It is 7:45 p.m. and the line outside Jacobs' Center isn't even a line anymore. It's a swaying mob of students, huddled for warmth. Only the smokers and the police stand apart, pensive – they're preparing for the three-hour onslaught to come. Already, the ground is littered with lost belongings: empty bottles, a single pearl earring, a tube of lip gloss, a lanyard. But I only glimpse the debris for a moment. As the doors mercifully open, I am whisked inside by a surge of ecstatic Greeks.
It is my first Boxing Weekend.
Tonight, the Center is Dante's Inferno. At its core lies the ring itself. Beyond that, there is only a dense wilderness of fans pushing and falling and bumping into each other. An announcer says – well, something. I'm not sure, but the muffled intonations sound like the Pledge of Allegiance. He could have been free-style rapping and I wouldn't have known. The crowd is that thick and that loud.
Then, the first two boxers emerge, ascending to the platform. Unceremoniously, the match begins. And, unceremoniously, I am swallowed whole. I cannot look away.
Here's the thing: I am not a violent person. In fact, I'm a Quaker. I don't go for action movies or athlete bio-pics. I've never seen "Rocky." I don't advocate sports that potentially cause brain damage. I don't believe in glorifying bodily harm. I thought I objected to boxing – I thought it was gruesome and degrading.
And it sort of was. I watched a heavy glove sink into a 20-year-old's thin, angular face. I witnessed that glove connect, leaving behind a bruised, crooked mess. I saw another kid hold onto his opponent, so exhausted his breath came only in short, forceful gasps. I watched bony arms soar toward vulnerable chins in perfect uppercuts. I watched fists draw blood. I saw fear and loathing and exhilaration and joy pass across the faces of 57 boys. I observed dirty fights and clean, elegant matches. I watched winners celebrate victory, hands held aloft. I watched losers exit the ring, dismayed.
But I won't pretend the energy wasn't infectious. I genuinely enjoyed Boxing Weekend, in spite of myself. Maybe it was the allure of the repugnant, or my buried, primal love of bloody sport. Reluctantly, I had a great time. That is the shameful, unadorned truth.
So call this a hipster's ode to Boxing Weekend. To the fighters I spoke to before the tournament – you were among the nicest people I've ever interviewed. I hope you weren't hurt too badly and you indulged in some Chipotle on Sunday. To the organizers who run themselves ragged for an event they love – great work. I was incredibly impressed. To the ladies from Golden Gloves – thank you for the bread you gave me to feed the ducks in the pond outside your gym. I think they really enjoyed your leftover hot dog buns.
Boxing Weekend, you're alright. I might even volunteer to see you again next year, if you'll have me. I've even come up with a moral justification to tell my disdainful hipster friends. "Boxing is a surrogate for violence," I'll proudly state. I went to the tournament on principle.
Frankly, that's a bullshit excuse. But I'm not sure I care. I'll probably go back either way.
Hanna Lustig is a sophomore in College Scholars. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.