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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chapter 10. Are We Not Men?

by Bob Andelman
"I recall a game, the Jets against Miami. The field was wet and awful. I remember being home by myself and hyperventilating over that game. The room was spinning; I wasn't drinking. I remember A.J. Duhe deflecting a Richard Todd pass and running it in for a touchdown. I was screaming and pacing. Pretty embarrassing. I was glad nobody else was there."
Jim Luttrell
Newspaper editor
Louisville, Kentucky

Competition makes men clever, cunning and devious. It makes us mean. And sometimes it makes us pretty funny, too.

Before the Miami Dolphins moved to Joe Robbie Stadium, South Florida resident Joe DiRaffaele took the following sign to a game at the Orange Bowl:

Go Dolphins!
(And Take the Cubans with You!)

"I used to be kind of wild," he says, laughing. "I think about it now -- it was a terrible sign to bring. But, yeah, I did that. Today I would take a sign that said, 'Go Dolphins and Take the Heat with You!' "
Two cheerleaders for the Miami Dolphins footba...Image via Wikipedia
(That recalls another Miami joke, one that circulated after the region was awarded an NHL expansion franchise in late 1992. Pundits suggested the team be named the "Humidity," as in: "If you thought the Heat was bad, wait till you see the Humidity!")

DiRaffaele is relentless as a competitor, especially when it comes to hating the Dolphins. "Don Shula cheats!" he swears. "I think it's a conflict that he gets to be on the scheduling committee and the referee committee. When he plays a cold-weather team, it's a team that plays indoors!"

As for his Jets, DiRaffaele is a true believer. "To me, it's not over till the Jets are mathematically eliminated. There's always hope. Every Sunday, there's hope."

That's the fun side of competition. The serious side is another part of what draws men to football. We get great satisfaction out of putting our best 11 guys against your best 11 guys and scraping and brawling until the best team wins (or more guys from one team than the other are left standing).

Men are, by nature, competitive. Women are not, according to Dr. William J. Beausay.

"Now that doesn't mean that a female here and there cannot be taught to be competitive, because they can," he hastens to add. "Look at female tennis players. Obviously they are competitive. But even there, they lack the fire men have. If you compare feminine sexuality to male sexuality you'll discover that the female in our species is the life-bearer and men don't know anything about that at all. We are out in the woods, hunting and competing for food and the female is at home having babies. I know the women don't like to believe that is where they are happiest, but they are, whether they like it or not. I know there is a heavy emphasis in America on women's liberation but they are not as liberated as they would like to believe. The most liberated female is the one who does not fight her anatomy but who goes along with it. This does not mean she is not into athletics or sports; she can be but, by nature, she does not have the fire and the highly motivated competitive spirit that men do. All you have to do is watch them. They just lack it. They don't have what men do. I'm not saying that is good. I'm not sure it's good for men; probably we pay a price for that. We are men and we compete with one another. We have been doing it for a million years. We compete for available food and for the best women and we compete in football games."

Beausay says that when he looks at sports, he can easily see a million years of compressed male evolution represented.

"For example," he says, "the quarterback and his offensive team are a perfect model of a lion and his pride. There are about 50 points of connection between the dominant male lion and the pride and the quarterback and a football team. You can see the genetic drives from way, way back are playing a role in competitive sports. One of the things you learn when you study animals is that the territorial instinct is a heavy one. When you get into football and basketball, that territorial drive is very important. Keep the enemy out of your territory. Years ago, it was keep them away from your females. In sports today, it's keep the aggressor out of your end of the football field."

The onset of civilization frustrated the genetic drive in all men to hunt and feed. Men still hunt, but it's primarily symbolic. We still stake out our own little territory but we do it down at City Hall and we don't have to defend our caves as we used to. So football, among other sports, provides an outlet for this primal need.

A short course, then, on man's evolution: Hunter . . . Player . . . Spectator.

Men have a territorial instinct and drive for supremacy. There is always a dominant male who plays to win and be No.1. It's there with the animals and it's there with us.

But we can't give in to that instinct as we live in planned developments with 6-foot fences, fire hydrants and utility poles between every wired-for-cable cave. So we pay $25 and go to a football game to experience the modern equivalent of the hunt and kill simply by identifying with the players on the football field.

"Men have a tremendous advantage from a competitive standpoint because we know how to compete," Dan Jiggetts says. "We've been allowed to do it for years."

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