Real Men Don’t Watch Sports

Is our sports culture hurting men?

I’m not interested in sports at all, not football, baseball, hockey or basketball. Every day someone asks if I’ve seen this game or that, and no matter how many times I shrug in ignorance, people keep asking. I work to avoid sports news, but it continues to creep into my peripheral vision, especially lately. There was something about the baseball hall of fame, and then I heard some more nonsense about Lance Armstrong. In my own city, there’s been a yearlong fight about public funding for a stadium. Even as I’m barraged with incessant sports infotainment, I’m more convinced than ever that spectator sports harm men.

Playing sports in amateur leagues is a great way to stay active and fit. I also understand the appeal of the Olympic Games, a finite event that combines the spectacle of nations with the striving of mostly unknown athletes. Everything else to do with sports seems like a waste at best and a serious harm (especially to men) at worse.

Often even the good part of sports, the playing, does more harm than good. For instance, why does the average high school football player risk his health for the game? Average players will never see a dime for their efforts, but they’ll often limp through life like professionals, with bad joints and chronic injuries.

My biggest irritation with sports is the fandom. Sports teams separate people by geography, while at the same creating artificial tribalism in a world that could use much less of it. Why do we insist on splitting America into smaller and smaller villages? I’m especially troubled by the common use of the pronoun “we” in statements like: “We won the big game!” It sounds silly and exclusive to me.

How many hours are sacrificed on the altar of spectator sports? I have a bunch of kids, two of whom are very young. I have a hard time checking out for an hour, let alone an entire Sunday to watch some game or other. Two football games can take eight or even ten hours on an average Sunday. As much as I believe parents should set aside moments for themselves, time loses all meaning when it comes to sports fanaticism.

I also can’t understand why we find it so interesting to watch professional athletes beat the hell out of each other in the first place. Concussions in football are serious, but they aren’t the only danger by far. Professional athletes are often loaded up with steroids and painkillers, and many die premature and painful deaths. I don’t know how a civilized society can condone such a thing as entertainment.

The financial issues are also hard to comprehend. In the worse economic conditions in decades, the city leadership of my hometown, Reno, voted to give a billionaire “investor” millions of tax dollars to help fund the Reno Aces ballpark. The vote was overturned after the latest election, but I don’t understand how it passed in the first place. Studies show that public expenditures in arenas never recoup the tax money used, and this fiscal profanity is small compared to the perverse financial incentives in college sports.

I also can’t stand the version of masculinity that’s promoted by the sporting culture—that of the stereotypical grunting, heaving, addle-brained muscle man. Certainly there are other versions of manhood to which young men can aspire. And why do so many young men riot when a favored team loses, and likewise, why does the same group of men riot when their team wins? I know this sounds snobby or even effeminate, but to men I say read a poem or something, anything other than a contest pitting one unnaturally beefy, muscled brute against another.

I can’t even go out for a hamburger without having twenty-five big screen televisions blaring games in every restaurant in town. I’d boycott the places if I could, but I’d be left eating at a hot dog stand at the bus station. The art of quiet conversation over dinner is being slowly murdered with sports pollution.

In many ways I’m just lucky that I’ve never been interested in sports. I have to thank my own father, the biggest non-fan ever, for giving me freedom from fandom plus all my Sundays free. I know that many men will view my distaste for sports as an attack on America, but someone has to say it. I don’t want to seem superior or mean, but professional athletes are a bunch of millionaires who bash each other’s brains in for our amusement. Certainly there’s a better way to understand ourselves as Americans and as men.

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Image credit: KellBailey/Flickr

About Edwin Lyngar

Edwin Lyngar is a writer and author living in Reno, Nevada. He graduated from Antioch University in 2010 with his MFA in creative writing and also holds an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada Reno. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Bellingham Review, Ontoligica and RoleReboot. He blogs about parenting, family life and writing at and is in the process of finding a home for his first book, a memoir, titled Guy Parts.


  1. I agree with the author’s points on just about everything here. However, I do like the combative and contact sports to watch on occasion. But spending hours on it, I can’t get behind. I watch a few hours of football per year. Most of that is the playoffs and Super Bowl. (this year I watched the final quarter and a half) I played football through high school and wrestled through high school and college. But now, I couldn’t tell you the names of more than a couple of players in the whole league in each major sport. I tuned out of fandom in my early 20’s, in favor of participation in my own physical fitness activities. I did various amateur sports over the years. The points he mentions on fanaticism are good. There are reasons behind the mania. It’s an interesting topic that has been studied and written about by social scientists. One of the motives of sports mania is the need for people to have a sense of identity and to be associated with a cause. If a person does not have a deep sense of purpose for their life, they will latch onto the local sports team. The SF Giants commercials tap into this. Their motto is “We are Giants.” When I was growing up in the 70’s, you just about never saw grown men in team jerseys. This was limited to kids. Now, there are more grown men in team jerseys, as a way for them to worship their favorite player, with whatever players’ number. Look at photos of 1960’s Packers games. The people in the crowd are dressed in normal street clothes, not team gear. Sports mania is a sickness, I am convinced, or at least that it borders on sickness. I agree that couch surfing is unmasculine, and PARTICIPATION, even if in your local industrial softball league, or in the gym, is a thousand times more manly and better than sitting and staring at other men doing sports, and then turning on the radio to hear about the game just played or the upcoming game.

  2. I don’t watch sports either. I grew up playing sports and watching sport, hunting, fishing, fighting, man I did it all. Then one day I became bored of it all. Really bored of it all. I don’t know why but to this day I am bored to tears by all sports. I workout to stay in shape but playing or watching sports is like reading some tabloid newspaper, I just can’t do it. Every once in awhile I take my kid fishing but that’s for his enjoyment, not mine. I don’t know what happened. I have moved on to things that do interest me now and I suspect I’ll grow tired of those things at some point. To each their own. If you like sports you like sports and if you don’t you don’t. What are you going to do? This stuff comes from the inside and who knows from where in there it comes or to where it goes?

    • Hi I am a Nana now with 3 grown sons 4 granddaughters. I never was forced into sports as a child and I am glad. Never understood why idiots ran around chasing a Ball and taking risks hurting they’re body. My youngest son takes after. Me. We are more interested in culture life. Have been condemned for it… My son was belittled. He is now a successful man. I don’t even like going to my granddaughter soccer. I get anxiety attacks. If that’s what they want bless them

  3. No one cares about your opinions on sports. Be a non-fan if you want. Sports will roll on without you, and I will still watch and cheer when MY Steelers bash some other team’s brains in. And I’m a chick!! lol

  4. Adam Mayer says:

    I can understand the turn off of watching sports. Some fat slob picking 3 day old cheetos out of his belly button yelling. “WE WON”… No, correction, you didn’t win anything but belly button lint in your teeth bud. Truth is, you did nothing. Funny how that guys socially exceptable, but if you don’t like sports, you may as well be a flaming go go dancer? .. Yeah, we got things backwards in this country.

  5. thank you Edwin.?I wish there were more guys like you out there. 🙂

  6. I think what kills it for me is the staunch opposition to benefiting mankind in any way. Imagine the leaps and bounds we’d be making in performance enhancing pharmacology if the drugs EVERY SINGLE PRO ATHLETE is taking were simply admitted to and made part of the culture. Nope, stupid old rich men are used to something, so it must never change. Burn billions on absolutely nothing material to humanity in any way shape or form, but don’t you DARE corrupt the “purity” of games designed by lower primates for lower primates.

    A purely transparent system of performance modulation would save the whole thing from being 100% worthless to the species. And that is the one thing every single player, owner and fan is dead set against. If it were up to me, I’d Matrix the lot of ’em.

  7. Edwin, as soon as I saw the title of your OP, I expected you would be personally attacked. So, although this particular controversy simply involves words on a computer screen, I still say it took some courage on your part. Critical evaluations of social institutions are necessary for the health of any society. But a critical evaluation of school sports, no matter how benign or well-intentioned, usually is not tolerated very well.

  8. I don’t trust criticism from someone who doesn’t love the subject. It’s too easy to armchair quarterback.

  9. John Schtoll says:

    A funny joke I heard on the weekend to lighten the mood

    “How do you get a person wtih a gender studies degree off your front porch”

    “Pay for the pizza”

  10. John Schtoll says:

    Anyone who uses “REAL MEN” is employing a shaming tactic, iow, you aren’t a “REAL MAN” unless you do what I do or agree with what I say.

    Such a common tactic nowadays to get men to ‘tow the party line’

    • Saying “real men” do or don’t do whatever isn’t new. It’s always been around, always (until recently, perhaps?) at the expense of nonathletes.

  11. While the author makes some substansive points and I’m not much of a sports fan myself (though I partake in watching WWE wrestling. Yeah, I know, it’s choreographed and base and not sports at all so sue me!), you lose me with the “Real Men” argument.

    Aren’t we supposed to be avoiding “Real Men” generalisations and stereotypes? Because you’re no different from people who say “Real men are tough, real men should fight, they don’t cry, etc”. Except you’re masking it in progressiveness.

    Nobody has the right to tell people, even men, what they should and shouldn’t do. That includes even the progressives who despise an activity that is unhealthy to them.

    You were doing just fine expressing your opinions on sports. You didn’t need the “Real Men” trope.

    I repeat, I’m not a fan of sports myself. But the difference is, I don’t bemoan those who are devouted to that hobby.

    You’d do well to lose the “Real Men” trope if you want people to listen.

    • Guys, do be so kind as to take my comment out of moderation please. This is the umpteenth time I’ve had to tell you.

      • @Eagle .. maybe we should have a site where the eddited comments are publishedI realize that there are times that comments don’t abide by the rules but it would be interesting to see what was being siad.

      • Hey Eagle? So far as I know there aren’t a lot of mods, things wind up in there for automated reasons, and it can take awhile to get them out. It is most likely isn’t personal and having a little patience will help those who are volunteering.

      • im not a moddd. i asked last yr, turned it down, then later in the summer decided to offer my services when an appeal went out. at the time i suggested
        1. creating a large pool of junior mo,ds with limited powers, with the old mo.ds becoming senior supervising ones with full authority
        2. instead of comments going to an individuals moddds email. the comments go to a central bank instead, where loggedin moddds review – would speed up the moddding process

    • He is reacting against what has been the negative stereotyping of nonathletic guys (boys and men) for generations. When I was a teenager, I had the misfortune of being required (against my will) by a psychologist to take judo lessons from a martial arts instructor who was a former college football player. All I will say about the years I spent in his dojo is that I always felt like an outsider. Years later when I looked him up out of curiosity, he informed me that he had saved me from homosexuality (laughs galore!) and that only athletes and men in certain blue-collar jobs were “real men.” He also denigrated the courage of the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, no doubt because he was one of those “pencil-necked geeks.” What was that comment made by another poster about the stereotyping of “muscleheads”?

      Neither do I bemoan the preferences of sports fans, except when they seek to bind their preferences upon others who simply aren’t interested in sports; for example, forcing nonathletic boys to participate in team sports in mandatory P.E. classes. (Incidentally, I never got any exercise in the mandatory P.E. of my youth.) I also object to the preferential treatment of school athletes in football and basketball, even to the point of staging a coverup when a rape has been committed. Steubenville, perhaps?

  12. I fully agree with you Edwin . I will never condone some sports and all the “competition” and physical and mental pain that goes along with them. I love rhythmic gymnastics and things of that nature but I can’t stand football or any of that other nonsense and I’m not sure why anyone else likes it either. We barely pay the people who babysit and teach children i.e. the future generation and yet we over pay top “athletes” whose job it is to injure other people so that they can put a ball in a certain place. How many men have gotten literally crippled and are in wheel chairs because of football. I heard of one kid who got hit so hard in a football game that one of his organs broke in half. Boxing is about hitting someone until they become unconscious….and yes it sounds ridiculous to just say it. People loved Lance Armstrong but now everyone is disappointed because he took enhancers. Yes men are their own worst enemy.

    • John Schtoll says:


      You askt he following questions

      “How many men have gotten literally crippled and are in wheel chairs because of football”

      I don’t know the exact number but I can guarantee you one thing, it is ALOT less than from construction, mining, fishing, logging , fireman, police etc.

  13. I’ve thought all the thoughts that Edwin has expressed, and more: youth sports are rife with jerks who think they are experts at character building; the big revenue-generating collegiate sports rip off the players who comprise a vast and willing pool of unpaid labor; the “amateur” internationalist spectacle of the Olympics is basically a First World racket with a few outlier nations like Kenya that excel in their specialist areas, but will never actually host a Games. I enjoy football but I’m secretly relieved that my sons don’t care for the sport.

    And yet, I love sports and I find Edwin’s points basically tiresome. Let me be clear: I’m a literate guy with a rewarding combination of university-sanctioned book-larnin’ and my own self-directed pursuit of knowledge. I love my wife and kids.

    When I see a guy like Kobe Bryant drain an offbalance three with a defender’s hand in his face and the shot clock running out, I think, wow, that guy’s an artist. He’s doing something that you can admire, even if all you do is casually shoot hoops in the street. Or, if you are gifted, you aspire to equal or best him. Do you think a young classical musician just waltzes into first chair and soloist gigs? No. The reality is, he or she must enter competitions and take first place. I don’t blame sports for the fact that there are more jobs in that sector than in classical music (there are more applicants in sport, too.) A conservative might spend a second bemoaning the lack of culture in our culture, but to him, sports has won the battle of the marketplace. Plus, he thinks they’re more manly. Except Title IX sports. Those sports are feminazifying America, or whatever. A liberal would look at the same scenario and wonder why academics and arts aren’t better funded. He or she might also concede that sports, from the grassroots level to the pros, inspire people to get up and move around, making everyone a little healthier and happier. You don’t have to be fascist Vince Lombardi to like sports. You can do groovy stuff like trail running or biathlon or badminton. Have you ever seen those Olympic badminton games? It’s really cool.

    What about Title IX, Edwin? Do you approve? Women’s soccer is more popular than men’s in this country. I personally think that women’s sports is great. Not a threat to men, their camaraderie, their Saturday morning games, their beer and pizza bull sessions, or any of that stuff. If a country is in favor of all avenues being open to women, that country is stronger for it.

    I’d also add that sports coaching and management offer mental insights – although the players themselves can be very bright. Ed Reed? Frank Gore? They’ll be in the Super Bowl, along with the Harbaugh Bros., who are adept at the chess master side of the game. I don’t identify much with team executives, but I respect their ability to put together a team, given budget constraints and draft and free agency rules.

  14. An intresting aside, a couple of years ago I was watching a football game with a fellow from England (it was his first time ‘ in the colonies’) His impressions, well, he said the game appeared to him as “sort of an organized riot” but what I really found hilarious, from the commericials he assumed Americen men “All drove pickup trucks, drank a lot of beer, and needed help getting an erection!”

  15. You make some points I agree with, including taxpayer-financed stadiums/arenas being a boondoggle, and a tendency toward stupid tribalism in fandom. I definitely don’t think any man who isn’t into sports should bear any social stigma for that fact. You seem to take it further, though, arguing that it should be the opposite, with a passion for sports making someone less of a man. That would just flip a stupid stigma on it’s still-stupid head. Just because you find little about sports to appeal to you doesn’t mean there’s nothing redeeming about them, whether as a participant or a fan. It would make as much sense to argue that real women don’t like dance, on account of the high rate of eating disorders, prima donna bitchiness, and dance-related injuries, all for something that amounts to flailing around on stage. If you leave out the best parts, *any* interest sounds pretty lame. (It even works on sex. “Sex – navigating attraction and rejection all for a chance at some involuntary muscle spasms that could result in unwanted pregnancy or STI’s.”)

    • lol yeah sex is pretty tiresome annoying and useless unless you want to get pregnant….or you’re getting paid….yeah I said it lol. Lol sadly we humans love the things that are the most harmful to us like alcohol for example and oh yeah cigarettes. We know they’re bad but oh baby are we in love with them.

      • You realize that wasn’t my attitude toward sex, but an example of how even something most people find appealing and desirable can be made to look lame or unhealthy by playing up the negative aspects and ignoring the positive ones, right? The intended point wasn’t about liking stuff that’s bad for us, but about how pretty much anything can be described in such a way as to make it sound bad and unappealing. The dancing thing was another example, intentionally chosen as a physical activity that skews female, not me stating a belief that “real women don’t like dance”. I disagree with that strongly, just like the author’s assertion here that “real men don’t watch sports”.

    • I feel sorry for dancers and models. I model but I refuse to lose weight to do it. But seriously high heels are a torture device and yet women are in love with them how crazy is that. But yeah I don’t support ballet or high fashion modelling that encourages racism and eating disorders. This is a great topic that Edwin has brought up. Alot of athletes have seriously inflated egos. I think most people can agree that that is a problem along with all the other obvious things. There are some crazy things out there.

  16. José L. Gomez Jr. says:

    I too do not watch sports, (I used to watch kickboxing, boxing, & MMA), but for more than 3 years I have not. Now, I’m reading books, writing books, painting pictures, and having spiritual & fun conversations with my soulmate. Sports are used to affect the animal side of our brain, pertaining to competition and survival. There are many more important things happening in this world while people are being distracted with sports. Follow me on FB or Twitter to see what I mean. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this. My soulmate and I always have meals with no television, and read the same books together so that we can come to similar understandings. Real men are able to see the depth of what is going on in society past an animalistic social acceptance, and step up to accept the reigns of social responsibility. We are all connected, and responsible for our fellow man. In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.

  17. Real Men Don’t Watch Sports! Real Men Watch Sports! I’m getting pretty tired of others telling me what ‘Real Men’ do! Sometimes you’ll find me in front of the TV watching a game (if the weather’s crappy and I have a temporary repreive from the ‘Honey-do’ list) When my kids were young I’d more than likely be at one of their games since I’d really rather watch and cheer them on (or coach them) than watch some guys who I really don’t know and who don’t know me. But, to tell you the truth, there are many reasons guys watch sports. A lot of guys I know who you might consider ‘sports nuts’ in fact have money riding on the outcome. (Being from Nevada, I assume you’ve heard of ‘Point Spreads’). I know others who appreciate some refuge from our increasingly feminized world. Still others are somehow reliving their high school or even college ‘Glory Days’. Me, I just watch if there’s nothing else to do (Honestly, sports are probably the one thing on TV that intrests me)

  18. Edwin- Very interesting perspective that has coerced me to reflect on society’s very preocupation of the sports culture. I agree with your points to some extent, but cannot bypass the fact that you are writing from a very privileged position. It is my guess from your bio and from your comments about being exposed to many things as youngster that you have had the ability to make very informed choices throughout your life. Many of those individuals who play professional football or basketball hail from inner cities and may not have a father to expose them to different things as yours has. Sports provides an inherently alternative narrative to the violent, drugged-laced communities that incessantly permeate our inner cities. Their alternative is not to get an MFA and have the ability to write a post degrading sports culture. I do agree that there are serious health implications in professional football as well as ethical/ health risks with the increase in PED’s- that require intentional reform. And you’re right on the money about the funding debacle that dominates political dialogue in many areas; however, don’t forget the revenue generator that college and professionals sports are to our society. Your egregious title for this article will undoubtedly prompt more individuals to click on your article, but I do implore you to think about what sports means to individuals who may have not had the innate, predisposed ability to choose as you have.

  19. Edwin, I saw the title and as both a sports fan and someone who hates many aspect of sport in America, I was hopeful that this might be a nuanced/intelligent discussion of some of those aspects that I detest. While you do make some excellent points (which I will touch on and expand upon in a bit), I feel that, especially given your admitted non-fan status, the conclusion you come to is oversimplified and frankly untenable in the current competitive culture of our country.

    I really wish you had spent more of this article focusing on what you describe as “the stereotypical grunting, heaving, addle-brained muscle man.” I’m right on board with you there. As someone who plays multiple sports (albeit not traditional “masculine” ones: Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Tennis, and Distance Running), I hate that many athletes I compete with and against feel the need to flaunt their manhood at any given opportunity, both on and off the field. This is especially true at the high school and college levels, where even the most average Football or Men’s Basketball player at a D-1 school is treated with a certain almost godliness that most of them will never get in the rest of their lives. So much of their worth is tied up in the entertainment value (and at the college level, bringing in boatloads of money for their university), and this often leads to athletes not being held to the same standard of behavior as the average student. How many times over the past decade have we heard about some male college athlete (again, this is mostly Football and Basketball, but there was the whole lacrosse case at Duke a few years back) who was charged with or accused of some sexual misconduct, and the university in question spending a lot more time and effort on protecting the reputation of the institution and its athletics than they do on actually helping the victim. The reason this is so common is because male athletes are almost expected to be sexually successful in addition to their success on the field, no matter who gets hurt along the way. That, in my mind is perhaps the most disgusting aspect of sports culture in this country, the idea that a man thinks he can get with whoever he wants simply because he can run fast and catch a ball.

    Secondly, I completely agree with your sentiment about the amount of tax dollars funneled into huge arenas/stadiums that cities will never recoup. My own city of Atlanta is currently in the process of getting ready to build a new huge stadium for the Falcons, when the current one is only 20 years old and is in perfectly good working order. I’m frankly befuddled by the decision. One thing I will say for stadium-building is that it can do a lot for livening up and cleaning up a neighborhood that may desperately need it. That was the idea behind the new Washington Nationals stadium in Anacostia in Washington, DC, and while it’s probably too early to judge if it was a success or not, I know there are several examples where choosing to build a stadium in a less well-off part of town proved to be a success in revitalizing that area.

    Now to address the aspects of your piece that I didn’t think were so great:

    With regard to fandom, who does it hurt? I see it as no worse than people who prefer Star Trek to Star Wars or Green to Orange, and certainly not nearly as bad as the tribalism involved in Republicans vs Democrats. So you grew up in an area where everyone cheered for one team, and you adopted that team as your own team to cheer for year in and year out? So what? If you’re trying to advocate an end to all artificial tribalism that our society has adopted, then sure I can get behind that from an idealistic perspective. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not going away any time soon, and there are many worse forms of tribalism that infect our world today (the aforementioned political divide, religious struggles, our constant worry about China becoming the global power, etc.) Just because you don’t particularly ascribe to a given “tribe” of sports fans doesn’t mean you have to take it away from those who do. I’m an atheist, but you don’t see me telling the Christians and Muslims and Jews of the world to stop believing what they believe.

    I agree with your point about athletes beating each other up for our entertainment, an aspect I find deplorable, but by making that one of your key arguments, you are essentially reducing your dislike to sports in general to dislike of: Football, Boxing, MMA, Hockey, and a few others. Yes, athletes hurt each other in sports like Basketball, Baseball, and Soccer, but that is far from one of the main goals. Most people enjoy watching sports simply for the competitive aspect of it and not knowing what the outcome of a given game is going to be. There are a few out there who enjoy watching two (or more) men clobber each other (thus explaining the popularity of MMA, Boxing, etc), but they are far from the majority. I would say that the average fan much prefers a good, competitive game of whatever sport it is they are watching to simply watching to men beat the snot out of each other.

    Finally, with regard to finding a burger, there are plenty of options there without having to be surrounded by blaring TVs that don’t involve hot dog stands and bus stations. I’m sure you can find at least one out there (if I may suggest one, has Five Guys reached Reno yet?). 😛

    • Edwin Lyngar says:

      You have a point about lumping all sports together. Many of the injury, barbarity arguments are harder to make when it comes to soccer; however, a lot of the fandom comments still make sense. Have you seen the riots and violence after a world cup?

      And I don’t propose “taking away” anything. I just want to offer the non-traditional male take on sports. It is not heard enough, I think.

      • What would you say about MMA or boxing, where injury and barbarity are a large portion of the whole point, right up there with skill and persistence?

      • Edwin:

        And I don’t propose “taking away” anything.

        As if that were even possible! What a laugh! That would be like wanting to do away with museums and zoos. (Well, the fringe group PETA does want to do away with zoos; but somehow I doubt they will ever receive much support.) Guys, it just ain’t going to happen; so, stop saying Edwin and others are trying to take away your sports.

        I just want to offer the non-traditional male take on sports. It is not heard enough, I think.

        I thank you very much for sounding off. You’re absolutely right it’s not heard enough. A lot of attention is paid to the various problems faced by boys who participate in sports such as football (as should be done, by the way). But who speaks for nonathletic boys?

        What’s funny is that many of the boys and men who have no interest in sports are traditional in just about everything else. But, of course, in the minds of some, we’re just “feminized males.”

  20. 1. There are intangibles to playing sports which it appears you’ve never experienced: self-discipline, mental toughness, overcoming hardship, facing fear, camaraderie. If you don’t see why men bond through hardship that’s your own inexperience at fault.

    2. Unnaturally muscled meatheads? What a sad and insulting way to look at people not like you. It reeks of the same whininess that the “nice guys” always do: instead of just being better, or being happy with who you are, you have to tear down other people for who they are. Really, for who you imagine they are. Plenty of athletes are incredibly smart. But all you see, resentfully, is muscles.

    3. Men love to “talk shop.” Sports give a common subject for men from different walks of life to “talk shop.” I’m a philosophy student. I can’t talk shop with most of my friends because the finer points of modal logic do not interest them. But we can talk about sports.

    4. It’s inspiring to see other human beings achieve. It’s exciting to see strategy and skill play out. And it’s nice to see sincerity in our culture, not just smirking irony or spoiled-child “authenticity.” Athletes are nothing if not sincere.

    5. Go read a poem? Seriously? I love poetry. I memorize it for fun. I recite it on long drives to myself. I still recognize that encouraging men to *play* the sport instead of watching it is smarter advice.

    • I’ll be sure not to apply for a job at the company you own, then.

    • Edwin Lyngar says:

      I’ve seen masculine hardship in the military. I don’t like so-called masculine cultures, even as I find myself more comfortable in them. I think playing sports is great, but the worship of the sports culture, on the whole, is bad for men.

      • Why don’t you like those cultures, especially if you feel more comfortable with them? Military is also my background. I absolutely hated some of the people I encountered (“haha we killed some kittens today” or “dumb fuckin sluts blah blah blah” or even “the Spartans died out because they stopped shaving every day”), but I loved the quality of the best I knew. I haven’t played real team sports since I was maybe 9 or 10, and was never much good at them. So maybe I just don’t know enough about them. But I think that for a football player in a high-stakes game who’s hurting, there’s probably a similar sense of connection to his teammates and to a sense of purpose. I think admiring the guts it takes to play through pain is perfectly natural, and a nice antidote to our me-first, avoid-pain-at-all-costs culture.

        • My job involves being part of a team. We all count on each other. It’s not playing sports, it’s basically a paramilitary type organization and it’s a pretty masculine group. We know all too well what it’s like to work even though you got injured the day before, but most of us just work through it. Me personally, I don’t need to watch sports, and don’t need to admire someone for playing through the pain. It’s a sport, it’s not something that makes the world go round, so it’s no big deal to me. I do periodically watch sports but if I miss most of the season, who cares. I know guys that are very addicted to watching sports, they will fight for “their” team, get mad, and act like they are financially invested in the team, personally, I just don’t get it.

    • @Rick .. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Rick, regarding Point No. 2 in your post, speaking of tearing guys down, how about the way nonathletic boys are often treated in a society whose popular culture is saturated with sports? Such boys are likely to be bullied simply for having no interest in them. Even today, as was true when I was a boy, a lack of interest in sports on the part of a young boy is regarded by some “authorities” as a sign of possible homosexual tendencies. (Absolutely ludicrous!) You object to stereotyping, yet there’s a lot of stereotyping on the other side. How are slightly built men viewed? As wimps and cowards. All of these attitudes are prevalent today as they have been in generations past, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The reason why some men are vocal in their dislike of sports is because they were deeply hurt by the sports culture when they were boys.

      Developing self-confidence in a boy is important in preparing him for adulthood. If he will feel better about himself by participating in a sport, more power to him. But contrary to the views of so many people, the boy who chooses to not participate in a sport is not deficient or inferior. There have been men of uncommon greatness who never participated in sports, including those who put their lives on the line for others..

      As far as physical fitness is concerned, I don’t need sports. I work out at a health club.

      • I can’t speak to where you grew up. Where I grew up, after junior high nobody picked on the nerdy or non-athletic guys, which was certainly me. I’ve only started watching football at all in the last year or so, and never bothered watching any other sport. I don’t recall anybody, even in the hyper-masculine environments in which I spent most of my adult life, giving me trouble for not being interested in watching sports. The only awkwardness about it was that I wouldn’t know/understand much of what was going on around me socially; otherwise, no one cared that I wasn’t interested.

        If someone is being seen unfairly as a wimp or a coward, that’s wrong. I’m frankly bewildered by your defensiveness. I’m not attacking men who don’t care about sports; I pretty much am one. I’m not attacking men who are not athletic. I’m defending men who really love playing and watching sports. That’s all.

        • I understand you now. I think we’re speaking on the same page.

          I can tell you that my boyhood experience was completely different from yours. Boys who had no interest in sports were considered to be sissies and frequently were bullied. A childhood friend of mine who played football at one of the high schools in our district recently told me that most of his teammates had looked down at the nonathletic guys at their school as being inferior. Another friend of mine who played on the same team told me last year that he never saw such insecure guys. He said they were often trying to prove their masculinity over and over again, usually at the expense of nonathletic guys at their school who had no interest in football and just wanted to be left alone. I don’t mean to make a generalization here. I’m just saying this mindset sometimes occurs and no one likes to talk about it.

          I also have no problem with men who love playing and watching sports, but don’t denigrate those who don’t happen to share their preferences. That would include my personal trainers at the health club. (I’ve been seriously committed to a bodybuilding program for about the last four years.) My close friends include two guys who played football in high school, one of whom went on to play football at the university where he earned his degree. They’re both gentle guys who emphatically reject the attitudes I described above.

          I’m glad you chose to reply to my comments. You’re to be commended for your civility. We have no argument.


    • “1. There are intangibles to playing sports which it appears you’ve never experienced: self-discipline, mental toughness, overcoming hardship, facing fear, camaraderie.”

      Uh-oh, Rick. It appears you have just made a personal attack. Have you ever met Edwin? Do you know him personally? Do you know if he’s ever had to overcome any hardships of his own? No, you really don’t know anything about him. He’s a complete stranger to you.

      • Bill, appearances can be deceptive.

        My #1 was a direct response to this line from the piece: “For instance, why does the average high school football player risk his health for the game? Average players will never see a dime for their efforts, but they’ll often limp through life like professionals, with bad joints and chronic injuries.”

        If you don’t understand why someone would risk their health when they’re not being financially compensated, you must be unfamiliar with the other motivations. If you’re unfamiliar with the other motivations, you must never have experienced them yourself. Ergo, little or no experience playing sports seriously. If you don’t see intangible benefits to playing sports, you probably haven’t done it much. And that’s the sort of hardship I was referring to Edwin overcoming.

        • edwin lyngar says:

          So, Rick, like I said, I played sports and was in the military. I know the benefits of fitness and competition. My piece wasn’t so much a condemnation of playing sports as much as an indictment of the spectator sports culture. However, parents who drive their kids into permanently injuring themselves for high school sports in particular, perhaps should reconsider their values. Playing baseball or soccer or many other sports is great! However, the level of competition and injury in many youth sports (football and even cheer leading?) should give a thoughtful person pause.

          Bill, thanks for the support and comments.

          • Sure, Edwin, making your kids hurt themselves is abusive. However, I’m not of the belief that it’s a tragedy which outweighs the positives when a kid is hurt playing. Obviously it’s crappy and it’s sad, and I’m certainly open to discussions about making sports safer for kids, but I think the risks are something which a reasonable person might undertake. We just live in such a safe society, insulated from so much risk, that we assume that continually insulating kids from risk is better. I think there’s more of a bell curve on it. Once you eliminate the plausible sources of death, dismemberment, and crippling injury, increasing protection is not necessarily all that desirable. Learning some level of risk tolerance, risk evaluating, and personal courage are important parts of development. And unfortunately, you can’t really do most of that without some sort of risk. (And of course, for there to be a risk, there has to be people who get hurt.) These don’t have to be exclusively physical issues, but I think a person who has never experienced taking physical risks is going to lack some perspective on life.

        • Okay, you do have a point regarding the average high-school football player risking his health for the game. There could be an extensive discussion on that question alone.

          You seem to be saying that if I did not participate in any sport when I was a kid, I should be ashamed. Well, I plead guilty, except for saying that I should feel ashamed about it. In fact, I never had any interest in sports when I was a kid (as if that were a crime against nature). Funny, I was a typical boy in all other respects. I firmly reject the notion held by so many that boys who show no interest in sports are “feminized,” deficient, or inferior. I don’t deny the reality of the intangibles you speak of, but I don’t think they are exclusively restricted to sports and are available nowhere else.

          Speaking of motivations you have not mentioned, traits such as empathy and compassion (which many have considered to be “feminine” instead of simply human) have also motivated others to take risks and endure hardships, even to the point of risking their lives. Just as an example, I would say that the white and black Americans who publicly opposed Jim Crow during the 1950s and continuing through the early 1960s happen to fall into this category. We’re talking about individuals who were often subjected to persecution. I read somewhere that about 80 of the civil rights marchers in the deep South during the early 1960s were murdered. Did all the men in this movement come from athletic backgrounds? These were people who were driven by a sense of social justice. They were cut from the same cloth as the Soviet dissidents. I could go on and on giving examples of courageous men who never participated in any sport.

          Again, regarding whether a guy is a sports fan or not, to each his own, as the cliche goes. Whatever floats your boat (sadly, another cliche).

          • I’m not saying that at all, dude. Just suggesting that if you haven’t experienced something, denigrating it is perhaps premature. We can make this about sex to show the principle: if you’ve never had sex, it might seem like BDSM is exploitative and immoral. But if you haven’t even had sex (or haven’t had it very much), one should be very humble in critiquing other people’s practices. Even if you find them incomprehensible yourself.

            I have no idea about the civil rights marchers. I do think that, like other traits, some people are born more courageous/compassionate/etc. Others have to develop those traits. I think that playing sports is a great way to develop both of those traits. It’s not the only way, but it’s a way.

  21. There’s nothing unhealthy about sports; there are only things unhealthy about the way our culture (and others) perceive sports. The only thing that is unhealthy about sports is our attitude concerning sports, as though these are things of terrible importance. If we could perceive athletics as being about pushing each other (not the opponent, but the mutual other involved in the game) to great physical achievements, but nothing more than that, well, I’d say that’s a better picture. If we could perceive that all sports contain mutuality, self and other coming together, there’d be less anger and stupidity in sports, and this would be an even better picture. Unfortunately, we take all athletics far too seriously (but seriously, American especially take many things far too seriously) and seem to forget the main idea of a sport is two becoming one to create a game, which all are a part of. Too often sports in America are seen as us vs them (and some real stupid and ignorant anger and hate grows there), when in reality all athletic events, while obviously containing conflict, should actually be about a kind of creative competition where one respects the other side, for it is the other team/player upon which one’s creativity and performance depends – sports are a dance, and an often lovely one (though I agree that football is pretty meat-headed and often dangerous, and I prefer tennis and that old version of futball where you use your feet).

    Really though, this article could be said about just about anything in our culture. Are sports ruining men – it’s just such a limited way of viewing a cultural problem. You could say the same thing about tv or the internet or like automobiles. Men are being ruined by the fact that there are too many car commercials and they think the bigger car they have the better they are, etc, same us vs them idea. The problem isn’t the things themselves (the game, the car), it’s the consciousness of the beings in our culture. If one brings any real consciousness to something like an athletic event, one can experience that event in the same way as one experiences all existence, that of a mutual becoming, a dance, a game we are all a part of – if one were to really think about what is actually at the heart of athletics (not the I’m tough and strong and they were weaker and not as fast), but that all things grow through struggle of some kind, then we’d probably be in a better spot.

    As for the dinner thing: uh, don’t go to a sports bar.

  22. Real men don’t let others tell what real men do or do not do.
    That’s a mouth full. If you like sports, cool. If you don’t like sports, cool

    • Furiouz … Yup. That sums it up.

      Someone else made the comment about people trying to define real men and it’s getting tiring. Now we’re taking something that many men/boys have harmlessly experienced for years and are picking it apart. Okay, let’s start picking apart other areas where people have enjoyed past times and how it may be adversely affecting society or trying to equate it to being a real (fill in the blank). It’s like you’re damned if you do or damned if ya don’t. I wish people would stop trying to redefine what a man should or shouldn’t be.

      • Couldn’t agree more. Declaring what “real men” do or don’t do is an obnoxious bit of policing that benefits no one.

        In this case, I suspect statistics is strongly against the argument made by this article. I’d be willing to bet money that a lot more men are serious fans of sports, and not sports-haters, who are identified by themselves, their peers, and their lovers as “real men”.

  23. The biggest harm that pro sports do to men is in their wallets (live tickets are expensive) and in creating sedentary habits. By creating sports as something that you *watch* rather than something you *do* (at least after your teens and 20s), fan culture creates a class of sedentary sports nuts.

    But I think it’s important to ask what sports and fandom *gives* men. The answer should be obvious – it’s a chance to cheer for your “gang” (or your “champion”, in the case of individual sports) to beat the other gangs and emerge triumphant. Yes, the violence in football (or boxing, or MMA) is there. But these men are compensated extremely well for the physical risks they take, and they know what they are doing.

  24. Edwin, I understand your sentiment, and you make some good points about the need to pull the plug on major subsidies for stadiums or at least educate people about this, as well as the need for other paradigms of manhood. I’d also say that sports put many men in a “vicarious life” where they’re not using that competitive energy to work their own life challenges . At the same time, your arguments are very mental. Sports are in the DNA of many men. It engages the male competitive spirit. Beyond logic, competition is vital for the well-being of a man and sports today engage that.

    Stuart Motola
    Ubuntu Coaching for Men

  25. Is thia blog real? Many men, like me can’t get enough of sports. Part of the competiton is in our blood. As we speak I’m mentally preparing for the Patriots v Ravens game. If sports aren’t your thing, fine. But to pose whether its hurtful to men as a whole is sad. So women’s love of sport is empowering but mens love of sports is hurting us? Utter garbage in my book. Writings like this hurt men (if taken seriuosly) not enjoying our love of sports. A love that can be documented back to the ancient Greeks. Enjoy watching the O Network. I’m eating chili, cracking a beer and watching an AFC Championship game.

    • Thank you, Ben, for inadvertently supporting my every single point.

    • “I’m mentally preparing for the patriots vs ravens game”… Mentally preparing to do what? Sit on your ass watching TV and drink beer? Don’t mentally hurt yourself there pal haha. Yeah this is exactly what the article was saying, it’s so much comedy that this guy can’t even get it at all, what a dope

      • Jo – What a great response! I agree – all this “mental preparation” seems like a complete waste to me. I’ve often felt that I am missing the sport’s gene – like there’s a brain thing that unlike nearly every other male, I get absolutely NO reward for for 3-4 hours watching someone win and someone lose every time.

        I have this fantasy that someday, instead of football, basketball, etc. we may watch teams of people who are hurting, lost or somehow the underdog being lifted up by another “team” who comes to their aid – is that corny?

    • I feel you man, not everyone is going to watch sports and that’s that, but saying it ruins our culture or even that sports fans are less intelligent that non fans. Total bull. From what iv’e seen People who watch sports are much more social and well liked than non-fans. PS. You better not be a damn Ravens fan

    • Competition? LOL , you aren’t competing, you are sitting on you couch. Maybe competing to see who can eat the most crap or drink the most.

  26. Vasco Nunes says:

    I agree with Edwin. I find it degrading to watch two men beat the crap of each and its ok and even acceptable.
    Couple of years ago a hockey player almost got killed on the ice by the opposing player.
    What was the response and I quote ” If can’t take the heat, there is always figure staking” – Don Cherry
    It’s part of the sport.!! What a load of BS.
    There are sports that get almost no coverage – because they not macho enough – i.e. Artistic Gymanstics , Volleyball and many others. Men are their own worst enemies.


  1. […] Men Don’t Watch Sports Posted on February 6, 2013 by Edwin Lyngar This article I wrote generated more than fifty comments when it was posted on the Good Men Project.  […]

  2. […] Is our sports culture hurting men? (Real Men Don't Watch Sports Is our sports culture hurting men?)  […]

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