Corruption of Manliness

Manliness: The traditional male quality of being brave and strong. This is the google definition of the word manliness that we are familiar with today. Even though we have a considerably set in stone definition that’s not exactly what everyone considers the real meaning. The definition of manliness varies person to person. Figuring out the meaning towards manliness affected lives of many, including sports life. As the game of football became established in the late 1800’s, it became the pinnacle to man's masculine demonstration.
To begin, as mentioned above, everyone has a different perspective of what true manliness is. What does not differ is man's fear of losing it. No matter the social class men feared their masculinity was fading. “Upper class men felt a loss of power and influence in public life; middle-class males lost at independence in the workplace and faced conflicting demands for aggression and self-restraint, working class males found their authority diminishing both at home and at work” (Reading Football, 190). The work they were doing in their everyday lives was not making them “man enough”. They felt their lives were becoming too feminized. Due to this high anxiety football was introduced as one of the outlets for men to “regain” their manhood, however, with toxic insecurity comes consequences.
Indeed, the game of football was considered violent, which attracted men to establish their toughness through the sport. Football is a physical contact sport as we know today, but back in the 19th century it was more demanding for physical contact due to the lack of regulations involved in the beginning. Men felt that if they were able to take down another man with brute strength they would be considered the manly man they wanted to be. Football players wanted their masculinity validated while football observers created conversations about the sports manliness. They felt roughness was necessary for this to happen. Yet, again the sport was quite brutal and had high injury rates, so it was at risk of being prohibited. Football and other outdoor sports developed into the only justification for a man’s manhood since his job could no longer fulfill. Due to this anxiety compromises were made that kept football from becoming abolished. If men weren’t apprehensive about losing their masculinity football would have been let go. Without football men’s insecurities about their masculinity would be more prevalent.
Furthermore, when football was introduced to the college institution level it went from an event where men were physically against each other to one another to prove their toughness into young boys who played the sport for fun. Americans were starting to get confused about what football was meant to be. Men would play it to show off their manliness, but boys would play it to learn how to become a man. Some children died because of this and it became questionable why football was considered a manly sport when it was destroying young men’s lives.
Moreover, football was so brutally demanding that it did not show any difference from prize fighting and assault when presented in magazines. It then went at risk for prohibition another time. In order to stop this from occurring artists, publishers, editors etc had to find a way to distinguish the difference between football and assault. After this threat they made football players look calm, cool, collective, and intelligent while maintaining their toughness. In college football they turned the definitions of manliness around. Persevering and remaining determined was the path that a boy should go onto in order to become a man, along with struggling through physical attributions. “ Passage to manhood begins with the ordinary small aches of the hard physical sport: “With these first bruises, and the stiffness that always comes at the beginning of the season, the new boys get his baptism of fire, which teaches him manly self- respect for his own good qualities, and appreciation of similar traits in the character of others.” As much as the physical aches, the rain and mud and constant pressure not to fail make training often unpleasant, yet boys determination “brings out as fine a spirit as you can find in mankind, and bruises and wet clothes and mud are nothing compared with this.” (Reading Football, 198) This quotation by Harper Sears provides insight of the changed view of manliness. It’s not all about being rough, dirty or the strongest. Men are considered men if they overcome their adversities through persistence. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper also transformed the cover of his newspapers from bowery tough men to winsome youth who participated in a sport and not a struggle (Reading Football). Footballs outlook was starting to take a turn for the better
Considering this, different beliefs about football and prize fighting were discussed in the 1890’s. Some people considered football a rough sport because it needed to be rough. Some defined football as a manly sport while defining prize fighting as nothing but brutal. Then there were others who felt prize fighting and football carried no differences.
As mentioned before, college football was turning the point of views of others about itself for the better. Nonetheless, even if the college players were so called “gentlemen” they would still be participating in the brutal “slugging” that the game was seen for. Polemicist E.L. Godkin claimed that violence was violence regardless of the situation (Reading Football, 216). Football had “slugging” involved which was considered as brutal as prize fighting.
In contrast, there was an argument that football could not be as violent as prize fighting due to the incidental injuries that occurred. It was supported that prize fighting injuries were purposeful. The counterargument to this was if men believed football injuries to be incidental, why were they using it to claim themselves a man. The book states that men will men men. They will do anything in their power to be on top no matter the situation, circumstances, or how cruel they might need to be. “The spirit of the American youth, as of the American man, is to win, to get there, by fair means of foul, and the lack of moral scruple which pervades the struggles of the business world meets with temptations equally irresistible in the miniature contests of the football field” (Reading Football, 217). Football was claimed to bring out the rage in men. To be the best of all men. If fans from other sports, ones thought to be non violent, initiated an interest in football the interest would come from the violence, and not from the sport itself. The only difference that some people saw between football and prize fighting was their class bias. Football players would be fighting upper class, middle-class, or working class men and prize fighters would fight professionals.
In addition, an editor named, Richard Kyle Fox, wrote about the game of football. He was known to be a huge promoter of prize fighting. As we know prize fighting is a rough event involving punches and bashing. So, when he became aware of the brutality going on down on the football field he began scoping out the game and writing about it. In his writings he referred to the collegiate game of Princeton vs. Yale. Fox stated, “ I saw more brutality, more punching, butting, yes , and kicking between the Princeton bruisers and the Tale sluggers than in any glove contest that ever occurred in Madison Square Garden” (Reading Football, 218). To mention, Fox never wrote about what the game actually expressed. He was only interested in the rough housings.
Further, what angered Fox was the attention and approval that football continued to receive. From other publishers and from his own writings people saw the crude behavior football portrayed, yet they still supported their children to participate in such. On the other hand prize fighting was being banned for the same savagery football acquired. “ The specific aggressive for Richard Kyle Fox and his Police Gazette was the legal ban on prize fighting while the slugging of collegians was celebrated as manly sport. In an editorial in 1895 Fox raged against parents who “gloat over the prowess of their gentle offspring” in sports such as football but “hold up their hands in horror” at the mention of prize fighting. “Fraught!” Fox concluded. “Such hypocrisy is disgusting”” (Reading Football, 223). Fox’s point was valid. Football was as dangerous as prize fighting, but it continued to escape the level of disapproval that prize fighting stood under. Fox was persistent in bashing football's name for the justice of prize fighting. Fox’s word usage and poor description of football encouraged the game to have a negative reputation, but it still was not enough to take a crowd's attention away.
In conclusion, men in the 1890’s were very insecure about their masculinity being taken from them. Sports were their only outlet to prove their manhood. Football then was introduced and it’s violent environment was to man's favor. They believed that being tough and rough was the key to manliness. There were periods when football was at risk of being abolished due to the extreme violence. Compromises were made to calm the aggressive outlook on football, which includes colleges partaking in the event. Collegiate football athletes demonstrated tough intelligent men rather than crude dangerous men , which later helped football to become accepted by greater numbers of people. Confusion and frustration arose in others though questioning why football was any different from prize fighting. It was believed even if one is a gentleman they are still crude by nature and will do anything to win. This means that violence will always be present in the game. But, for the sake of its popularity football remained clear to play. If man’s distress about their masculinity was not an issue, football would have been abolished at some point during this time period. I came across this website. It contains so many exemplification essay topics. I used them to do my college essay and got a high grade. I’ll use this platform again.