Margaret 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.