This past Sunday, the NFL upped the ante on what it means to be a Real Man and on what it means to be a person.
Burly defensive tackles whose jerseys barely cover their bellys-turned-fortress walls sported pink sweatbands, lightening fast wide receivers sprinted into end zones in pink cleats, sacked QBs ate turf while protecting the ball in pink gloves, and fiery coaches spewed expletive-laden play challenges under cover of team caps with pink brims. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
The sea of pink on 50-yard lines everywhere is the brainchild of Tanya Snyder. The wife of Washington Redskin's owner Dan Snyder, she is both a breast cancer survivor and advocate for breast cancer awareness. With more and more lives touched each day by this disease, including those of many NFL players, what could make more of a statement than a bunch of guys trying to kill each other for four quarters also doing battle in a war that takes place everywhere, that can reach anyone, on far more than any given Sunday?
What's more, the juxtaposition of the breast cancer awareness gear on the players and the commercials that generally punctuate NFL football games was just as, if not more, striking than the flashes of pink on league-issue uniforms. Is it possible to keep count of just how many times these games toggle between ads for medications for erectile dysfunction and enlarged prostates? Beer figures prominently, too, but some common men's health issues are consistently front and center on game day (pharmaceutical companies and direct advertising of drug therapies to potential "consumers" aside--fodder for a whole other post).
These issues not only affect men, but the women who love them. All jokes aside about what has become known as "ED" (and there are many), a loss of physical sexual intimacy can be the catalyst for destroying emotional intimacy and for chipping away at communication in even the best of relationships; not to mention, it can also be indicative of more serious vascular problems. Enlarged prostate can be a sign of prostate cancer, a frightening and more and more common manifestation of this disease that can shake the foundations of a man's life, his relationships, his mortality, and sense of self.
This month professional football brings men and women together not necessarily to watch the games (a lofty goal in and of itself), but by demonstrating that health is a gender-free, level, yet often dangerous playing field--one on which we aren't competing against each other, but doing our best to huddle up and devise effective play calls to defeat a variety of physical foes, from the life-threatening to the life-challenging, that prey on our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, siblings and friends before all of our play clocks run down.