Reconsidering Last Chance U: Why The Fist Fight Between Buddy Stephens And The Referee Is Everything That Is Good And Right About America


Netflix will be releasing Season 3 of its documentary Last Chance U one week from today. In honor of that, I am re-visiting my favorite moment from the first two brilliant seasons.  

For those who do not know, the first two seasons of Last Chance U chronicled the 2015 and 2016 seasons of East Mississippi Community College. EMCC is coached by Buddy Stephens, a rotund man with a goatee, wraparound blade sunglasses, a short temper, and a volatile demeanor. He is prone to berating players and going on profanity-laced tirades. He’s one of the few college coaches I’d be honored to have join my youth football team’s coaching staff. 

The show has many great moments, but my favorite comes early in the first season. The moment is very innocuous - EMCC is blowing out an opponent 31-7 fourth quarter. But out of nowhere, greatness ensues. Coach Stephens begins to yell at a sideline official about something, which leads to a shoving match and the throwing of both punches and clipboards:

It is, to anyone with a sense of duty and country, a wonderful moment. In an era where far too many people treat sports like a hobby, we have two true American Patriots coming to blows over some meaningless dispute at the end of a game that is no longer in doubt. These are two men who are clearly committed to winning and every other value we as Americans should cherish.

And how are they treated for this honorable act? The official gets ejected from the game. And then EMCC, instead of giving Coach Stephens a plaque or bronze bust like he deserves, suspends him for two games. It’s a remarkable display of cowardice and treason by EMCC that no one in the media said boo about. 

But this event embodies a much bigger problem: the lost, noble art of fist fighting in this country. Fist fighting is the oldest and most effective means of dispute resolution. It is the original jury verdict. It is the original mediation. And it doesn’t involve a bunch of lawyers getting paid a bunch of money. It’s quick, efficient, and effective. The fight between Coach Stephens and the official was over in less than a minute, and it didn’t cost anyone a penny. Court cases drag on for years. 

Our country would undoubtedly be a much better place if we required our elected officials to settle disagreements by fighting one another. Can you imagine how much more efficiently the government would run if members of Congress were required to resolve disagreements by fighting one another? Instead of running off to the nearest cable news program to cry on-air about how mean their opponent is, they would be required to meet up in front of the Lincoln Memorial at dawn to settle their score like true Patriots, and to the victor goes the spoils. It could be an incredible source of revenue for a country in desperate need of a balanced budget. Just think of the ticket and merchandise sales for seeing a fist fight between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.

Or what if there was no such thing as “dissents” in Supreme Court opinions? Dissent should consist of the dissenting justices confronting the majority in their chambers and duking it out. The prevailing group writes the opinion, and the losers must sign on. Just like God and Charles Darwin intended. 

That’s a long way of saying this country would be in a hell of a lot better shape if, instead of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, we had Buddy Stephens and that unnamed official as the majority and minority leaders of the US Senate, settling every policy debate with their fists rather than empty words.