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The Ultimate Guy’s Guide to Maintaining Masculinity while Watching the Super Bowl with Girls

In Mine on February 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm

1. Ooze Confidence

This is key.  This sets the tone from the start of the gathering.  There is absolutely nothing worse than acknowledging, even for a second, that you aren’t sure what might happen next on the field.  It is important to make small, vague predictions where you are going to be something close to correct no matter what.

Try phrases like, “I don’t know if Cam is ready for this stage.” or “I don’t know what Peyton has left in the tank.”  Avoid anything actually measurable, but predictions are key.

2. Do Not Make Predictions

Despite the utter importance of item number one, you really cannot run the risk of being wrong about any predictions, no matter how vague.  The girls are likely to make predictions, too, just for fun, and if they end up being right about one, that could be debilitating.

Useful phrases here include, “Let’s just watch the game.” and “I am trying to just watch the game.”

3. You Played Sports, Right?

Use this.  Never hesitate to remind the girls that you played a sport in middle school or high school.  Those suffice.  College intramurals are icing on the proverbial cake of athletic experience.  Does it have to be football?  No.  You played on a team.  You went through battles with teammates.

Handy phrases: “I played on a team.  I went through battles with teammates.”

4. Don’t Cook

Don’t, under any circumstances, help with the procurement or preparation of food and/or drink.  This includes cleaning up.  If you are really in a groove when you arrive at the party, you will walk away from the car without even offering to carry the dish your significant other prepared.  Carrying that dish isn’t gonna get you a seat on the couch.  You are going to want to make two or three overused, offensive jokes about the kitchen.  These can be done at any time.

The crucial point for step 4 is halftime.  Idle hands, as they say.  As a man, you must avoid enjoying Beyonce’s music (more on this in a bit).  Given this downtime, you will have to fight the urge to clean up, prepare a plate of snacks for yourself, or open your own beer.  So, what do you do during the halftime show?

You go to the bathroom.

5. Explain Things

Before a girl gets the chance to ask you what the hell just happened, tell them.  This provides two benefits: First, you show them how much you know.  Second, it prevents those ‘typical female’ comments from getting in the way of discussion about the game.  Just as a heads up, be prepared to explain the yellow first down line, the amount of points for various scoring plays, what is and is not a catch, and various penalties.

(Bonus Tip: Rewind the game if you must.  DVR has revolutionized explaining things to girls.  Take your time, make sure they (read: the girls) understand, and fast forward through commercials to catch up on the action.)

6. Use the Buddy System

When your significant other demands attention, talks about plans for the week, or requests a kiss, this is a buddy that you can look to and shake your head.  It might be best to find a friend who has a girlfriend who also likes spending time with him, so he can relate to your situation.

(Bonus: Argue with this buddy about every little part of the game.  If you need to, raise your voice and make everyone uncomfortable.)

The Extra Point: Beyonce Is Hot

This is the extent of your appreciation.  She got this gig for three reasons: 1) Her looks, 2) So girls would watch, and 3) Her husband.  This one is pretty simple, so don’t mess it up.

 

It probably wasn’t fair. That isn’t the point.

In Mine on July 13, 2015 at 12:39 am

It was late in the evening, perhaps even nighttime, and my mother asked me to come back into the kitchen.  I ignored her.  She said she needed to talk to me about something and I acted like I no longer spoke the language.  I did not want to hear it.  If memory serves, the first excuse I test-drove was needing to hurry downstairs to grab something.  It was a non-starter.  I panicked.  I was standing close to a half-bathroom, so I told my mother that I needed to use the restroom.

She called my needing-to-go bluff, and moments later I began pacing back and forth in the kitchen over the spot where I normally stood (and still stand when I visit my parents).  I was scared.  I was staring brutal news straight in the face.  She knew that fear was the reason for my being so difficult, so she wasn’t upset with me, but she had to tell me.

I never felt like that before then, I don’t think.  I have since, but I cannot remember a time before then that I was so scared of one thing that I invented ways to avoid it.  Unfortunately, since then, I can remember plenty of times that I avoided things.  Not all of the things I avoid are this heavy, of course, but I know that I am good at squirming, at fence-sitting, at hedging, and at keeping people (or unwanted news) at arm’s length due to fear of any negative side effects.

 

Will wasn’t very good at that.  He wanted to embrace everything.  He couldn’t avoid things.  He couldn’t sit on the fence about decisions.  There were not enough precious moments left to allow fear to steal any of them.  I never quite knew how he did this without thinking about the possibility of negative outcomes like embarrassment or, worse, failure.  I always chalked it up to us finding ourselves at different stages in life and then tried not to think any more about it.  (Yes, I realize that I just admitted to avoiding thinking about how someone refuses to avoid things.  There is an at-arm’s-length-inception joke hanging in close proximity if anyone wants to take a swing.)

The trouble is that I love thinking about things.  Often to my detriment, I love thinking through all of the possible outcomes.  Recently, Will got under my skin.  That is okay, as that is likely to happen when you embrace a person or thing.  I started to wonder how he was able to attack life without worrying about those pesky negative outcomes, and then I got upset with myself.

All this time, I chalked up Will’s ability to handle things to his disease.  And maybe that is part of it.  Actually, I am certain that is part of it.  But Will never let cancer define him.  Throughout his battle, he never faked invincibility or became unemotional.  He confronted everything.  He knew better than I ever could about fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  He stared those three daunting things in the face every single day.  So, it had to be a special quality within him, not a disease, that allowed him to do this so fearlessly.

Given my self-disgust after the revelation that I had whittled Will’s bravery down to, “Ah, he sort of had to, right?” I decided to think about what other qualities might have produced his willingness to face anything.

He attacked life (and, when necessary, attacked a disease) with heroic confidence.  He was sure he was better than you, and he was damn sure he was more powerful than a disease.  And it rubbed plenty of people, from doctors and nurses to parents and peers, the wrong way.  But not me, and not anyone else who saw him fight.

Fortunately, he saw leaving people perturbed in the wake of his confidence as a fair trade-off.  Upsetting a few people in exchange for working toward his goals while staring death in the face every day?  Sure.  He signed up for that deal long ago, and did not plan to renege.  Even if he had wanted to, he couldn’t.  He was wired to be certain of himself. And I could not love him more for it.  I only recently realized the utter importance of the confidence and assertiveness that was so naturally a part of him.

Further, I realized (again, recently) that you can be overflowing with confidence and still avoid arrogance.  I thought too much and agonized about the negative possibilities associated with confidence.  **What if I come across as arrogant? What if I am confident enough to put myself out there and the result is embarrassment in a professional setting? What if the result is embarrassment in a personal setting?  There are possible negative outcomes, so perhaps I should avoid that attribute entirely.  Perhaps I should fight it, even.  I should run away from myself because what if this positive thing snowballs into something slightly-less-positive for a second.**

Now, I am not staring death in the face every single day, so perhaps I didn’t always need the confidence as much as Will did.  I am staring weird, home-brewed hesitations in the face every single day, but those can add up and lead to my biggest fear: failing to reach my potential.  Will taught me (not on purpose, by the way) that one of the best ways to attack anything from a minor insecurity to a single day to life in general is simply to do it.  Have the confidence to go do it, not because confidence makes you less likely to fail, but because it makes you more able to stomach failure.

I used to worry that making strides toward increased self-confidence would make my warmth, compassion, or curiosity (qualities I often like about myself) disappear.  I reali– er, am starting to realize, that confidence in who I am strengthens the positive effects of those qualities while also shielding me from slipping into a pattern of arrogance that I so fear.

 

Will developed a sort of bravado that left people, famous or otherwise, with the feeling that they had just met someone special.  The reason they had this feeling is the same reason that he is still under my skin 6 years later:  He was assertive enough that he left an impression, so it is no surprise that people felt something.  He invited everything and everyone in because he knew he could handle it, and inviting people in is the best way to ensure that they feel something.  He even invited fear and doubt into his life… just long enough to teach them a good lesson.

That feeling he caused, which stems directly from his heightened self-confidence, made it especially sad when he passed away.  It made it seem unfair.  Someone so full of potential, so warm, so in-control.  Sure, maybe it was unfair, I do not know.  Asking him to fight like hell every day was probably just as unfair, but that is another topic for another time.  The fairness of him passing at such a young age is not the point anymore.  The point, to me, is what has been or will be learned from his life.

The way Will lived ignited my learning process (more of a wrestling match, really) about the value of self-confidence and assertiveness.  The most important condition in his life wasn’t his health or his time remaining.  It wasn’t a need to rush through things.  It wasn’t a decision to go numb because of what might happen.  The most important condition, the one that made him so heroic to me, was his hubris.

It took me a long time to realize that, and it will take me longer-still to fully embrace my own hubris and wear the label as a badge of honor.  It will take me a while not to care about those left in my wake, but I now see the value of that approach.  I will still squirm and I will still keep people at arm’s length, because I am not as inherently confident as Will was.  I am finding it, though, and when I do…

 

I’m squirming as I prepare to post this.  I am wondering which parts sound stupid and if I should just keep it to myself.  I am also wondering if it is about time I stop worrying about looking stupid and just… look stupid.  I have a lot of lost time to make up for, after all, and I’m confident that I’ll bounce back.  **Does that sound too corny?**

2014’s Most Important Comparative Adjective

In Tennessee Volunteers on August 7, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Above all else, Tennessee fans want the team to be better.  Better than 2013.  They want senior QB Justin Worley cooler, calmer, and more consistent.  They want his arm stronger, and his receivers’ routes smoother.  They don’t care if the offensive line is younger, or the defensive line is smaller.

On a positive note, through the first few practices, one word seems to describe Team118: faster.  That is certainly a welcome change.  However, in my opinion, there is a word more important than faster or deeper.  There is one word that makes those team labels possible.

That word is smarter.  Butch Jones places just as much, perhaps more, emphasis on mental conditioning as he does physical conditioning.  While commenting on the team’s strength improvements, he reiterates, “This is a thinking man’s game.  You can’t let the mind tie the feet up.”  Translated: It does not matter that we are in great shape if we do not win the mental game. The famed legacy class is popular for three reasons: recognizable names, standout talent, and proper rearing as football players.  The head coach’s emphasis on film study and winning all mental aspects of the game blends perfectly with the pedigree of Team118 members, young and old.  Feedback from players themselves and from coaches on the smarts of the 2014 Volunteers and the collective football IQ of the 2014 recruiting class has been exclusively positive.  The emergence of this feedback lines up with all of the hype and hope Tennessee fans have for the 2014 recruiting class.  Instincts and mental discipline, two things that lead to playing with speed and confidence, are fixed commodities on the 2014 Volunteers.

Discussion of “football IQ,” like almost everything else regarding Tennessee’s 2014 season, seems to begin and end with the 2014 recruiting class.  Former Tennessee and NFL stars passed on their athletic genes and their appreciation for guaranteeing that the mind allows the feet to flow freely.  If Tennessee is going to be successful, championship habits and mental discipline must become second-nature.  Football IQ, a term that sounds all-natural, actually comes from hard work and strict mental discipline.  It is earned in the film room, and those recruits who I will affectionately label “film-rats” have an advantage.  Football nerd and all-too-obvious film-rat Dillon Bates credits his father for being the stone on which he sharpens his football IQ.  Bill shows Dillon the value of studying football 24/7/365, learning every day about different assignments, and knowing not only one’s job on a play, but why that job is important.

Elliott Berry, in a July “legacy” media session, shyly and begrudgingly admits to carrying around notebooks of offensive and defensive plays since he was a child.  He explains that he always loved watching football and began to imagine different things on paper.  Thank goodness, a film rat was born.  Elliott has been thinking in terms of Xs and Os for as long as he can remember, and when asked what he needs to do to be ready for camp and the season, Elliott, without hesitation, replied, “Make sure I know exactly what to do on every play.”  Elliott and Evan should give plenty of credit to their natural athleticism for putting them in the position to be on an SEC roster.  Impacting the SEC as freshmen, however, will stem direction from being smarter than those with similar skillsets.  If a football player, no matter the talent level, has to slow down and think about what he is doing, he cannot reach his full potential.  He can’t be as hard to block, he can’t close as quickly he should, and he can’t recognize a route tree and make an interception.  Every team’s shifts, cadences, and formations should incite an almost unnerving, deja vu reaction in the minds of Tennessee’s defensive players.

Championing the mental game is not lost on non-legacy recruits.  Jalen Hurd, in an early-fall media session, explained that the mental game is the biggest difference while trying to adjust from high school to college football.  He realized this shortcoming soon after enrolling in January and immediately hit the books.  He knew the label of “good runner” was not quite good enough to be successful at the college level.  Spring practice afforded Jalen the real-time reps needed to mentally prepare for the 2014 season.  He got into the playbook, ran through schemes, and critiqued Madden football pass-protection philosophies as his friends played in the dorm, because he knows good isn’t good enough.  And he isn’t alone.  Ethan Wolf, another physically-imposing freshman at an offensive skill position, recalls his realization of the mental game’s importance.  “You have to know where to line up,” Ethan said.  “It is a very fast game, and you have to know what to do when seeing different defenses,” He continued.  Jalen and Ethan were wide-eyed with enthusiasm about how much progress was made from January 1 to July 31.  They made the most of their apartment subleases, one might say.  Twelve feet, eight inches, and 467 pounds of film rat.

There is a welcome outbreak, a cordially-invited epidemic, of obsessive preparation for the 2014 season.  Dillon Bates saw his brothers play college football at Arkansas State and Northwestern, and his Dad give all he had for Tennessee.  Vic Wharton saw his Uncle, Brandon, put in the work to be a successful SEC basketball player.  Todd Kelly, Jr. learned about Tennessee football and camp preparation from his namesake.  The Berry twins know about the star potential on the horizon after seeing their older brother become a living Tennessee legend.  Jalen Hurd and Ethan Wolf are young, physical specimens who came in and immediately benefited from realizing the importance of the mental game.  All of this energy, whether it stems from Vic Wharton, Butch Jones, or the plurality of newcomers on the roster, makes the 2014 Volunteers smarter, and, before long, more instinctual than versions in the recent past.

Coaches are taking notice, too.  The atmosphere in position-group meetings seems vastly different.  In my opinion, one of the reasons for harsh evaluation from Butch Jones so far in fall camp is that he knows these young players can handle the mental grind.  He knows they will respond, because they know they have to respond.  They have the physical gifts necessary to flourish, and he knows the team is ready to be held to a higher standard.  Coach Thigpen is excited when he mentions Dillon Bates’ tendency to show up in every meeting with a long list of questions.  Coach Mahoney acknowledges the mental advantage of being an early enrollee, explaining Blair and Thomas’ benefitting from experience in the offense.  This head start will allow us to play at the proper pace in game one.  Coach Martinez excitedly discussed the “extremely high football IQ” on the 2014 Tennessee Volunteers.  Perhaps due to the pedigree and enthusiasm of 32 newcomers, the team is displaying championship habits.  More than the usual number of recruits were encouraged, by their families and by Tennessee’s coaching staff, to think in terms of finding immediate success on the football field.  Fortunately, that field will be Shields-Watkins.

It’s a thinking man’s (and a thinking fan’s) game, and I think we are going to like what we see.

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