaigning for a week to have it cut off. However, I knew that pulling on it would just make James angry, rather than getting anything accomplished. Most people over the age of five knew this as well. Lindsay did not.

As I was prying her skinny, manicured fingers out of James’ prized haircut, the girls a couple rows ahead of us handed the flag back. Slightly appeased, the drunken Musketeers stopped beating him, although the epithets were still flowing. Turning around, I asked them to please just leave James alone. After all, weren’t we all here to watch a bloody footy game?

To that, they replied with, “Shut up, four eyes!” Had I worn glasses in third grade, that might have been the last time I had heard that insult. I was proud of myself; I would normally fight them, but realizing I was dealing with people that were mentally stuck in grade school, I turned back to the game, attempting to diffuse the situation.

James was still seething when they poked him on the shoulder once more. We both turned around to a chorus of “We’re soooooorrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy!” I could have sworn we were staring at three Cheshire Cats, albeit, incarnations that were far more made-up and far less convincing. I motioned to James that he should accept the apology, regardless of their true intent, but he refused. “I know you’re not sorry, so I refuse to accept that,” he growled at Paris.

After their initial fury at this, they calmed down for a few minutes. I hoped they had bored of the bemulleted one and were looking for a fresh target, but I couldn’t quite concentrate on the game because I was livid. Bottling it up inside while trying to keep a calm exterior was making my blood pressure skyrocket. Normally, I only felt this furious on a tennis court, but there, I could pound balls to my heart’s content. I had no outlet here.

Then, I heard a reverberating CRACK as the dowel met its target once more. None of the event staff ladies had so much as batted an eyelid at the musketeers, so I didn’t see them getting kicked out any soon. James was heading for a concussion and possibly jail time if this kept up. Suddenly, it all made perfect sense to me. Paris couldn’t possibly understand why James was so irritated unless the food chain was upended and the beater became the beatee.

Even before I realized it, I was standing up and pelting Paris with my PVC pipe flag while yelling “JUST…LEAVE…HIM…ALONE!” I was seeing redalthough perhaps that was just the numerous Maroons jerseys surrounding meand hitting her with a force I’ve never been able to put into my serves on the tennis court. Britney and Lindsay were stunned, possibly wondering how they didn’t realize I was a total psycho beforehand. As a crowd gathered, they attempted to defend their friend, but once James popped their inflatable finger they were defenseless against the wrath of the pipe.

Two particular members of the quickly-expanding crowd were out-of-uniform police officers, both of whom had been watching the game with their families. One, a Blues fan, rushed to James’ side and told him, “I saw her assault you. Would you like to press charges?”

“No,” he sighed. “I just want to watch the game.”

The other officer was the father of the family sitting in front of us. Already angry at the behavior and language the girls had displayed in front of his young children, he quickly jumped onto our row and pushed in front of me. I stopped swingingI thought getting thrown out of the country for assault on a police officer could possibly harm future visa applicationsand just hoped he wasn’t coming after me.

He wasn’t. He got within arm’s reach of Paris and immediately made his presence known. “What is wrong with you? Huh? How could you possibly think you could act like this without getting in trouble?” he bellowed.

That was the last time I saw Paris. She was led off into the bowels of the stadium, presumably to be thrown out. Lindsay and Britney were left, growling their discontent but unwilling to say a word, lest they be attacked by the PVC pipe maniac as well. What good friends they were, sticking by their friend’s side through thick and thin.

Then it was James’ and my turn to receive an escort. A lady with “event staff” emblazoned on the back of her neon yellow shirt requested that we come with her, so we picked up all of our stuff, waved goodbye to James’ friends, and readied ourselves to get thrown out. I left the offending PVC pipe with the friends, thinking it might help my case to no longer be wielding a weapon.

Once we were in the walkway leading to the outer concourse, Event Staff stopped us in front of a police officer. She then informed us of exactly what her observant eyes had taken in.

“Officer, what I saw was this girl stand up, turn around, and start beating the girl behind her for no apparent reason,” she said, her face glowing with happiness at being such a good detective.

“What?” I snapped. I was wound up to the point that I was shaking, and I refused to take any more nonsense. “Did you think that I just got bored with the game and was like, ‘hey, maybe I’ll beat up the girl behind me?’ Does that seem reasonable to you?” In hindsight, this might have seemed very reasonable to her, since my eyes were probably still glowing crimson.

In a complete reversal of earlier roles, James grabbed my arm and motioned to me to be quiet. Luckily, before I could get any further, the officer piped up. “I have it from two police officers in the crowd that these two were being provoked and harassed all night. She was just defending him. Everything’s fine, so just go watch the end of the game.”

We emerged from the tunnel, astonished. James still had fumes pouring out of his well-beaten ears, but I was beaming. As we began our ascent up the stairs, people started clapping. Maroons and Blues fans alike cheered for our victory over the drunken Musketeers, uniting the opposing sides in a way not often seen during the Origin series. As I sat down, James’ friends all scooted slightly away, nervously keeping my PVC pipe just out of reach.


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