There are sports that help men connect with there
Inner Gladiator and sports that do not. Here is a
small sampling of sports that are more manly than
Hockey. Hockey is the most masculine of all
sports. It has everything gladiators had with a few
bonuses. There are two armies facing each other on
a battlefield of ice. Speed and agility combine
with brute strength and endurance in a battle to
shoot a projectile into a target. It has speed that
no other human-powered sport has. It has the
excitement and drama of any good competition.
And it has hitting. Lots and lots of hitting.
Most of the hitting comes in the form of legal
checks, when one player shoulders another into the
boards while stealing the puck. Another kind of
hitting come when two or more opposing players
drop their gloves and go at each other
bare knuckled. It is barbaric and some consider it
immature, but it is fun to watch. There are even
statistics about how many fights a player has
gotten into and how many he has won. In Detroit,
there is such a thing as a Gordie Howe hat
trick. That means that during a single game,
a player scores a goal, has an assist, and wins a
Baseball. This is a perfect example of a sport
that is more difficult than most to categorize as
Manly. Broken down into its basic
parts, there is not a lot to it. Man 1 throws a
ball at Man 2, who tries to hit it past Men 3
through 10. Man 2 then runs in a big circle before
any of the other men can touch him with the ball.
If he does, his team gets one point. Next time you
are watching Sports Center, try and figure out what
makes one highlight different from another. You
will notice that its not much. A good catch,
a strikeout, a homerun. Thats about it.
The simplicity of the sport does not keep it
from being Manly, however. In fact, that is
probably why so many men like it. We understand it.
We could, if we wanted, play it (unlike hockey). It
also has almost everything a man needs in a sport.
It has a weapon. It has something to hit. It has
enough athleticism to cause sweating, but ample
time to rest in between exertions. Most
importantly, it has statistics.
We like statistics. There is something
comforting about being able to prove, with black
and white numbers, who is better than whom at this
or that. Statistics can be the basis of heated
arguments or the logic behind a wager. An entire
industry, called Fantasy Baseball, is
based on stats. You sign a team full of
players and their statistics throughout the year
determines your standing in the league. Its
like trading cards, but there is a pot you can win
at the end.
You can play Fantasy Football, Hockey, and
Basketball. I have heard they tried to start a
Fantasy Curling League in Canada, but there simply
arent enough statistics in the game.
In Little League, teams were in first, second or
third place. In the Majors, the teams are so many
games behind first with a winning percentage.
Players have RBIs and slugging percentages and
numbers of singles, doubles, and triples listed.
You can learn everything you need about a player,
from his favorite drink to his mothers maiden
name if you get the right statistical report. Stats
are cold hard facts, and men like them.
Ping Pong. Ping pong does not get the respect it
deserves. Face to face with your enemy, you launch
your assault by swatting a ball with a wooden
racquet. Strategy for placing your rounds is
essential. You are in a constant attack/defend
battle with the victory going to the smartest and
the quickest. In short, ping pong is war on a teeny
tiny scale. Of course, the downside of the sport is
that, if you take it seriously, you will be
mercilessly teased by almost everyone you know. But
you are a man! You can take some harassment.
Scoffers simply dont understand.
One thing ping pong lacks is athleticism of any
kind. A fat man in a wheel chair can be a champion.
Add some sweating and grunting, and you have
tennis. Maybe you could ride a bike to a ping pong
tournament and then have it all.
Boxing. You cannot get more combative than two
guys trying to beat each other up. It has violence
and sweat and, since Mohammed Ali, a lot of smack
talking between the warriors. I recommend watching
this sport instead of participating because
actually getting into the ring seems a bit too
barbaric for most men. Also, boxing hurts. Mind
you, pain isnt necessarily bad, only when it
precedes brain damage. The advantage of boxing is
that, if you are successful, you get to sell your
own line of indoor grills.
Playing or following sports is an excellent way
for a Stay-At-Home-Dad to keep in touch with his
Inner Gladiator. Before a man runs out and joins
the nearest croquet league or buys a game-worn
jersey of his favorite bowler, he should first
analyze the sport to see if it qualifies as Manly.
Some do not.
Running. Running is not a sport. It is exercise.
Exercise is work. Work, in this context, is bad.
Track and field events have similarities to both
gladiatorial games and caveman activities, but
running is just too hard to be any fun. The biggest
flaw in running is that there is no goal. You run
in order to run. Its a futile cycle. You can
compete in races, where the object is to run faster
than everyone else, but that is not much different
than running alone. You cant even touch
another competitor, much less hit them, so that
element is completely missing. You do sweat when
you run, so thats a good thing.
Bicycling. Until the Tour deFrance allows a
demolition derby category, biking does not work.
Bikes are useful for going to the store, going on a
stroll, or just exercisise. While all of these are
valuable, they are not Manly Sports. Besides, those
little seats and spandex pants can make things
Bowling. I have heard that there are more
bowling alleys in Michigan than any other state.
There are also more golf courses. That does not
bode well for the Wolverine State because bowling
does not measure up as a Manly sport. It does have
contact. The ball smashes into the pins and they go
flying in every direction. However, the bowler is
not touching the ball when it does its damage. The
ball probably has a great time demolishing the tidy
pyramid of pins, but the person bowling has already
relinquished control over it. The competitive
strategy is too simple to count: knock down more
pins than your opponent. You do have to aim
properly to pick up a spare, but that is
competition with the pins, not your opponent.
The only redeemable feature is the ability to
trash talk. The strutting and dancing that bowlers
do in the faces of their enemies can be beautiful
things. However, that alone is not enough to bring
it up to the level of Manly.
Croquet. Any activity you can play while
listening to the theme to Masterpiece
Theatre cannot be Manly. Yes, there is a
mallet, but the restraint you have to employ when
using is emasculating enough. You are allowed to
wallop your opponents balls out of play, but
you cannot gloat about it afterwards. Overall, this
might be the un-Manliest sport there
Golf. This is a difficult game to categorize as
a hunting or fighting game. However, so many men
play it, there must be something there. We simply
have to think outside the playing field. The object
of golf is to use a club (think weapon) to hit a
ball into a target. This is very similar to an
artillery crew attempting to knock out an
enemys position. The differences are that
innocent people usually arent killed if you
slice, and no one is shooting back at you when you
are lining up your putt.
Golf has three major drawbacks. First, it is not
essentially competitive. You could play it all by
yourself, so there would be no victory. Secondly,
golf etiquette prohibits trash talk. You are not
allowed to get into the face of your opponent when
he chokes and misses an important putt. That takes
out a lot of the fun. Finally, the better you get
at golf, the fewer opportunities you get to hit the
ball. In fact, the winner is the one with the
lowest score. What is up with that?
Next week, curling, NASCAR, and rugby!
* * *
Women, it's true, make human beings, but
only men can make men. - Margaret Mead
Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance
writer. Along with raising his four children, he is
developing a franchise called The Vacuum IS a
Power Tool. It is designed to help SAHDs
maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy
Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in
Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching
certificates in English, public speaking, and
psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After
six years as a high school English teacher and
Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High
School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and
became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. www.TheVacuumIsAPowerTool.com
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