The Epic, Mortifying Brawl at the 'World's Greatest Athletic Club'

The New York Athletic Club has been around for 144 years. It has traditions, a storied history, and a commitment to excellence. It is also now, and forever will be, the location of a brawl.

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The New York Athletic Club has been around for 144 years. It has traditions, a storied history, and a commitment to excellence. It is, of course, civilized. There are squash courts, Olympic medals won by members, a fancy headquarters with a library. It exists, in large part, for the pursuit of sporting excellence. It is a place where one must wear a jacket and tie, if one is a man, to dine. It has even seen fit to dub itself "the world's greatest athletic club." It is also now, and forever will be, the location of a brawl. Not just any brawl, but "an unscheduled fisticuffs session: a knock-down, drag-out brawl that unfolded at the club’s Tap Room in the wee hours of April 13 and ended with two people sent to the hospital and three men under arrest," according to Andy Newman and Christopher Reeve in The New York Times. For shame! The club's president, S. Colin Neill, is not amused. His letter to members following the event, however, is wonderfully amusing in its perfect mannerliness, probably because we are not, and never will be, members of the New York Athletic Club.

The Times posts this letter in full, but here's how it begins:

Dear Fellow Member,

You may have heard about the fight that occurred in the Tap Room late on the evening of Thursday, April 12th. I cannot state forcefully enough how abhorrent this event is to me, personally, and how contrary it is to the standards of decorum that we expect of our members and their guests.

Appropriate action is being taken against all of those involved. Such conduct will not be tolerated at the New York Athletic Club.

Neill goes on to tell the members that distributing "via the various social media" pictures and letters that besmirch the club's good name (aka, it is not cool to post a YouTube video of that awesome fight) will "not be tolerated. It is the responsibility of each and every member to protect and embellish the standing of the NYAC.” Hide the wrongdoing. Hide it away, never to be discussed again in mixed or any other company.

However, as Newman and Reeve point out, that didn't really work. Does it ever? Certainly not in 2012. Instead, an eyewitness wrote all about it on a blog, Wall Street Jackass [sic, throughout]. The alleged spontaneous fisticuffs do seem to have been on the epic side:

It was the best fight I've ever seen. Young people, old people,girls , members , non members, it was a nondiscriminatory ragematch.

It's tough to elaborate on it's epicness but I'll do my best....

Not sure the reason but it seemed to be about a girl. After about 30 seconds it was just threats being yelled. Anyway, probably two broken noses right off the back, one dude knocked straight on his butt on the first punch, glasses thrown, broken glass everywhere , and all the tables turned over or shoved to the side, they were making their arena.....The first break in the fight occurred when a random guy hopped in to break it up, his girlfriend by his side . The commotion ended so everyonethought ,  until somebody knocked the guy's girlfriend over and this kid laid one dude right out. So now the fight expanded to three groups, three wolfpacks. Girl got knocked over again ......Second stoppage occurred after a good five minutes when Luis the bartender joined forces to come in and stop it.  BIG MISTAKE , Luis fell like a bag of sand after a fairly aggressive push and he started screaming " Call nine eleven" . radios were grabbed and called, and these guys were eventually getting chaperoned out. It was all done , fight over . But No, it wasn'tdone...some pudgy kid comes out of no where , I honestly don't think he was even involved, and connected straight into a much bigger kids dome piece, couldn't have connected better, the kid hit , hits a table, broken everything on the ground. Finally a bunch of guys push the crowd of fighters out of the bar, they get in the elevator and by the time I got down there 10 cops were arresting all of them.

In the end, three men were confirmed arrested, two men were taken to the hospital, and the Club's director James O'Brien refused comment on any "epicness." Meanwhile, a commenter on Wall Street Jackass's blog is speaking out about the direct flaunting of club rules:

Whoever you are, WallStreetJackass, you have picked the right name. You ARE a jackass. Clearly your mother never taught you any manners and you have no sense of respect for others.

Neill is even less amused, concluding his letter, "Our reputation around the world has been built up over 144 years. Your Officers and Board will not tolerate the tarnishing of our reputation by such behavior and poor judgment." Which translates, pretty much exactly, to "You ARE a jackass."

Image via Shutterstock by Lisa A.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.