**To get in the mood to write this story I have consumed a few alcoholic beverages, so please excuse any grammatical or spelling mistakes for the next 24 hours, I’ll clean things up on Sunday.”
I want to tell you a story. A story that even that, as an adult, I absolutely shouldn’t be proud of… but I am. In less than 24 hours two small schools from Pennsylvania, Lehigh and Lafayette, will engage in the 150th playing of their rivalry football game at none other than Yankee Stadium. More than 50,000 people from both schools are expected to attend this game tomorrow – and while it’s no Auburn vs. Alabama in terms of scale, the passion and hatred runs just as deep. That hatred was never more apparent than 10 years ago today when the most epic brawl in the history of these two preppy private schools occurred. This is the story of the “Beat’n in Easton”.
Let me transport you back to 2004, where we meet our characters as they were then. The names and identities of these people have not been changed to protect them, because this is the type of stuff that happens in college and well, it was 10 years ago – we’ve all grown up since then. Get over it. FYI I purposely picked the most douchey pics I could find to make this a bit more fun.
Barrasso was a former fullback on the Lehigh football team who was attending his first Lehigh/Laf game since graduating. Not known as a fighter, Barrasso could become a bit uncontrollable after too many shots of whiskey. While 99 out of 100 times that never manifested into anything too bad, catch him in the wrong mood by throwing a banana at him and you might find yourself, feet dangling, hanging over the stairs.
Buckley was another former Lehigh football player who almost always was the calmest of any of us. Not quite a gentle giant, Buckley just rarely got quite as out of control as the rest of us – except maybe when A-Pod whooped his ass in Bond. However, Buck was still a large and intimidating human who, if you ever did push him over the limit, was not someone you wanted to have to deal with.
If Buckley was in control and measured then Eriskine was his exact opposite. Buckley’s friend from home, Erskine never went to Lehigh but became a mainstay in our group after his epic takeover of Lehigh Senior Week in Ocean City Maryland the summer before. Eriskine was big, he was loud and he was permanently set in full “on” mode, with the sole mission of instigating shit whenever and wherever he could.
Mo was a former linebacker at Lehigh, who was two years removed from playing in the game and immediately became Lehigh Football’s number 1 fan. Mo was one of the most fun and friendly kids on campus, was the DJ for almost every event around campus, and always up for a few adult beverages with whoever was willing. Mo’s only slight red flag was that he was a fighter, who, if you pushed past a limit, was “about that action boss”.
The obvious stereotype – smallest one in the group but the biggest mouth, I can’t pretend like I was a saint. A former walk-on to the Lehigh wrestling team, I wasn’t the biggest kid, but I made my way through life by never backing down. To be fair, the reason I always had to stand up for myself is probably because I also, never shut the fuck up. If Erskine was set to intentionally push buttons, I accomplished the same thing – only unintentionally.
Now that you understand who everyone is, you need to picture us all back at Lehigh for our first Lehigh/Lafayette rivalry game all together. Each of the prior years, Mo/Buckley/Barrasso had been playing in the game, so we had never actually spent the whole weekend taking in the full experience as a group. As I stated before, despite the small size of our schools, the passion of this rivalry is very strong. The preparation for the game (aka partying) starts on Monday the week of and culminates at tailgates 6 days later. The amount of alcohol consumed that week on a per-person basis is really pretty staggering – which is probably what lead to this story in the first place. Not the alcohol and fighting ever go together. Never. Ha! However, there was a coincidence of history that definitely pushed this pending brawl into foregone conclusion territory.
While most of our peers remember the Lehigh/Laf game 10 years ago, and many remember the brawl as well, what most people don’t remember is that the night before “Beat’n in Easton” happened an even bigger historic brawl went down – “The Malice at the Palace”. That’s right, Nov 19th 20o4 was the night that Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson set off the most epic fight in NBA History since Willis Reed fought the entire LA Laker team. As a group of 5 guys who were boozing all day long on Friday, when clips of the brawl started taking over ESPN we couldn’t get enough. I mean, we had never seen anything like Ron running up into the stands or even crazier was Stephen Jackson crow-hopping into a haymaker that would knock a fan out cold. It was crazy, it was intense, and it was on a non-stop loop on ESPN. The more we drank, the more we watched it and the more we watched it the more we worked ourselves into a bit of a frenzy. Not like we were going to go outside and riot, but more just a generally amped up mood whereby we just got more and more excitable every-time we saw Jackson land that punch. We kept watching that highlight on Friday night before we went out, while we were at parties, and then back at our apartment after the night was over until we all just passed out drunk and tired around 5am.
The next morning started a bit slowly, as we were all still pretty drunk and tired when the alarms went off for “Sunrise Cocktails” at 8am. However, it’s Lehigh/Lafayette and so we had to get our asses up to the party and then catch our ride over to Lafayette by 10am to tailgate. We quickly pounded some beers and Jameson and grabbed as much alcohol as we could carry and headed off to party and find a ride to the game. Getting over to the game was a mess, as traveling as a group when you’re 22 always is a bit of a shitshow, but once we got there the day started building with energy again. With beers in hand, we walked through the streets of Easton, past the Lafayette house parties filled with college kids (who wanted no part of letting us into the party), and into the first set of tailgates for the “adults”. It was here that Mr. Borda, the father of Lehigh’s QB, saw us and immediately proceeded to force us into taking shots of tequila. For the record at 22 (and probably at 42), it’s just impossible to turn down a shot. 4 or 5 shots later we were off to try and find the college tailgates.
The college tailgates at Lafayette weren’t nearly as open and widespread as they were at Lehigh. Instead, cars and people were packed into tight courtyards between dorms, that were turned into parking to accomodate the huge surge of ppl that attended the Lehigh/Laf football game. As we entered the tailgates 3 things were abundantly clear:
- We hardly recognized anyone – it was seemingly all Lafayette kids
- They didn’t seem to like us – we were loud and large (except for me) Lehigh kids
- That dislike seemed to fuel us – A little douchey on our part, but what 22 year old guy isn’t a little bit out of control
To be fair, we didn’t need any fuel thrown onto the fire that was burning inside of us since watching the “Malace” fight videos all night, but that didn’t stop us from getting just a bit more amped up by the dirty looks we were getting from everyone at Lafayette. As we made our way through the tailgates I have the most vivid memory of having a the bag of wine, from a box of wine, in my hand. It wasn’t a usual purchase on our part, and I have no idea how I got ahold of it, but it turned out to be a great way to talk to girls. They all seemed to see the bag and just run right over and ask you to hold it up above their heads and open the valve into their mouth. It was ridiculous and amazing all at once. However, to demonstrate how amped up we all were – maybe a little too much – the one time I was holding up the bag for two girls to drink, a bystander (who I didn’t know) proceeded to slap the bag and almost out of my hand. Completely taken by surprise by this seemingly dick move, I turned super aggressively to this kid with my hand cocked back absolutely ready to unload when the kid started pleading “you’re supposed to slap the bag, you’re supposed to slap the bag…” A bit confused, I turned to look at the girls, who were clearly shocked by how angry I got, who then said “yea you slap the bag to get the air out.” While I had never heard of this “slap the bag” thing before, everyone seemed pretty well in agreement about it that, just like a drunk college kid can do, I immediately flipped moods back into party mode and laughed off the entire situation.
As the game time neared, we moved closer and closer to the stadium where the cars and people were packed closer and closer together. The 5 of us had run into a few girls that we knew and kind of dispersed just a bit, but within the same area. Mo and I were talking to this girl Heather, a hot girl from Staten Island with a little attitude that worked because, well, she was from Staten Island. Anyway, Heather needed to run to the bathroom and tried to cut between to parked cars where a kid from Lafayette was standing with his arm blocking her path. The kid said to Heather, “No Lehigh girls through here.” To which Heather, assuming he was just fucking around, laughed and tried to continue through. The kid, however, kept his arm up and said, “you heard what I said, NO LEHIGH BITCHES.” No longer finding it funny, but having to actually go to the bathroom, Heather told the kid to go fuck himself and went to duck under his arm and slide past. By this point, Mo and I had both taken notice of the situation and we were watching it unfold from just a few feet away. As Heather went to duck under his arm, this kid reach his hand down and took Heather by the face and threw her down. This kid had just taken a huge step across the line, and Mo and I – already on edge as I’ve explained – were right there to see it.
As Heather flew backwards past us, Mo immediately turned to the kid (edging slightly in front of me) with his hands up in the air and said “what the fuck”. I looked down at Heather, who was surprised by being tossed down but was uninjured, and turned my attention back to Mo and the kid, who was know walking towards Mo with his hands out shouting some kind of non-sense. Watching this kid approach Mo from about 2 feet away, but still completely amped up beyond belief from the past 24 hours of drinking and watching replays of the “Malace”, I apparently decided this situation was not going to go down with a bunch of stupid shouting. In a matter of seconds I spun back around, “crow-hopped” to close the 2 ft gap, and landed an overhand right square onto the chin of the kid. Possibly the most solid punch I’ve ever landed, I knocked the kid out cold into a heap on the ground as the crowd that started surrounding the scene erupted into the “OOOOoooossss” we’re so used to hearing on World Star Hip Hop when someone gets knocked the fuck out. Most amped up of everyone, was Mo who was both jacked up that I knocked the kid out, but also still kind of angry because he didn’t get to pull the trigger himself.
Around this time the rest of the Lafayette kids started taking notice that one of “theirs” got knocked out. As they all started pouring through the spaces in the cars to get through to Mo and Myself, dozens of them to the two of us, a girl from Lafayette got in the middle and started trying to calm the situation. She shouted that the kid deserved to get knocked out because of what he did, but no one wanted to hear it. As it turned out, the 5 of us guys had stumbled into the Lafayette Football Alumni tailgate. Within seconds 10-15 big ass dudes started calling us out, and Mo was not going to back down. As Mo pushed through the cars, I shouted over for Buckley, Erskine and Barrasso to follow us. When Mo cleared the pathway between the cars, the one big ass Laf kid, probably a former Offensive Lineman as he was about 6’3 280 lbs., walked straight out to meet Mo like it would be a one-on-one fight. A few words ensued and the next thing you knew the two of them were squared up like it was a boxing match. In fact, the O-lineman kid actually got into like this weird “Fighting Irish” pose, that I’m not sure Mo had ever seen in any form before. As we all circled around to what we thought was going to be a semi-fair 1-on-1 fight, things quickly turned much worse.
Mo swung first, throwing a big left that landed on the face of the O-lineman kid, knocking him to the ground. However, as it had rained hard the past few days the ground was quite muddy. Mo lost his footing as he landed the punch and went careening with the O-lineman kid into the tented tailgate where all the Lafayette football alumni had been drinking. As this happened all hell broke loose. I got punched in the face from the side, only to have Barrasso clean that kid up before I could turn back around. Erskine had run into the middle of the melee with fists flying like he was a human buzzsaw, and Buckley was just trying to push his way through bodies to figure out where he was needed. Meanwhile, while all this was happening, about 5 feet to our right, Mo was at the bottom of a pile where 7 or 8 of the guys from the tailgate took advantage of Mo’s initial slip and began stomping him as hard as they could. But eventhough Mo was in a precarious position, you’d never know it because from the bottom of this pile, with feet stomping him left and right, Mo could be heard, clear as day, yelling…
“I AM LEHIGH BITCHESSSSSS”
Hearing Mo’s voice from the bottom of the pile, and seeing that the other 3 of us were each tied up in our own individual battles, Buckley started throwing kids off of Mo until he could finally drag him out from under everyone. Buckley got Mo up and away from the fight to try and give Mo a chance to get his shit together. A seriously tough kid, who only went to the ground AFTER knocking the O-lineman kid down, Mo was still stomped by 7-8 guys and needed a second to collect himself. However, after only a few seconds Mo realized that it was just him and Buckley – Mo wanted to know where the rest of us were. As was obvious, the rest of us were still in the fight. While I’m not sure the exact locations of everyone else, what happened next is the stuff of legend.
I had a big fat kid, who had me by 5″ and 75lbs, in a front headlock when he picked me up and rammed me back into the windshield of a car (a cop car as it turned out). Knowing that my only chance and not getting my ass handed to me was to hold that head lock tight as hell, I could do nothing but allow myself to get rammed back into the windshield a second time. And that’s when it happened… this is no bullshit. At this very moment Mo ran up the back of the cop car, jumped off the roof, flew over the top of me and drop kicked the original O-lineman kid directly in the face with his size 13 Timberlands. I swear to you on my life, if I didn’t see it myself I never would have believe it. It’s almost like it happened in slow motion. Seconds later the cops came running over, and some how the 5 of us slipped out of the mix like cartoon characters do, leaving the fight behind us to try and avoid getting arressted. As we got outside the main entrance of the stadium our adrenaline started to wear off and the moment started settling in. The 5 of us had taken on 10-15 guys and gave them all they could handle. We took this picture that you can see below and then went into the game.
Years later I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in that game, but I remember all of the events before the game as though they happened last weekend. And anytime I start to question the validity of the story, I remember this one detail better than anything else. When I got home to my apartment later that night and checked my computer, I remember scanning AIM to see what people’s “away messages” were (a standard move by all college kids at the time) when there it was. In the away message of a kid who I was only kind of was friends with at the time was the following statement:
“Saw a black kid jump off a cop car and drop kick a kid in the face. Most awesome Lehigh/Lafayette, EVER!”
Don’t believe me? Think this is all just a faded memory that’s gotten more elaborate over time? Find anyone of the 5 of us or even find Heather and I can promise you – without prompting – all 5 of us will deliver an extremely similar version of the story. So while everyone else is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Lehigh vs. Lafayette game, the 5 of us will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of…
The Beat’n in Easton