Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Real Men

Come on in and grab a stump. The weather is so bizarre right now, I'm just leaving the skins open and let come what may. But today I watched some rather ... unique displays of behavior and I thought maybe we could all sit down and talk about what it made me think of.

Fair warning folks, this is a football story. Kinda. Really it's a story about what life is like, and perhaps just a little bit about what it means to be a Real Man. But mostly, it is about football.

You see I had a real break out year in grade 11. I crushed people on a regular basis, was in peek physical condition and generally a terror of the gridiron. I earned an All-Star nod, and was nominated for Offensive Lineman of the Year. I lost by one vote, and my head coach was the presenter for that award, and made a cool speech, in which he mostly talked about me, and how I was the 'Poor Man's Roger Aldag.' It was rather incredible.

But like most people I rested on my laurels a bit. I didn't work out as hard in the space between grade 11 and 12 seasons. I came out and wasn't the lineman I was the year before. I didn't really come into any good plays until our last game. Because my coach said to me 'Coyote, you're only staying in because we have no one else to put in.' That really hit me. So I got back in the gym, knowing I had the Senior Bowl to make up a little bit for such a horrible season.

What happened next, well that was what really stuck with me. I've graduated high school and I got my year book and I headed to the school to go visit with the coaches, and I thought, you know, I got students to sign the grade 11 one, I'll get my coaches to sign the final one.

Little interlude here. I have a few heroes in my life, and one of them was my head coach Brian Saip. He always pushed me to go beyond what I thought I could do, and then beyond what anyone ever thought I could do. He brought out all the best qualities on the football field out of me and helped me grow up a lot.

So I see him and, let's be honest, he's been watching me. He laughs with me and chuckles, and tells a few jokes, and I asked him to sign my book and he says 'Leave it with me. Pick it up later.' And we talk some more and he mentions that I've worked pretty damn hard lately, and is happy with that. So I head off to get a few things I'll need for Senior Bowl and when I get back, Siap is gone but my yearbook is there. I grab it, stow it and head home.

When I get home I finally pop open the signature page and there, all my coaches have signed. But right across the middle of the two pages is a sentence, that to this day, is one of the guiding principles of my life: Real Men Get Back Up!!

I sat there and stared at it. It was both a complement and admonition. He was both chastising me for a craptacular final season but congratulating me on figuring out how to get back up. And let me tell you, I didn't waste that opportunity. I destroyed folks in that Senior Bowl.

So here's the point: I know there's a lot of things that define what makes a man but for me, the only thing that matters, the only rule about what men should be, act like, look like, is that one statement. That one emphatic message from a coach who was proud of his player. The rest, you can forget, the rest is all lies, bullshit, and hyperbole, the rest is nothing but machismo that does nothing but continue restrictive roles and behaviors. The rest, is meaningless. Only one thing matters when it comes to whether or not you're a man.

Real Men Get Back Up.