Manly men — and even some women — complain that football is becoming feminized


For several years now, I’ve been writing about the gradual convergence of various factors which, taken together, pose an existential threat to football.

We’re reaching the point where the most fundamental aspects of the football culture — the violence and machismo —  are under assault.

Players suddenly — and litigiously — are aware that head injuries suffered on the field can bring life-long misery. Consequently, new rules have been promulgated, and some players are unclear about which kind of tackles are legal and which aren’t.

And now a new controversy has arisen regarding bullying among football teammates. This one encompasses a variety of issues ranging from racism to towel-snapping in the locker room to countless  peculiarities of male-bonding among millionaires with high levels of testosterone.

Inevitably, these changes in the gridiron world have spawned widespread complaints that the sport is becoming unduly feminized.

There’s a bit of sarcasm in Gwen Knapp’s TAKE ON THE MATTER:

Victory is nigh. We can feel the NFL giving up ground, becoming more feminized by the day. Stick a salad fork in it.

All that’s left is choosing the skirt styles. Pleated for quarterbacks, A-line for the big guys, stretch minis for everyone else?

The Miami Dolphins fast-tracked the cultural revolution this week. The discussions of locker-room bullying generated by Jonathan Martin’s voluntary and Richie Icognito’s involuntary departures from the team teased out a larger truth about the league. When defining manhood, a lot of today’s players and recent retirees are most definitely not on the same page. They’re not even using the same dictionary.


Some of the online comments sounded like retreads. Martin was called “she” and “soft” and scolded for not “manning up.” The wussification of football was bemoaned, in less sanitized language. (And, of course, it’s scrubbed down here, because that’s just what we do.)

They see us coming, threatening to turn their beloved sport into a yoga demonstration, and they don’t know want to do. Some of us are even men. In fact, a lot are. Men who hate football tend to despise it far more than women do. Exposed to the sport as teenagers, they rebelled against authoritarian coaches and disdained players who wore their toughness as a fashion piece while docilely submitting to group-think.

Those guys, the football apostates, might as well be women, too. We’ve converted all of them. We’re that powerful.


The feminization has been on a tear of late. Think of all the players who’ve stepped away from football since the brain-damage reports started circulating, since PBS ran the “Frontline” documentary based on “League of Denial.” You can barely turn on ESPN without seeing another of those early-retirement press conferences. Any day now, some franchise won’t have enough bodies to play a game. That’s how alarmed they all are.

Either that, or they don’t want to play in stretch miniskirts.





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