Manly Sports

by Mark Phillips    –show me more like this

There are sports that help men connect with their Inner Gladiator and sports that do not. Here is a small sampling of sports that are more manly than others.

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 fight.

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 it’s not much. A good catch, a strikeout, a homerun. That’s 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. It’s 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 aren’t 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 mother’s 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 don’t 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 isn’t 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.