Should I have been punched?

Should I have been punched is a question I ask myself on a daily basis following my interactions with people when I find myself outside of the Deceptive Speed command center.

Sometimes that answer is yeah, probably. A quick pop to the jaw would have been deserved, but other times the answer is a firm no. But then it gets tricky in that little gray area where I don’t think I should have been assaulted but perhaps a knuckle sandwich might have made some sense.

This is my story.

The date is Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. I make the quick six-hour drive to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game with three people I paid quite handsomely to make it seem like I have friends.

This was a simpler time when Wisconsin essentially clinched the Big Ten West prior to the opening kickoff of the season, so I made the trip hoping to see the Badgers beat Ohio State, cap off an undefeated season and find themselves in the College Football Playoff.

So we get to Indianapolis, check into the hotel, Uber on over to the pregame tailgate party, which was an awesome time. Indianapolis should host every important Big Ten event every year for the rest of time. The atmosphere was awesome, beer lines were short and we got to witness Joey Chestnut gobble up 10 pounds of shrimp. An all around great time.

Just when I thought everything was the best it could be, it got a little messy.

After one final beverage that proved to be one too many for one member of our crew (no questions, please), it was time to head into Lucas Oil Stadium. Everything was going well as I was anxious to watch the biggest sporting event I had ever attended. There is nothing better than a big-time college football game.

As we got to the gate and waited in line, energy was good. Chants of “Let’s go Badgers” and “O-H” “I-O” went back and forth.

After another “Let’s go Badgers” chant (we’re not very creative as a fan base), I was on the receiving end of some good-natured ribbing from an Ohio State fan, and I don’t exactly recall what was said, but it was all in good fun.

But then this larger, bald fella in front of me named Ratliff with his face painted in Ohio State colors enters the conversation and put an immediate stop to the discussion. He turns around, looks at me and says, “I remember when I was young” in a less than pleased tone.

I looked at him and did not have much to say because I could not tell if he was serious or not.

Ratliff’s girlfriend/wife pulls him away and says, “Ratliff, leave him alone.” Then the two of them start laughing, making me think this Ratliff character was just joking around.

Spoiler alert: He was serious. Turns out this Ratliff character is not a fun guy to joke around with.

So I says to him, I says, “Wow, typical Ohio State fan.”

I found out quickly this was a big mistake in judgement. I thought we were just two dudes giving each other a hard time as we are minutes away from being entertained by watching 18-22 year olds toss the pigskin around. But nope, he was furious.

Ratliff turns around and with the look he gave me, I thought it was go time. I still remember the words he used because he said some things that did not make all that much sense, but I held off on correcting him.

“I’m going to give you one more chance. I deal with inmates like you every single day. I will drop your ass in front of every person here, bro.”

Now, there are a few things we need to break down because we’ve got a lot to unpack here. First of all, he said “inmates like you.” The only trouble I have found myself with the law is running a red light (it was definitely yellow, but that’s a story for another day) and speeding once. Not an inmate.

And when he says he deals with inmates every day, does this mean he works at a prison? Or is he currently an inmate himself? Did he leave the prison yard to catch the Big Ten title game? If he did, that is one heck of a move that I have a ton of respect for. If I’m breaking out of the slammer, I absolutely would time it out so I would be able to attend this game.

Second of all, if you’re going to go all out with your appearance to cheer on your team, I’m perfectly fine with that. Wear your lucky face paint, throw on your favorite jersey, do it all and live your best life. You do you. Having said that, if you’re going to paint your face and dress up like that, don’t try to get into a fight. It should be a law you must be in a good mood if you have paint on your face. It’s very deceiving otherwise. Plus, just think of the mugshot. That’s something you must consider before fighting a stranger.

Lastly, although I did appreciate the offer, I never did take him up on the final chance he provided me with.

So people around us stop their conversation and look over at us to see what the commotion is. His female friend pulls him away again and yells his name once more.

At this point, I figure there is a very short list of positive things that could happen if I stand in line next to Ratliff much longer especially when my friends continue to instigate a situation by yelling things like, “Hey, what did you just say about Ratliff? Didn’t he say he’d kick your ass if you said anything else?”

The people I associate myself with are terrible people.

I walk away from the scene, go into the stadium and watch Wisconsin lose. Ratliff got the last laugh before heading back to see the inmates he deals with every single day.

So that’s the story.

As for the photo that went along with this article, that actually happened in the first quarter of the game after Andrew Van Ginkel’s pick-six when I caught an inadvertent elbow during the celebration. I stuck around for the final few minutes of the quarter before heading to the bathroom to clean myself up. Didn’t even miss a snap. Incredible performance on my part.

A physical altercation was avoided, but the question remains: Should I have been punched? Embrace debate.