Karl Marx was right. Religion is the opiate of the people. In America right now, more so than ever, that religion is sports. Criticizing sports is unspokenly labeled as hate speech – especially by men and, sadly, by women who have become more masculinized in their quest to be given a deservedly equal place in society. For the man, though, the American ideal of manhood is defined by his interest in sports.
While women are under scrutiny for their views on social issues and the power of their voting demographic, men seem to have comfortably stayed in the back seat.
Talking to your coworkers, friends or neighbors, you may have found an increasingly dwindling number of men who are informed on current events, politics or religion – even less who can intelligently discuss history. Women don’t necessarily fair any better, but they’ve gone through a different societal evolution that is not the topic of this column.
No matter what event rattles the foundations of the world, no matter the domestic or international crisis that has exploded onto the news scene the day before, men’s morning talk at the water cooler is inevitably about the same thing: Basketball, football, hockey, Little League or some other stick-and-ball endeavor. It seems the old adage “everything in moderation” doesn’t apply to sports. Men seem to learn the highlights of local and national news by glancing at headlines on the Internet in the same way President Obama has taken his daily intelligence briefings. They may remember some talking points but cannot discuss anything in depth. Some don’t even care to know their local convenience store was robbed at gunpoint or that a fatal car crash occurred in their neighborhood. Ask them why they support or reject Obamacare, and they look at you like a deer in the headlights. Ask them their views about God, and you will get a mix of politically correct mumbo jumbo that will make your head spin. Ask them about their job, ask them about sports … then they can talk in depth.
Where have the real men gone? Half of American men, whom Rush Limbaugh likes to refer to as the New Castrati, are eating pine nuts covered with raspberry vinaigrette and whining about global warming and carbon footprints. We can write them off as useless and move on. What happened to the other half? Even conservative-leaning, self-identifying Christian men seem to have given up. They flop on the couch with a beer to deeply evaluate a Packers game, grumbling at a team’s loss and replaying a fumbled pass in their minds until it tires them, and they crawl to bed depressed.
Then there is the sex factor. Viagra, Cialis and similar prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements, combined with oversexed TV, movies and advertisements, keep men so distracted it’s a wonder society can function at all. While we know testosterone is what gives men an important drive in all aspects of their lives, it seems to have been hijacked and exploited into a dazed detriment instead of an active benefit.
Some men are obsessed with their jobs, more concerned with chasing after money and power and closing the next deal than where they stand with God. Men are increasingly using work as an escape from dealing with the problems around them. It’s been over 60 years since “The Death of a Salesman” won a Pulitzer Prize, but the Willy Lomans of this world have multiplied tenfold.
Today the office gives men the false belief that they are engaged in life. There are softball leagues or golf outings with coworkers. When they are fired or laid off or retire, however, they are surprised to find themselves all but forgotten. No one comes knocking. Willie Loman has an epiphany again.
Then there are the techies, the ones you see standing in line for hours to get the newest, smallest gadget that will provide them endless hours of useless amusement.
Some men are obsessed with the gym, addicted to steroids or working on their “abs.” It pains me to see healthy, able-bodied men spending their free time toning themselves in a Greek orgy of body worship disguised as “staying in shape.” In the old days, most men were tired from manual labor; running 10 times around an indoor track would have been silly at best. Apparently, it hasn’t occurred to men that their need for a “workout” can be put to better use helping those who can’t help themselves.
Where are the men who will throw down the remote or skip the gym to mow the elderly man’s grass next door? Where are the men who care enough to voluntarily shovel a walkway for the single mom down the street? Consumed by pursuing their own satisfactions, they have let their families, communities and their country down.
While we have brilliantly elected women leaders, and have female business leaders and young women proudly serving in our military, history still shows that the onus for maintaining, protecting and defending a society undisputedly falls on the males of that society.
It’s time for American men to shake off their Monday Night Football grog and do some soul searching. It’s time to realize that working and scrimping for 18 years to send your child to a liberal institution of higher learning is not the greatest gift you can give him.
Reading the Bible to your children, leading by example by helping others, talking about how Uncle Al was treated when he came home from Vietnam, or how Grandpa fought his way across Omaha Beach – these are the things that are being exchanged for a fleeting buzz from a basketball game going into overtime. As we pass from this life and evaluate our stay here, it will not be the final score from a NFL game that flashes through our minds in our final moments.
These are hard times. There is a more important message blazing like a Jumbotron in Times Square: Your family, your neighbor, your community, your country needs you NOW. Don’t spend all your time being the soccer dad while never talking to your son or daughter about faith, values and what America means to you. Don’t come home from the gym and sadly lament the ambulance taking your elderly neighbor away after he collapsed shoveling his driveway. Don’t wait for your pink slip to wonder why your company is shipping your job overseas. Don’t wait until you are blindsided by seeing skyscrapers crumbling in Manhattan to realize that society is placing a 911 call directly to you. It’s time to “step up to the plate” for real. It’s time to be men again.