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Marolt: Subduing a teenager is as hard as preventing a tragedy

Roger Marolt
Roger This

Do you have any idea how hard it is to subdue a teenage boy? I do. It’s super hard.

It wasn’t anything like you’re imagining. Nobody could picture the fun game I am about to describe. We called it a “grass-eating contest.” And, no, that’s not what you are imagining, either.

The grass-eating contest we invented for wholesome teenage fun didn’t involve Maui Wowi or Panama Red. The grass we sometimes reluctantly consumed was regular old Kentucky Blue, fescue or whatever else was growing on the lawn we were playing on.

Here’s how it worked: One boy picked the short straw and then he had to challenge somebody else to the contest. It was basically a regular backyard wrestling match with a twist. As soon as one of the boys pinned the other, the one who was shoulder blades down had to make a choice — he could either say “uncle” and that was the end or the match continued with the boy on top now trying to grab a handful of grass and get it into the pinned boy’s mouth. The usual strategy was to hold the boys nose until he had to open his mouth for a breath and then in went the grass. The resulting green teeth were a hoot.

Yes, I know, it was all very childish and immature, but that was sort of appropriate for our age. And before you get all worked up and think the whole thing brutish and dangerous, I will tell you that it was a very rare occurrence when somebody actually got to the point of enjoying a fresh turf salad.

Why? Because it is actually really darn hard for one teenage boy to pin another teenage boy on the ground. In fact it is nearly impossible unless you are willing to hurt him. As it was, there was plenty of blood, bruises and torn clothing. It was unavoidable. One guy grabs and the other resists. One trips another and the one falling down drags the other face-first to the lawn. Elbows and knees are flying around in a blur. Somebody inadvertently kicks and the other inadvertently grabs a nose. Like I said, in the end there were plenty of bumps, scabs and bruises. Keep in mind, this is occurring between friends who are laughing and having fun while doing it.

Of course, I bring this up thinking about the local law enforcement officers subduing the kid allegedly rolling a joint in front of the elementary school. The popular question seems to be, “Does it really take six police officers to take down a teenage boy?” The answer is “no” if you don’t care about scraping, bruising or possibly breaking some bones. If, on the other hand, you want to subdue the child with the least likely chance of actually hurting him, the answer is “yes,” we can use all the help we can get. You take the legs, I’ll take the arms and we will lower him to the ground as gently as possible.

Now, I’ll tell you another tale from growing up in Aspen. A classmate did something stupid and got himself an appointment to tell his story to the judge. What he did I can’t remember anymore and it doesn’t even really matter considering the subsequent events that unfolded.

On his way to the courthouse escorted by an Aspen police officer, this kid got scared or agitated or who knows what. He ended up taking a swing at the officer with him and, unfortunately, connected with it. He spent the next three or four years in a state prison for assaulting a police officer.

It’s obvious where I’m going with this one. How fortunate would my friend have been if a forward-looking police officer had recognized his agitated state and subdued him before he could have flown off the handle and thrown the punch that sent him up the river?

I felt it important this week to share my personal experiences with trying to physically subdue a teenage boy who doesn’t want to be subdued along with my sad remembrances about a teenage boy — a good kid — unable to reign in an impulse that utterly and completely changed his life in an unimaginably horrific way. I think luck came to Aspen last week in an untidily wrapped package.

Roger Marolt knows the real world is different than the one saved on an iPhone. He’s glad to live in the one where compassion and caring exist. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.


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