ODing on Testosterone

I promised at the beginning to the season that I would not turn HoA into a football blog. I am keeping that promise, at last today. I am not talking about records, or stats, or my love of the mighty Tennessee Titans. I am going to discuss a cultural problem that unfortunately rears its ugly head in the world of gridiron glory more than in most other places, and has done so very recently in the NFL. The problem is bullying, and it has come to light that it goes on between team mates even in the locker rooms of men who have reached the pinnacle of that sport, as demonstrated in the brouhaha between Miami players Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

Incognito made the whole situation uglier still by throwing race into the mix. I cannot understand how in the twenty-first century one man can think he is better than another because of his heritage, especially when that heritage is one that has made their life easier. That puts a particularly bad spin on all of this, and it was pretty wobbly to begin with. It magnifies, significantly, the sin of threatening and harassing a man who is supposed to be your brother in arms on the field. Pranking a member of a visiting team, within certain boundaries, I can understand, but hurling racial epithets at your teammate? How is that even in the neighborhood of acceptable?

We should not be surprised though. Not because Richie is a particularly bad apple (though he is), and you can bet that is how the team, league, fans are all going to focus their attention, but because the culture of sports in America, especially mens’ team sports, is one of domination. Yes there is the universal tone in all sports of personal excellence. I love and appreciate the time and effort these folks put into perfecting their craft. A huge part of the experience, almost from the time these guys are in Pop Warner leagues, is humiliating the other guy.

It is primal and part of our being, but then, so are a lot of activities we decided long ago we could do without (though some guys still literally mark their territory.) Men are taught early on that there are winners and losers and it is never good to be a loser. They are encouraged, if not outright instructed to view almost all human interaction, especially that with other men, as contest. If you are not the Alpha Male, you are a Beta, left to pick through the Big Guy’s scraps.

So what we are left with are grown men allegedly threatening the families of other grown men. We are left with young men harassed into spending big bucks just to satisfy men with even more money than them. We have a culture where fans, players, coaches, and commentators belittle a player for having social anxiety disorder. After all, weak is the worst thing you could be and if you show any vulnerability you need to be destroyed.

I love, and will continue to love pro sports, especially football. We have, however, become a nation of enablers allowing generations of testosterone junkies to inflict their pain on each other. It does not end, nor begin, in the NFL locker rooms. Men with dreams of their sons or players becoming Sunday afternoon gladiators push them to dominate. Often there are many good influences around these kids, coaches and parents who tell them to just do their best, but the culture itself is one of aggression and the will to power. It is time to change that. There has been too much hurt and we are too good to allow it to continue. We don’t need that fix of “manhood” so bad that it is worth the damage done.


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