The UK is in the midst of a sporting extravaganza including the European football tournament, cricket tests, Wimbledon and London Olympics will be next on the agenda. I’m one of those men who loves sport, have always played it and like to connect with other men and my sons through it. However I am also increasingly fascinated by the emotions it generates in men and boys and its dominance in the emotional world of men.
Sport is important to most men, although clearly some men don’t connect to it and are turned off by the whole spectacle. For many it provokes an almost religious fervour in a gladiatorial arena with a massive energy on the ‘gods’ to deliver a positive experience ‘setting the devotees up for the week!’
So why is football so important to men? Why are men so passionate about it? It appears to be one of the safest places for men to express their emotions without incurring any shame. It acts like a public cathartic gym for men’s emotions, where they are given rare permission not only to feel but to freely express , joy, sorrow, grief, suspense, anguish, anger, and delirious ecstasy when the goal goes in.
“Football is a huge therapeutic experience /exercise where you have all these emotions but nevertheless they’re in a safe environment.- Ken Loach – looking for Eric
The football experience seems to create a unique vehicle for men to be at one with themselves and the football hero/team on the field models what is acceptable in this space. The little ‘god’/hero gives permission for the followers to express themselves however they want, and the normal male code of behaviour is forgotten for a brief period in time, allowing men to experience the full spectrum of emotions.
On the pitch when a goal is scored the joy is released and men are allowed unashamedly to celebrate with big joyous smiles, laughter, dancing, hugging, kissing and rolling on top of each other. When the team loses, especially in a key game, sadness is shown with tears on and off the pitch.
What this teaches us, is that men are emotionally expressive and they do have the ability to express the full range of emotions. However this freedom of expression depends on the activity, modelling, permission and geographical space. No doubt this venting and emotional expression can be a positive thing for men but what is often confusing is that when the game is over that emotional expression is locked away. Football may be a great place for men to vent, emote and be cathartic but doesn’t actually help develop emotional fitness, growth and awareness within the rest of their lives