Real Men

Photo by Duffy Brook on Unsplash
A couple of months ago, my husband and I visited our son’s family and attended our grandchildren’s soccer games. In one of these games the players were young, and their coaches were allowed to be right out on the field with them. One of the coaches was a tall man, well over six feet, who sported a short buzz haircut hinting that he might be a member of the military stationed at a nearby naval base. The muscles in his legs and arms were well defined, and even with his T-shirt on, it was obvious that his chest was similarly muscular. His voice, as he called out encouragement and instructions to his team, was so deep it seemed to come from down within him and rumble out over the field. He was, in short, a very masculine human being, but it wasn’t this which planted him in my memory. Rather it was an incident which took place during the game.

                It was well into the second half when a woman walked up to the sidelines near where I was standing. She was holding a little girl who appeared to be barely past her first birthday and was hardly old enough to be called a toddler rather than a baby. The woman stood there looking expectantly out at the field for a few minutes before the coach looked over at her.
                “She sees you out there and wants you,” the woman, who I now deduced was the coach’s wife, called out to him. Then she set the child down on the ground.
                The man glanced back at the field to make certain all was well with his team, then trotted over to where the little girl was toddling out to him. There were no impatient looks or words that said to his wife, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” Instead, with an air of complete delight, he scooped up the child and tucked her in the crook of his arm. I could not hear all of what he said to her as he did so, but the resonance of his voice, which I did pick-up, was pure tenderness and love. With the child riding safely in his arm, the coach went back to the game. He carried the little girl with him for several minutes as he trotted up and down the field with his team. Then, when the child had had enough, he detoured back to the sideline and handed her back to her mother. This was a very simple exchange and was probably hardly even noticed by the other spectators. It only stood out to me because of my nearness to it which made me feel a bit like an interloper.
Over the past weeks as report after report has come forward of men who have used their power to abuse and exploit women and children, this simple incident on the soccer field has come back to me time and again. It has stuck in my mind and captivated me, I think because it stands in such stark contrast to these reports. For the short time I watched this man, I saw his respect for his wife and his love for his child, as well as for the children he was coaching. Rather than ever exploit these people, he seemed a man who would protect them with all the strength and power he possessed.
                Ironically, other than his masculine appearance, this man is the type of man we often make the butt of jokes—a man who coaches his kid’s team, a man who listens to his wife, a family man who probably drives a mini-van. Rather than admiring this type of man, we generally portray him as being weak and emasculated. On the other hand, we admire men who amass large piles of money (regardless of how ethically they go about doing it), men who wield power and influence (regardless of how they treat their subordinates in the process), and men who bed a large number of women (rather than being faithful to one). If you think I’m wrong, just watch a few beer commercials and an hour or two of situational comedies, and then talk to me. Certainly each man is responsible for his own actions, but we as a society are responsible for the actions we reward with our admiration. And when we enshrine the saying, “Good guys finish last,” we reap the results of that attitude.
Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash
               Our current society reminds me of the situation in the play Camelot when Arthur becomes king, a position he is not entirely comfortable with. He ponders his purpose in being in that position and sees that in the kingdom he has inherited, the powerful are preying on the weak. He says the people seem to have the idea that “might makes right,” or in other words, the strong take and do whatever they want simply because their strength allows them to do so. Arthur believes this idea is wrong. He forms the Knights of the Round Table based on the idea of “might for right,” or in other words, strength should be used to help and defend the weak not exploit them. This revolutionary idea leads to the Knights of the Round Table becoming great heroes and champions in the land.
                Perhaps we, as a society, need a revolution like the one in Camelot. Perhaps we need to redefine what we consider to be the definition of manhood. Perhaps we need to change what we admire in men.  Manhood should not be defined by money, power, and sex appeal. Minivan or not, “real men” are the men who enrich the world with joy, who are powerful through the goodness they stand for, and who protect children and respect women. These are the men I love. These are the men we need. This is the kind of man I saw on the soccer field that day.


  1. Dayle, you are such a beautiful writer! Such a timely piece! Proud to be related to you, cousin!


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