Sunday, May 05, 2013

Violence Matters


In the movies, people get punched a lot. 

There are fist fights.  Or it might be a single, surprise punch, in which a person known for being peaceful lands an unexpected blow on somebody who's been a real cad.  Sometimes it arouses laughter, maybe applause. 

In the movies, people walk away from punches and other abuse that would have landed a common mortal in the hospital.  I know fight choreographers who laugh about movie fights, pointing out the damage that would actually be done by the violence seen in these absurdly long hand-to-hand battles.  "Unconscious!..... broken neck!......  lost teeth!..... blindness!"  Moreover, they all look great after getting punched.  Maybe a bit of a scratch or a sudden bruise. 

When I got beat up on a New York City subway train twenty years ago, it was over in two punches.  Those two blows permanently changed how I breathe through my nose and left my face dramatically (and hideously) swollen for several days. 

That wasn't the movies.

In the movies, if you're pushed to the breaking point, you can knock somebody flat and the audience will applaud you, and the other guy will get up, holding their chin and looking highly annoyed, and that's it.  There are no medical consequences and rarely any legal consequences.  It might even help a guy win over the girl he likes.

In real life, if you land a really strong blow on somebody in the right spot, you can severely injure them.  They can, as a 17-year old boy in Utah has learned this weekend, slip into a coma; they might even die. 

The incident took place in Taylorsville, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah.  There was a soccer game, and a boy was angry that a referee had given him a yellow card (a foul).  Enraged, the boy punched that referee in the face. 

Witnesses described what happened next:

[Ricardo] Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.
When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. Through translators, Portillo told EMTs that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.

But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain. Johana Portillo called detectives to let them know his condition had worsened.

That's when detectives intensified their search for the goalie. By Saturday evening, the teenager's father agreed to bring him down to speak with police.

Mr. Portillo, aged 46, is dead, and a 17-year old boy who was already at a juvenile detention center for aggravated assault has learned that his victim died.  Two families now cope with loss, and I can imagine the effect on the community.  I can imagine some of the thoughts that must have run through the coaches' heads, what they might say to their teams next week.  as for the father of this boy, dear god, dear dear god.  Same with the parents of kids playing competitive sports, at least some of whom thought this would build character and forge positive relationships.

It's not a movie, but we've seen this before. 



[Image: from the ridiculously long fistfight in John Carpenter's film They Live.]

1 comment:

Kelly said...

This is an excellent post, Algernon. TV and movies have desensitized so many of us to the realities of violence, sex, etc.