Want instant male friendship? Join a pickup game of football.
The other day I came across one such game on the field of the Citadel. I was out there for a volunteer event, but some dudes wisely capitalized on a lull in the action to start a game. And I joined in.
We didn’t need to talk. We didn’t even need to introduce ourselves. We just played, laughed, and sweated together. Later on in the day, when I needed some dudes to help me lift some tables, that crew joined in to help out. I maybe learned one guy’s name.
Physical competence or incompetence signals a ton to men about your trustworthiness and likeability. You can win it (in time) with words, but action is worth a thousand of those. Being bold enough to put your skills to the test shows that you have some spine. Speed and accuracy show that you have done the work. Persistence shows that you have guts and resilience.
In these ways, my ability to play football is a powerful “language” skill. At the same time, my inability to play basketball well is a powerful language deficit. As a man, my communal life with other men is constrained by my sports literacy – and that’s true for most of us.
To the extent men aren’t learning to “speak” with their bodies and their physical competencies, they’re losing a powerful, natural way of speaking to each other. If you don’t think learning sports matters, you don’t have much place talking about male relationships