I used to love baseball. Truth to tell, I still do though I seldom watch any longer. I haven’t since the World Series was cancelled in 1994 because of a labor dispute. I considered that act a stinging slap in the face of the very people whose money the players and owners were fighting over. It was also a blow to all the small vendors whose livelihood depended on the games played in the ballparks in which they labored. It was incredibly selfish in my judgement and I have yet to truly forgive the sport.
This post, however, isn’t about labor vs. management. Nor is it a discussion of the value of sports and entertainment. It’s about something a bit less dramatic but, perhaps, of more general and long-lasting significance. I’ll let you be the judge. I just want to share my thoughts, which come about after this week’s MLB All-Star game (the only baseball I’ve watched all season) and were additive to some I had at the end of the John Deere Classic golf tournament last weekend.
It’s actually a very simple observation, though it may have (I hope it has) tremendous significance historically and culturally. When I was a young man, it was unheard of for men to hug each other (with, perhaps, the exception of the swarm at the mound after a World Series victory). For the most part, men shook hands or slapped each other on the back. Later on, there was the high five, the chest bump, fist bump, etc. All of these were “manly”.
Lately, however, I’ve seen men hug after a victory or, in the case of baseball, even after a particularly important play. The hugs aren’t exactly what I would characterize as warm—as there’s still usually a little backslapping that goes along with them that, in my mind, signify assurance one is not being intimate—but they’re more frequent and less self-conscious. I’m of the opinion this is a good thing.
I think this is important, as well as reflective of a growing acceptance of homosexuality in our culture. I say this because I believe the reason men haven’t been able to hug comes from a deep-seating, acculturated fear of physical intimacy among men; fear that enjoying the sensual pleasure of a good hug somehow puts their masculinity into question. I find this fear a bit ridiculous, but I also believe it’s pervasive. I say ridiculous because, just as being gay is not something one chooses, neither is being straight. Therefore, enjoying a good hug with someone you like and whose company you enjoy and, especially, after an accomplishment you admire, does not mean you are suddenly changing your sexual orientation.
So it’s good to see men becoming more comfortable with hugging each other. I think it signifies a maturity that will, ultimately, result in unthinking and unconscious acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters and is another step on the road to accepting all our fellow human beings, even us atheists.