There are four major spectator sports in the United States of America: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Soccer, which is fun to play but boring to watch, remains a distant fifth. Here, I will show how the four major sports correspond with the various forms of American masculinity:
Football: American football is the closest thing we have to satisfy our lust for war, without actually killing people. Aside from football’s actual violence, there is the intellectual level: how do you go about capturing enemy territory, and how do you go about keeping the enemy from capturing yours? American football is really the ultimate sport, a chess match between coaches with human pieces that they can only hope manage to act the way they are instructed. But one might say that football corresponds to the Warrior class of males.
Basketball, on the other hand, is the artist’s game. That’s why the NBA came up with the slam-dunk contest, which continues to draw attention while there’s no way we’d ever watch NFL kickers doing a field goal contest. Longtime UNC coach Dean Smith once wrote, “ours is a beautiful game” when describing the way a nicely set-up offence passes the ball around in blinding speed. And, at the risk of triggering some snowflakes, it is not surprising that the first openly gay American pro athlete came from the NBA.
Now, baseball, recently described (quite accurately) by the Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones as “the white man’s sport” is another monster altogether. No longer the National Pastime, baseball has found its niche in being the “thinking man’s sport”, where “sabremetics” and other such neologisms reside. Baseball is the hipster sport, where we all prattle about ERAs and RBIs and SLGs and OPSs and WARs and what have you….yes, these are first-world statistics that only Captial-W White men have the luxury of caring about. And it’s why everybody knows who LeBron James is and if you ask the average Joe on the street who the best major league baseball player is, you’ll either get “I dunno” or “Reggie Jackson”.
Hockey? Now, hockey I guess is just for men who are stupid. You’ve got goons, enforcers, whatever, guys who fight. They occasionally run into each other on the boards. As a fan, this is interesting only if you are drunk off your ass. Trust me, I know from personal experience as a fan of minor league hockey here in Charlotte. While all spectator sports are best enjoyed drunk, there exist none beyond hockey where drinking is absolutely required.
So there it is.