Men Like Sports

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I tried so hard to enjoy watching sports when I was a kid. I even went as far as collecting sports cards. I remember saying to myself, “Ok Joshua, you have to pick a team that you like and then get to know everything about them“. I randomly picked the Phoenix Suns (it was probably the purple). I went through my basketball cards and tried to memorize each of the players’ names – but it was useless, I was bored out of my mind and confused about the religious-like zeal that sports fans had. Especially men. What a strange cult! Looking back, I think it was simply an attempt to fit in and make my dad think that his arts & crafts making, comic book collecting, electric guitar playing son with blue hair had hope of being a ‘real man’.

My sister recently sent me an article about a hockey tradition in Detroit where squids are tossed around on the ice. Where drunken men insanely twirl and fling these creatures above their heads and across the ice. Apparently this thing dates back to the early ‘50s and has something to do with casting a magical spell to win. Read the article and watch the video here.

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So what is it about men, sports, and cruelty to animals? Cockfighting, Michael Vic, elephant polo, bullfighting, horse racing, horse fighting, dog racing, trophy hunting, rodeo – what cultural significance do these all have? What do they say about us? What do they say about men specifically?

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Are men inherently brutal? Are sports one big cock-fight (not the bird kind)? Do guys get together and say “Let’s go kill stuff, it’ll be fun!”? Do boys truly enjoy these things, or do they break under the pressure of tradition – not unlike the wild horse who is broken – and simply fall into line acting out these dramas in an attempt to prove their manhood?

What I do know is that I don’t enjoy watching sports. I enjoy physical activity – I run, I bike, I hike, I play tennis, I swim – but I simply do not identify with the male prototype who acts like he is part of the team he watches on TV and gathers in groups to get wasted, get loud, and have an incredibly complicated, testosterone-laden excuse to act out his desires to be close with other men (look at pro wresting! Men in speedos pretending to fight). Nor do I identify with the man that kills or sends animals to kill each other in name of entertainment. Does our homophobic culture push men to do these things as an only option for male intimacy? Maybe, but consider the Romans – homosexuality was encouraged and they had cruel sports, too.

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  • steve89

    As a vegan who also follows sports (though much less closely than I did when I was younger), I’ll try and explain where I think the interest in sports comes from.

    First off, I don’t think it’s a role that most people are playing. I agree there are tons of situations where people are pressured into engaging in the kind of brutish behavior associated with sports, but I think most of the guys at Detroit Redwings games are drunk, hanging out with friends, and enjoying themselves, and I don’t think most of them are masking some sort of inner revulsion at what’s going on.

    I know I don’t think of myself as a boorish person, but I can get pretty worked up watching a close game with a team I care about. Part of it’s that caring more can make it more fun, part of it feels like it’s something instinctual being tapped, like the identification with a larger group (I know this same instinct can serve nationalism, racism, etc., so it’s obviously something to be wary of).

    Second, on a (slightly) more intellectual level, sports tied-in with other interests I had. I read about teams’ histories and players’ biographies, because history in general was something I was interested in. Statistics, also, lend a kind of solidity to the whole thing that much of the real world doesn’t have. And then of course, even people who don’t like sports often enjoy games, because games have complex rules and generate new and interesting situations, and this complexity appeals to our brains.

    I guess in the end I just wanted to point out that though there’s a pretty big overlap between men who like sports and men who generally show a low concern for others (animals included), it’s far from a complete overlap.

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  • http://thediscerningbrute.wordpress.com joshuakatcher

    al, I think you have a good point. We live in a male-dominated culture. Patriarchy is celebrated and encouraged in almost every aspect of our society. Men are encouraged to enjoy these things because it becomes what defines them. Women are not necessarily defined by these things or held up to the same mode of behavior (fortunately or unfortunately).

    However – I do strongly believe that women are less violent than men. Statistically speaking, murderers, rapists, serial killers, war mongers, abusers, etc are overwhelmingly male. If we lived in a matriarchal society i have a feeling there’d be a lot less animal abuse (but this is just speculation). Thoughts?

  • http://gendertrouble.livejournal.com al

    i think women participate in and enjoy animal cruelty just as much as men do, they just aren’t celebrated for it, so you don’t see them. i mean, there are lots of women at those redwings games. i don’t think it’s that men enjoy those things more, i think it is more that they are encouraged to enjoy them.

    re: sports. i did the same thing. i thought, ‘i’m a tomboy, i should like sports’ and i picked the oakland a’s because i really liked green at the time. but i quickly realized i really just don’t like sports. well, most sports.

  • http://drunkandincharge.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Oh gosh – please tell me that the squid is already dead when they do that – it makes me ill. I grew up in the country surrounded by hunters and ranchers and cattle and sheep and animals being killed and enslaved all around me.

    I never knew what to make of it and I always thought it was wrong – from the beginning. The world is full of cruelty and war and maybe that is just how the majority of men are at this point in human history.

    I know there will be a future when we will look at the slavery of non-human animals just as we look at the slavery of humans today. That day cannot come soon enough and I hope that every day I do something to hasten its arrival.

  • http://output.hardcoder.net troy

    I have never managed to figure this out for myself. The best I can think of is that we’re raised to have a hard heart, and the hard heart can’t take in subtle truths.

    My Dad still goes fishing, and frees the fish. But after many years, I think he’s starting to feel guilty about it!

  • http://myspace.com/andrewphilliptipton Andrew

    wow. I’m so glad that other dudes have to deal with this feeling of being marginalized from their own sex. more power to you.