Back in my grade school baseball-playing days, I couldn’t hit very well, but I could’ve led the league in going through the motions. Standing at home plate I would wave the bat several times as though to cock it in anticipation of launching the sphere heading in my direction into a distant parking lot. As the ball would whiz past me, I would shoot a quick glance at the umpire, quietly challenging his strike call. After the third strike my face revealed the appropriate grimace suggesting disappointment but confidence that things would be different during my next at-bat.
I was especially good in the batter’s circle, where the next batter goes to await his turn. I would assume the pose; kneeling on one knee while rubbing something on the bat, mostly dirt, or perhaps smoothing the handle with the tar rag, just like the big league players on TV did. And, of course, I gazed at the pitcher, pretending that I could figure what his strategy would be once I arrived at home plate.
For American boys, these were primal gestures genetically infused from the days of our ancient predecessors who displayed their manliness by swinging a stick or throwing a rock.
Gender differences are less distinct than they used to be, though in this, our annual Men’s Issue, we try to feature pastimes that are still, more or less, guy things – such as our cover story about “Men and Their Boats.” Even if a male isn’t a very good sailor he should damn sure be able to act like one as he inhales the salty air.
I feel somewhat encouraged in noting that doing the male thing is carrying on into another generation. Recently our company sponsored a football-themed event at the Superdome featuring the Manning Football Experience. I watched as boys stood in line and then ran down the field eyeing a machine-launched football speeding in their direction. Some made the catch and then jogged back while displaying an appropriate smugness on their faces. Others missed but still performed the triumphant jog, only their faces looked more like mine after all those times I struck out.
It isn’t always easy being a male. Life is filled with curve-balls, blocked punts and ill winds. Yet whether we seek the roar of the waves or the roar of the crowds, surely next time we’ll get it right.