They crowded in the tunnel together, arms around one another, hands raised as one. Kids all around clambered for a spot and waited with an outstretched hand just to get a touch from their heroes. The men bowed their heads together bound by similarity in pose but mostly in heart. They were here for each other win or lose but together all the same. They were there for sport but it is something bigger than that which brings them closer.
Men need each other. We need to talk to each other and help each other through tough times. There are too many men dying because of suicide due to mental illness because they believe they have no one to turn to and that no one with understand them if they do. We can't be afraid to show our emotions because we as humans have a basic need to be loved. Dove Men + Care did some research on men and their evaluations of male friendships. They found that 74% of men believe that pop culture does not give enough credit to the support and care involved in men’s friendship. It's not the softening up of men that people see as a problem, it's the lack of belief that a man with emotions is something real.
According to research from Dove Men + Care over two-thirds of men say they bond with their friends over sports or fitness. It makes sense as we see it as an opportunity to share something we love with one another. I think of all the times I spent with my dad at sporting events; freezing our tails off at Bears games, watching the Bulls win championships, and travelling cross country with him and my brother to Cooperstown hitting every ballpark along the way. I cherish the bonds I have with both of them. Men together, win together whether in sports or life.
This March, Dove Men + Care gave me a real opportunity to share how much a relationship with my father means to me by providing tickets to a Sweet Sixteen game in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. My dad never shied away from showing emotion. I've seen him tear up enough times to know that crying isn't something to be ashamed of. When I called him up to tell him we were going to a March Madness game together I could hear it in his voice on the other end of the phone. "I'd love to go with you, that will be special." he said. We both couldn't wait.
In all our time together, neither he nor I had ever attended a March Madness game. I even made a sign that read "This is our first March Madness Game together, I'm here with my dad" and tried to get on the Jumbotron while we bonded over sports. Unfortunately we saw our Wisconsin Badgers fall to Notre Dame but the experience was unlike any other I've had with him. I was watching the game but began to see all around me the bonds of real strength between men.
What I did witness at the game was the ultimate collection of male relationships. I saw fathers with sons, coaches and players, brothers and brothers. As a team, you have to love and respect one another. You have to communicate and trust in each other to play at a high level.
On the court the crowd may have just seen men passing to one another but I saw that when they'd return during drills, they'd take the time to acknowledge their support with a slap of a hand. The culture of caring is something a coach teaches his/her players. You cannot trust someone completely if you don't love and respect them. You have to know that when you fall, they will still be there for you when you do. It's little things like this that let your brothers know that you are there for them.
I saw this brotherly love in the arms around each other's shoulders, a slap on the back when someone wasn't doing well as they headed to the bench, linked arms on the bench as they cheered their teammates on. After a loss there are hugs and crying because finding bonds of real strength in each other just makes sense. Here are examples of guys in sports, showing emotion, a thing that people say real men don't do.
Sports, in itself has emotion built in. Winning is a great feeling but what happens when things don't go our way? The reality is, we are there for each other. Someone must lose, it is part of the game. The agony of defeat among basketball players in the NCAA is consoled by hugs between men whether they be players or coaches who care for one another. After North Carolina's final loss in the championship to Villanova Roy Williams just said "I love my kids in that locker room". We play together, we lose together, we win together; but the important thing is, that we are together.
Visit DoveMenCare.com/NCAA to learn more about the ‘Bonds of Real Strength’ throughout 2016 NCAA March Madness and watch stories from other basketball coaches including this video of Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie.