Masculinity in Sports

"Men do not cry it’s a sign of weakness". That is what many people including myself, have continuously heard from our fathers growing up. That's why for the longest time, you will rarely hear about professional male athletes cry over a certain game. However, in today's society, males' crying has become more accepted to the public. One of the most recent stories to hit the media about this is the Miami Heat basketball team crying after a loss. Some people ridiculed them, and others even supported them. Stories like these show that men are becoming more sentimental, and are no longer afraid to hide their feelings because of the pressure of the media and society. Regardless, sports have taken over the lives of men today. It does not matter where you go; sports are always being talked about. From the gym, business, radio or local supermarket, sports is involved in men’s’ every day lives on way or another. That’s why when you want to talk about how the view on masculinity has changed; you can not ignore studying how these men act in their respective sports. By hearing stories of athletes crying, openly admitting that they can not play in a certain game due to injury or how they are concerned about the way they dress before and after games, its clear that the view on masculinity has changed over the years and the definition of what being masculine many years age is much different than it is today. 

For many years now, sports have such a role in men’s, lives that it sometimes holds a bigger impact than their job or girlfriend. Our society has viewed being involved in sports is the masculine way. To me, there is no argument in that, and it is evident by how popular ESPN has become. In an article from the New York Times, Bruce Feiler stated, “ESPN is the third-rated network on cable, according to Nielsen ratings. Half of all Americans, age 12 to 64, encounter one of its platforms every week, the network’s research shows. That figure includes two-thirds of men age 18 to 34, who stay an average of 56 minutes a day” (New York Times).  These facts do not even include the time spent watching sporting events on other television channels such as TNT, ABC, and NBATV. If you were to add up the amount of time men watch those sporting events on top of the numbers for ESPN, it's safe to say that the sports world has taken over men’s’ lives completely. But that leaves the question, why does sports have such a big impact on men today? First to answer this question, you have to go back to some of the basics. Michael A. Messner and Donald F. Sabo wrote a book called, Sex, Violence and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity. In the book, Messner and Sabo state, “many men in prison use sports and exercise to “do” masculinity- that is to spin masculine identities, build reputations, to achieve or dissolve status. (165). The way men act in prison is very similar to how men act in their everyday lives. To be popular in prison and in the community, you have to create your reputation which is done by becoming involved in sports one way or another. From Messner and Sabo’s statement, it helps make the uncanny numbers of ESPN more sensible. Men believe in our culture, sports need to have such a big impact in your life in order to be masculine. The authors further state in their book, “masculine identity is earned, enacted, rehearsed, refined and relived through each day’s activities and choices.” (165). Our society has put sports on a pedestal in this area. The quickest way today to build up your masculine image is to be knowledgeable as well as being able to play sports. By being able to do so, it will give you a better and stronger image to other people in the community, especially men.  However, the view on some masculine traits has slightly changed over the past years.

Tim Tebow crying after a loss to
15 years ago, you will almost never hear of any male athlete crying after the outcome of a specific game. However, today in 2011, these same athletes are more open to showing these emotions. Men showing emotions in sports have drastically changed. The media still at times hold the view of what masculinity is from 15 years ago.  On March 6th 2011, a story came out claiming that a few members of the Miami Heat basketball team were crying in the locker room following a loss to the Chicago Bulls. In response to this story, Ron Artest who was at one point the face of the “bad boys” in the NBA stated, “I think it’s good to cry, I think it’s good to let your emotions out”.  Artest is infamously known for his involvement in the brawl that took place at The Palace back in 2004 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Artest’s attitude is much different in 2011 than it was 7 years ago. This shows how some athletes today have shown how their view on masculinity has changed. It’s pretty obvious that back in 2004, Artest would not openly say that he thought it was good to cry, but since the view on masculinity is different, Artest said so without worrying about media scrutiny. However, not everyone supported those players for showing emotion. Phill Jackson, the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers stated, "This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed, big boys don't cry. But, if you're going to do it, do it in the toilet where no one can see." This goes back to the traditional view of what masculinity was viewed as by our fathers growing up and in recent years. In some aspects of society, the traditional views of men do not cry will always be in the minds of some. Danielle M. Soulliere wrote an article called, Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE. In her article, she conducted a study of the messages that the WWE portray to the public. One of the messages she states, “Message 5: Men are not whiners As the classic adage “real men don’t cry” suggests, men are expected to exercise emotional restraint, to keep their emotions in check, and to avoid displaying any public show of certain emotions. In short, men are not whiners or cry babies” (6). Today, men are starting to slowly show more emotion which means they are beginning to not care much about what other people thing such as the ones who still strongly believe that men do not and should not cry. This whole deal shows that masculinity is evolving in our community. These athletes that display their emotions say a lot about what our society’s view on masculinity is like today. Men especially in sports are becoming more sentimental but still portraying the masculine appearance without too much fire from the media about it. Of course there will be some who think it’s so absurd that these men cry but then again, the view on masculinity is changing, not changed for good. Another way the view on masculinity has changed is by having more male athletes compete in what used to be woman only competitions and also involving themselves in the fashion world. 

Brett Favre's Wrangler Jeans
Dwayne Wade showing
his fashionable side
At one point or another, everyone has seen Brett Favre’s Wrangler jeans commercial that ruled the airwaves for many years. These commercials were so popular because it was the perfect example of what people viewed masculinity as when it comes to apparel. A battled superstar playing sports in blue jeans. At the time, most athletes went with the casual look to portray the masculine appearance. Men today though are more concerned with their appearance. From athletes walking into the arena before a game to post game interviews, you see how different athletes dress up now. Wether it’s a suit, or jeans with a button down, society today looks at being concerned about the way you look as a masculine trait today. Before, only women used to care about the way they dress but now top tier athletes such as Tom Brady and Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are well known for the way they dress. 
Men today are also participating in sports that have traditionally been female dominated over the years. One of the best examples of this is hit television show, Dancing with the Stars.  When athletes such as, football stars, Emmit Smith, Jason Taylor(video of him dancing below) and Chad Ocho-Cinco joined the show, the media raved about it. Professional football players are looked at as manly men. When these athletes and others joined the show, it changed the way people look at what being masculine really means. Those special groups of athletes who were daring enough to involve themselves in such activities showed us that the way our society and males look at masculinity is different than it was many years ago. Competitive dancing was always known as a female sport. The same goes for male figure skaters as well. Nowadays, these athletes are enjoying their time in their off-season by participating in activities that men used to never even consider before. Even though these male athletes are participating in these new activities, it still does not affect the way people view the “tough guy” image. 
Growing up, I was always told that if you can walk, you can play. Meaning, there is no injury severe enough where you cant find through it and play. Honestly, I was never the one to fight through every single injury I had to play in my basketball games growing up. Fortunately, I did not have to worry about any scrutiny from the media since I was just in high school. My fellow teammates and friends also understood and never said anything about it. However, professional athletes for years always were ridiculed if they were to say that they can not play in a game because of an injury. In Soulliere’s article about manhood, she states, “The dominant hegemonic masculinity is associated with a number of characteristics that consistently appear in media presentations of men. Such characteristics include violence and aggression, emotional restraint, toughness, risk-taking, physical strength, courage, power and dominance...” (3). What this sends to our society is that to be masculine, you have to be aggressive, show no emotion and you have to take risks. In 2011, some athletes are beginning to not care about the dominant hemogemonic masculine look. One of the most recent stories of this was Jay Cutler, quarterback of the Chicago Bears in this years NFL playoffs. Cutler sat out most of the game due to a knee injury and many people took their shots at him during and after the game. Fellow NFL players came out questioning Cutler’s toughness. However, when asked about his thoughts on the Cutler story, Brian Urlacher, the captain of the Chicago Bears stated, “"I don't question his toughness. He's one of the toughest guys on our — he's tough as hell. He's one of the toughest guys on our football team. He doesn't bitch, he doesn't complain when he gets hit, he goes out there and plays his ass off every Sunday, practices every day.” (USA Today). The way masculinity is viewed in this area is almost like a double edged sword. Some athletes are beginning to be more comfortable admitting that a injury it too severe to play on which suggests that athletes are looking at masculinity different today than they did years ago but with all the mockery that Cutler and other athletes receive portrays that the view on what being masculine means has not changed much in our society. 
Masculinity in many phases in society has changed over the past few years. Wether it’s becoming more fashionable or showing emotion, the definition of what being masculine means is different to many people today. However, it has not changed completely which is evident in many aspects of our culture. I will use myself as an example to this. Yoga is viewed as a thing that woman only do. When researching about yoga, it has been proven that doing yoga will help you recover from intense workouts and will help your muscles grow even faster. I workout all the time but I have never participated in yoga at my local gym because I do worry about scrutiny that I might receive since no male does it at the gym. If we want the view on masculinity to change completely, people like me have to start acting on it and not worrying so much about what other people will say in response to our actions.