My church is holding a regional Promise Keeper’s event weekend in a few weeks. The theme for the event is “Game Day” — the poster shows a guy gripping a soccer ball with a mean/competitive look face. And it’s not just this event — Christian men’s events the continent over use the sports theme to try to attract men. Radio preachers, too, tend to draw examples and illustrations from their time playing college football. All of this leads to the implicit assumption that real men like sports — they don’t have to play sports, but they at least have to like watching and hearing about them.
So what about all the others? All my life, I have been the bookworm, whereas my brother was the jock. I remember my parents putting me in a T-ball league, and even at that young age it was clear that that was not for me. Bowling and curling was about all that interested me, and I don’t think these are the kinds of activities that organizers of these men’s events think of when they think of sports — rather hockey, soccer, football, basketball, rugby, and lacrosse. Something that makes you sweat and gives you the chance for some rough contact. Not that I don’t like to be physically active or even that I have any type of aversion to sports more broadly defined (badminton, curling, kayaking, etc.), but team-based sports never interested me all that much.
Now, I don’t know if it is the intention of the organizers of these events to imply that all guys should like sports — in fact, it probably isn’t. And many men do like sports, so it makes sense to try to tie something that interests them into spirituality somehow. But that leaves me and others like me out in the cold. The fact is, I probably wouldn’t go to this event because of that theme — I hunger after community with other guys, but the whole sports thing bores me at best.
So what options are there for men like me? It doesn’t surprise me, looking back, to discover that I had a far greater number of females friends throughout my post-secondary life, because I was more interested in conversation, in discussing ideas, and self-reflection, things that are more associated with women rather than the average Joe. My point is simply this: I know many men who couldn’t care less about sports, but that does not necessarily make them any less worthy of attention from those who are looking to disciple men. I think our stereotypes about what men like or don’t like actually exclude more men than we think they do, and leave those who don’t fit that stereotype confused and disconnected.