Sports Update: Soccer Is Not Manly

If you are like me you have been closely following the World Cup this year. It never ceases to amaze me the athleticism of soccer players. I played soccer on a small co-ed community  team until I was 15 and just that used to exhaust me. I  can not imagine playing in a World Cup game without at least a nap at half-time or something. But apparently not everybody who watches soccer has these same thoughts.

Ben Askren, a Bellator welterweight champion (i.e. some form of wrestling), is just not a soccer fan. In a video that has slowly circulated the internet Askren talked about how he was incredibly appalled at all the “faking it” soccer players were doing. Askren stated,

“There’s no honor in faking an injury. There is no integrity because you are lying about it. And there’s no toughness because you are in front of millions of people, and you’re rolling around on the field, crying – CRYING – about a fake injury that never happened.”

He continued in this unfortunate huff to say that,

“When I’m thinking of sports, when I’m thinking of a boy growing up and being a man, I’m thinking of three things – honor, integrity, and toughness. And a grown man, faking an injury, rolling around on the field fails all three of those tests. Listen folks, if you want your son to grow up to be a man, don’t have him run around on a field kicking a ball, get him wrestling.”

Whaaaat?

First of all those men are doing ninety minutes of non stop sprinting up and down a 110-120 yard field. The average player runs seven miles a game. That is about the amount of the average baseball player, tennis player, football player and basketball player combined. That is insane!

So let me pull out a few things for us to consider from this rant, “being a man”, “toughness”, “CRYING”. Askren very clearly lays out what he thinks is acceptable behavior for young boys. And showing emotion is not one of them.

My father played college soccer for Bethany Lutheran College and semi-pro ball for the Minnesota Strikers. And he also tears up at a good chick flick. He is still able to run circles around me on the ball field (although I’ve never publicly admitted that!). But just the other day we had a discussion about how more men need to embrace their emotions and how the stigma of men crying is bullshit.

Those things add up to being a man to me.

Whatever Askren described is just another version of unhealthy masculinity, holding men up to ideals that lead to disappointment. How dare men CRY when they are hurt! Or not be tough ALL THE TIME.

Ben Askren if you want YOUR son to be a man someday you will drop this notion of manhood. Let him cry when he’s hurt, do not tell him to toughen up, do not confine him to what activist Tony Porter calls the Man Box.

Help guide him to be a strong fully formed human being capable of experiencing emotion, perhaps even call himself a feminist. And for goodness sake let him play soccer, because he will be one hell of an athlete, just ask my dad.

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