I called Will Bunch last night, and when he picked up the phone, I said, ” ‘Girly men’? I mean, really, Will.” I was really annoyed.
He was a little sheepish, but not much. “Yeah, I guess I wasn’t very politically correct,” he said.
What, because getting your brain smashed so often that you risk early-onset Alzheimer’s still isn’t quite “manly” enough? They’re also required to lose fingers to frostbite?
Most of my women friends think it’s kind of weird that middle-aged men relate so very intensely to the supposed “manliness” of a bunch of paid mercenaries and their ability to move the football down the field. It seems to me that it becomes much more than a game — and not in a good way.
As I’ve mentioned, football has never really appealed to me, for the same reasons boxing doesn’t. It’s brutal. (I lost whatever small interest I had when they started miking the field so much, you could hear the players’ bones crunch – Live! On TV!) By the way, you’ll notice that baseball fans rarely (if ever) accuse players of lacking testosterone.
Why is this the measure of manliness, this ability to swallow physical and emotional pain and keep going? What does that say about how society shapes men’s emotional state?
I mean, in terms of cheap labor and cannon fodder for the military-industrial complex, it’s certainly more useful to have a male disconnect from pain. No question. Endurance while you’re being crushed by the ruthless machine? An outstanding and useful trait! Multinational corps grow ever larger on man’s ability to endure.
But is it good for people? Is it good for families? I’ve known more wounded men whose fathers absolutely crushed them in some twisted quest to make them “strong.” There are many reasons for divorce, but I’d say that marriages break up most often because men are so disconnected from their own feelings, their only acceptable outlet is anger. (Or drinking, cheating, or gambling.) They turn into brick walls under some misguided delusion that it’s appropriate self-protection.
Call it a hunch, but I’d bet that the guys who scream the loudest about the new NFL injury-protection rules, saying they turn football players into a bunch of wussies, are guys who have such problems with their own emotions, they use football players as emotional surrogates.