Men are competitive. Some say competition is the overriding male impulse, begun shortly after we emerge from Mom’s womb and start competing with Dad for her love. Parents who have raised both boys and girls know competitiveness is in their sons’ genes, pointing to their wrestling and roughhousing natures.
Men compete in our speech, ideas, work, and video gaming, in our blunt-elbowed ribbing of our men friends, and overzealous rooting for our children from the sidelines of their sporting events. We compete for mates by competing for money and its avatars: fast cars, bright motorcycles, mega-yatches. We compete with our brains, wit, charm, humor, and of course with brawn, our muscles.
Most publicly we use our muscles in playing sports, but men can get exercised watching and rooting as well.
Watching sports can be a consuming passion for some guys: catching the home-team’s home games; going to training camp; hanging at the sports bar watching the away games, screaming the team on. A sports fanatic’s passions can become unhinged. Some fans get tattooed with their favorite team’s logo, branding themselves for life with love of a franchise.
Playing sports is who some men are, and through the centuries women have hero-worshiped winning sportsmen; triumphant male athletes from all cultures are successful with the opposite sex. It’s strong incentive to win.
The high school quarterback, star of his team, dating the captain of the cheerleading squad, beauty of her school … I witnessed that in senior high and imagine most of us have seen similar beauty–brawn matchups.
Some men especially enjoy playing contact sports, crashing into other guys, testing our brute strength, sharpening our skills, dulling our reactions to pain. But playing contact sports can have consequences. Even winners are carried off the field, sometimes concussed, sometimes dead. It’s a gamble some guys are willing to take: betting health on playing a game of football, for instance. But a young man, running on testosterone, sees no gamble, is blind to the risk. A young man sees an adventure, a test of strength and skill on a gridiron with a goal line.
Joel Peckham has lived football and now writes it for us. His story, “Phys-ed,” is a meditation on the sport, but also on his boy-to-man journey, his father, his family name, and more. May I suggest that mothers whose sons are playing football or looking at playing football might benefit from reading Joel’s story.
Bill Harley’s “One-on-One” follows with a courtside view to a basketball game between a boy and a man, silently played and loudly communicated.
Finally we hear Paul Hostovsky’s profound “Conversations of Men” about the Bruins, Boston’s ice hockey team, conversations that take place … well that’s the play, and Paul wouldn’t want me to give it away.
Men & Sports!
Suit up …
or grab the chips.