Men Heart Sports

heartMargaret Wente’s G&M article “Watching men watching sports” suggests that men experience sports far more fanatically than women and that sports is an arena for men to bond and engage with other men. True, some men love their sports and the loyalty, joy and agony some men experience through their team, and its wins and losses, is unparalleled with any other relationship. However, women can also be fanatic. While 3 men died of heart attacks during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in 2006 during theWorld Cup in Germany, the New England Medical Journal examined heart attack trends among Germans during the tournament, compared to other times of the year. On the days Germany played, heart attacks tripled for men and nearly doubled for women. For a fan to put their own “life on the line” for a game is excessive, but playing and watching sports is indeed an avenue for men in particular to make contact both physically and emotionally with other men. And it is not just about expressing and releasing aggression, exhibiting strength and taking risks; there is also a softness to sports that we also admire. Those who are technically skilled, sportsmanlike and conquer a personal story seem to capture our hearts and stand out as even greater role models than others. Cooperating and competing with others allows one to bear witness to the successes and failures of other men and to ultimately share common experiences. These interactions and the universality of sport strengthens bonds between men and increases the chances of other kinds of social exchange.

When conversations about our health and mental health matter most, we believe that friendships created through sport makes these conversations possible. Shoulders are not just for checking; they were also designed for one to lean on.

More Than A Haircut

The Globe and Mail‘s story of Ontario Judge Donald McLeod is not just about a boy who grew up “in the projects” but also about a boy who grew up without a father. Luckily Donald had a strong and supportive mother; he also discovered a male role model and mentor in Mr. Lowenstein, a Bay Street Lawyer, which may have helped to change his course. Donald, who is now a father to a 10-year-old son, still seems baffled about their relationship and the presence they share in each others lives. Donald would not be the only Afro-Canadian to grow up without a present and involved father.

Justice McLeod notes that “Absent fathers are still a difficult issue in our community. It impacts a lot on young black men. In the criminal justice system, there are a lot of individuals who do not have their fathers present. It’s something that has to be addressed.”

In his swearing-in speech, Justice McLeod said he stood on the shoulders of other black judges, such as Justice Michael Tulloch, first black member of the Ontario Court of Appeal (an appointee of the Harper government). “And so now I add my shoulders to the conversation, and upon these shoulders the next and then the next.”

Afro-Carribean fathers are coming together, shoulder-to-shoulder, having conversations and supporting one another’s role as fathers. In Toronto, the Macaulay Child Development Centre partners with Barbers and Black community leaders to offer More than a Haircut: The Barbershop Project. The purpose of these discussions is to increase positive father involvement in children’s development.

All fathers are in need of more than just a haircut and we hope to support their mental health needs every step of the way.