Not too long ago I was watching a major soccer competition where the underdog team actually won. It was a newer team and they were not expected to gain the victory that day. It was so inspiring to watch. The fact that I don’t recall the teams or the specifics of the event gives you some indication of how far (out) of the sports world I live.
I watched as team mates jumped on each other, full body hugs and unstoppable tears were everywhere. From the coaches to the players, there was no withhold about just what an accomplishment this was. It was a moment to behold and I always enjoy tuning in to the accomplishments of others, even that of strangers, to remind myself that such things are possible!
The observation I made that day, was that the field was full of grown men, at the top of their professional sports games, completely immersed in their Joy. There was no apprehension. They weren’t looking around to see who might be watching them hug their teammate, embrace everyone in sight, and cry with the tears of Joy as champions who worked tirelessly for this win.
There was no second guessing themselves by asking “Hmmm, is it ok to show my feelings? Is it ok to cry? Will I be judged? What will people think?” Nope. These champions were completely in their moment of victory, and watching their expressions of celebration was nothing short of inspiring!
Since I don’t live in the sports world, I don’t write a lot about it. But I do know that this is a language spoken by many, which allows people, even strangers to make a connection about a particular game, team, play or loss. It’s a pretty neutral and “safe” topic (although of course some great fights can break out while speaking this language of sports.)
It’s not hard to find people speaking this “sports” language. It is heard in the elevator, in the board room, at dinner, at the gas pump, in line at Target. It’s practically a Universal language. I have always marveled at how well some of the folks I know can rattle off stats, college histories, trades, and even where the athletes went to high school. People sure love their sports.
But there may be another reason that men really take to sporting events. Perhaps it is the only landscape in the world where they are allowed to have feelings, express them, shout them and even celebrate in a completely authentic way. Men are allowed to embrace, cry, pray and drop to their knees in gratitude and presence. These are NOT things we see in the elevator, the board room, dinner, the gas pump or in line at Target.
Men are not allowed to emote. They learn this #1 rule early and they learn it fast. “Big boys don’t cry…Never let them see you sweat…What are you soft? (and other worse name calling)” Men know this rule and they follow it at all costs.
But the competitive landscape is the one place that men can actually show up fully. It wouldn’t be possible to perform at these extremely high physical levels without going ‘all in.’ There can be no withhold of focus, passion and emotion. It’s what wins games, makes champions and fills sports complex’s around the world. And it’s also what comes flying out of our male athletes when celebrating or feeling defeat. No wonder men especially, love the sports world.