Why do men take sports so serious
The obvious answer to this innocuous question is - Testosterone Envy. Yes, it’s time to admit that one true fact of life about the male of the species. Sporting events contain all of what our instincts require and desire, competition, camaraderie, exhilaration, danger, emotion, and fantasy, especially the last as it relates to ogling scantily clad cheerleaders gyrating to melodies underscored by words like “Gettin' jiggy with it” and “I wanna rock and roll all night….”
Men are indeed freaks of nature. Our development goes far beyond that of our forbearers, those who drew stick figures of animals, hunted, and fought to keep the clan alive and well fed. We feel a strong desire to feed off of those primal instincts, like the need to relieve long periods of boredom between working and making babies. Men fear most, the inevitable depletion of testosterone in the body. That is probably why so many spend our hard earned money on sports related memorabilia and logo-wear, not to mention the myriad of herbal male enhancers offered in ads flooding the internet, TV, and men’s magazines. As sports junkies, we root for the local team and God-like sports figures, both past and present. We never seem to get enough, be it football, golf, horse racing, boxing, baseball, basketball, soccer, or hockey. As an old coach once said, “There is a sport for every man and a man for every sport.” Many so-called couch jockeys meekly retreat to self-contained man-caves on weekends to watch athletes run, jump, throw, punch, catch, swing, or drive to the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. In the solitude of that space, they morph into mega-man, the alter-ego of every super jock on the planet. The rest of us fight for time alone in the den with our TV remote, a beer, and some chips, thanking the almighty for the invention of TIVO. That little hard drive sitting below the TV has been a lifesaver for sports junkies like me. But even so, we still crave to watch sports in real-time. There is much less fun viewing a sporting event when the outcome is known, that is unless the outcome is one which had desired. We glue our eyeballs to the TV watching every replay as an arm-chair general strategically officiating over our personal version of War of the Worlds. Pity the fool that claims that only victorious coaching staff gets pleasure out of watching re-runs.
Athletes are channeled by us, not in a physical sense, but very much in a literal one. As we come to know them we are prone to mimic their rituals and expressions. Some men even dress like their sports heroes, parading around in jersey tops with their favorite athlete’s name and number plastered on the back. Watching a baseball pitcher prepare to throw a fastball, we feel the ball in his hand. We can sense the cow hide and finger the imaginary ball rubbing at the seams, contemplating the call from the catcher. We sense the pounding of a fist in the glove. We taste the mixture of saliva, bubblegum, sunflower seeds, or tobacco squirting onto the ground. It’s all about power and identification – marking the territory so to speak.
When it comes to sports, men are hopeless junkies. Even so-called girly-men, the metro-sexual bred in the eighties onward, have a sort of testosterone envy. Although loathe to identify with the scrum of rugby, the violence of football or felon-like hits by hockey players, they derive pleasure from the lighter side, the more genteel sports of tennis, cycling, squash, and volleyball. Now I am not putting down those activities, I’m just noting that all men have that built in insatiable need to be involved in sports. Ladies, testosterone is the culprit here. While I am no expert on the cause and effect of this hormone seeping into our bodies during puberty and through adulthood, it is evident that as testosterone levels decrease, the need to replenish it in some fashion increases. As we age, the television remote becomes our testosterone enhancer. When the channel clicker stops on a sporting event, we instinctively pause as if captured by a muse. And as it continues through the channels, that short burst of pleasure satisfies. A goodly dose of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders can also do wonders for one’s libido during the ritual. Females are an unnecessary distraction at these sensitive times of self gratification. I submit also that the pizza and wings suppliers benefit greatly from the watching of sports on TV- think Pizza Hut. Those with the foresight to understand our couch potato mentality can also see that there are profits to be made during major sporting events like the World Series and the Superbowl. Professional sports figures make millions as spokesmen for consumer goods icons - think Gatorade, Nike, Tostitos, and Hungry-Man dinners. We must also consider those employment opportunities created from our need to watch sporting events on TV. Autos, furniture, and even underwear are often purchased based on supposed preferences of professional athletes. Each year the process begins again through mock drafts and fantasy football. They often take precedent over such weekend jaunts to The Home Depot, Lowes, or the local ACE Hardware.
As evolution places man on his certain path to extinction from innumerable excesses, women have flourished. It all started in the sixties as our wives, mothers, girlfriends, and sisters began divesting. Those who would not capitulate chose another direction, the avenue of self-awareness and self-improvement. As a result, women are deeply entrenched in business, community, church organizations, and politics. Some consciously defer to man’s need for watching sports, but it comes at a hefty price tag. The rise of Victoria Secrets and Bath and Body Works feed those desires to shop, spend, and primp, not for us but for each other. But these store-bought accoutrements do go a long way toward getting what women really want – attention.
When properly engorged by the blood sweat and tears of sporting telecasts, men are ripe for plucking. Can you imagine the vulnerability of the unsuspecting sports junkie all torn up from a grueling afternoon of double-header football? Weekend evenings often become payback time as guilt-ridden, exhausted, and emotionally distressed men succumb to the whims of their mates.
When it comes to sports, men live in a fantasy world. As often reported, just a few athletes out of thousands of hopefuls make it to the professional level. That leaves the vast majority of us struggling for another shot at individual recognition. So what do we do? We fantasize, looking back to our little league or high school days, when for just awhile we thrived in the blood-sport. Of course we remember those days very differently from the reality of the time. It is a sad day when intramural successes are all that we have to hold onto, but hold onto them we do to keep the internal fire lit. Those gritty days of youth are regurgitated and embellished so that when out with friends we can say, “I scored the run that won the championship game for my local athletic club.” What we don’t let on is that we were hit by a pitch and got to second base on a walk to the next batter. And that we took third base on a sacrifice fly and came home on an error. No, that would be un-manly. It’s like the fisherman who caught the eight inch bass and by the third recounting of the catch it doubled in size. Given the opportunity and a few beers, we sportsmen do tend to exaggerate.
Life is like a baseball game. You get a limited amount of innings and in the ninth you distress over missed opportunities early in the game. It may be that you failed to remember an anniversary, or that you dropped the ball with a client who needed your support. Perhaps it was the time that you forgot an important social event. In the ninth inning and with the game on the line, those early miscues cut deep. They eat at you, sometimes causing a mental lapse that often spells disaster. In terms of real life, your family, friends, and associates are the team and their welfare should be placed above all. So you play hard until the game ends and hope for the best. As the affable baseball player and coach Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” Those words still have meaning in sports, business, and in our personal lives. So why are sports important to men, either as wannabe jocks or as fans? It goes back to the hunter - gatherer mentality of our ancestors when men needed to feel a useful part of the clan. In those times food and shelter were necessary for the family or tribe to prosper - more importantly, to survive. The world of sport is not a life and death struggle, but it does relate to being part of a group. If it were truly life and death, we might act differently. There is an ancient sport field in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and those long lost Mayan ancestors held games there to honor their royalty. Captive warriors from other tribes were brought there to play a game similar to field hockey. The losing team lost their heads as punishment for playing poorly. I suppose the winners were granted the life of a slave, toiling in the fields until they dropped from exhaustion. Imagine if today’s sports figures played under such conditions? That says a lot about the term “The agony of defeat”.
The primal need for victory is strong, but the risk of debilitating injury is always there. In nature, the law of the jungle is absolute. By intuition and skills learned over the ages man has both endured and prospered. Modern man has now modified those traits for enjoyment. These are the laws of the synthetic jungle, the rules of sport played on well manicured fields of plastic grass in concrete and steel stadiums. Sporting events are a reflection of the need to compete and it harkens back to those times of base survival. So we live out our fantasies on the ball field and the gridiron, the court and the race track, the golf course and the boxing ring. Man is not a complicated creature, but he often requires nurturing and understanding. Throughout the ages man presses on but has made it to the top of the food chain only to find that knowledge, power, and the will to dominate cannot hold up against the aging process. At this critical time in evolution, man desires to hold onto every ounce of testosterone. Watching sporting events briefly satisfies this urge, and until there is a magic pill that safely replenishes testosterone and sold at a reasonable price, what else can he do?
Ladies, this is where you come into the picture. Understanding a man’s need to identify with youthfulness and athleticism is paramount. In consideration of this you must follow one very basic rule - it is far better to give than to receive. So cut your man some slack and turn over that hand-held remote to the TV. Better yet, seed him the big screen and go to the bedroom, read a book and relax for awhile. Let him have his fantasies, even for just a few hours each week. Remember, his well being and a good portion of the economy depends on your penchant for understanding. Of course, if you want to join in on the beer, chips and salsa, peanuts, and myriad of other snacks, please be our guest. But please remember that like you, men may have two ears, but our brains are wired very differently. While watching sports, there often seems to be disconnects between the gray matter filling our noggins and our hearing receptors. Referred to as selective hearing, it is often the source of marital disharmony. We certainly can’t focus on the game or even a post event synopsis while coherently answering that refrain, “Oh Honey, what do you like for dinner tonight?”
In the end it is just a matter of understanding the male and his uncontrollable urges, whether watching sports or reading Playboy. It’s all about trying to squeeze as much testosterone into our system as possible before time and Mother Nature forces hormonal changes - when estrogen begins to takes control. THE END