January 28, 2023

Mayhem and Homicide in the Arena

Berston Field House in Flint, MI, listed as an historic site by the State of Michigan.

I’ve never read “On this day in history, an armchair quarterback accomplished this…” Maybe there will be a Kickstarter project for it.

In the early 1900s the armchair quarterbacks criticized college football, in the words of the New York Times, for excessive mayhem and homicide. Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saving the game. The Great Game outside the stadium walls is another matter.

I didn’t see armchair quarterbacks, just more of Graham Greene’s whiskey priests and homeless alcoholics, when I stopped to take a picture of the Berston Field House. The historic site has as much athleticism per square foot as most any place in the nation. The gym on the north side of Flint is where Claressa Shields trained for the upcoming Olympics in London. A film crew from LA has a Kickstarter project to help finance a documentary about her boxing quest and fight to become someone. A century of football couldn’t equal the mayhem and homicides around Berston. There are no commissions and editorials demanding answers and help for anyone around this gym. Homicide detectives, college recruiters, and whiskey priests are about the only ones coming here.

Claressa Shields is only 17. She’s the first female boxer in Olympic history and the youngest American Olympic boxer in 40 years. She credits a faith in God. There are times when the only one in your corner might be the whiskey priest. Many boxers come from dangerous areas and say the ring is really the only place they felt safe. There aren’t many options here. You either get in the ring or run for the weeds that are growing high around Berston. The first impression is that this is no place for a teenage girl. I’m referring to the neighborhood, not the boxing ring. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram’s stiff arm is a way of telling everyone to leave me alone. While most here run for the weeds, he ran for the endzone well enough to turn pro at it.

The Penn State controversy also motivated me to come out here. Joe Paterno’s biggest crime seems to be that he was too successful. Attacks on success seem to be in vogue. I read the reports about Paterno and looked at the facts, not the emotion. It’s much easier to become an armchair quarterback than the real thing in the NFL or an Olympian boxer. Many of these armchair commentators accuse him of intentionally sacrificing children to protect his football program, that Paterno was a fraud, more concerned with football than the welfare of children. They’re demanding the Penn State football program receive the death penalty  A Harvard Business School professor tweeted his blog post about the scandalous cover up at Penn State. I read it and tweeted the following, which he responded:
pbcarlsen Paul Carlsen
@Bill_George but they reported everything to police and outside lawyers. How is that a cover-up?
Bill_George Bill George
@pbcarlsen That was 11 yrs after sexual abuses were revealed to f’ball coach, athletic dir & pres! Specifically they decided NOT to report

But Paterno did report what he was told the very next day to both the president and the university’s outside counsel. They also informed the charity which investigated and found not enough evidence. Campus police investigated Sandusky as did child welfare case workers. Sandusky was a predator who conned everyone.

Berston Field House is surrounded by predators. There are 122 registered sex offenders living within the zip code where Berston Field House is located. Here is what a teenage girl must endure to enter the boxing ring in Berston Field House:

2010 Crime Rate Indexes Flint, MI 48505 compared to the United States average of 100
Total Crime Risk: 335 compared to average of 100
Murder Risk: 367 compared to average of 100
Rape Risk: 476 compared to average of 100
Robbery Risk: 411 compared to average of 100
Assault Risk: 522 compared to average of 100
Burglary Risk: 422 compared to average of 100
Larceny Risk: 207 compared to average of 100
Motor Vehicle Theft Risk: 445 compared to average of 100

Around here, fighters learn to keep their gloves up long before entering the ring.

From Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood

Dust, sweat, and blood are in abundance around Berston Field House.


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