Men & Sports

Men are hyper-competitive. Some say competition is the overriding male impulse, our foremost fact of life, begun shortly after we emerge from mom’s womb and start competing with dad for her love.

At very least, competition is in men’s genes. Parents who have raised both boy- and girl-children say this, pointing to boys’ rough-housing natures.

Men’s competitiveness shows in our love of playing sports. Some men especially enjoy contact sports where we crash into other guys, stretching our strengths, testing our endurance of pain. Playing sports is who some men are. Certainly some women hero-worship successful sportsmen, a major motivator for guys to succeed on playing fields.

But sports, particularly contact sports, can be serious. Even winners are carried off the field, sometimes concussed, sometimes dead. It’s a gamble certain guys are willing to take: betting life and 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 on an open field with a goal line.

We’ll be publishing three stories in the next few days about guys and sports. The first is by Joel Peckham, a guy who has lived football and now, luckily for us, writes about it. His story, “Phys-ed,” is about that sport, but it is also a meditation on the boy-to-man journey. Every one of this book’s beta-readers, all women, called this story one of their favorites in the book.

Importantly, I believe that every mother with a young son should read “Phys-ed.” Call it a mother’s duty, a mother’s rite of passage.

Be prepared for a view to a basketball game in “One on One” by Bill Harley; and a profound, mano-a-mano discussion about the Bruins, Boston’s ice hockey team, in “The Conversations of Men,” by Paul Hostovsky, a conversation that takes place … well, that’s the play, and I wouldn’t want to give it away.

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