An Old-time Ball Game

by Chris Haffenreffer | 5/10/01 5:00am

On the plane ride home from my current off-term dwelling in Los Angeles, I knew there were several things I wanted to take care of over the short Easter weekend with my family. I was naturally looking forward to spending some quality time with the 'fam,' having a nice Easter dinner, and taking a good Midwestern break from the hectic life of Tinseltown. The one thing I wanted to make sure I slotted in between church and Easter dinner though, was an afternoon spent with the old man, down at the ballpark. My dad and I rolled on downtown, picked up a few bleacher seats from a scalper, and found our seats amongst a group of elderly choristers from Great Britain who were enjoying a game of baseball for the first time. Needless to say, after an inning of explaining to one older gentleman how a run is scored, we decided to relocate to another section.

The game was a good one, though at times tedious " as many baseball games can be. Yet relaxing in the sparsely populated upper deck with my dad, I had a tremendous time. At times we spoke, sometimes about life in LA, other times about the game in front of us. Most of the time though, we sat in silence, watching the game and absorbing the various smells of the stadium.

Since my days in kindergarten, the game of baseball has been a part of the relationship my dad and I have built and maintained, and I would imagine the same would be true for many young boys and their fathers

(yes, I know this is fast becoming a Hallmark moment, but bear with me).

As my Little League coach, perhaps it was once a vicarious existence for my dad (much like George W. living out his glory days by inviting tee-ball teams to the White House lawn), but it has clearly grown into something much more significant for both of us. This sport (or sport in general) often provides a medium of communication for the two of us that, though unnecessary, is one we both cherish.

"Another male and his too-masculine father," some self-righteous person might claim, "and their inability to cope with a fragile relationship." This is not at all true, but it is also not what I wish to write about; enough time has already been spent bringing tears to your eyes.

Many people today, much like the person who might mock my relationship with my dad, tends to dismiss this sort of masculine bond that is often times extremely powerful in pulling men together and instilling values. These sorts of relationships between fathers and sons, grandfathers and fathers, or two friends are extremely vital to the growth of many young men.

"Well my relationship with my father had none of these masculine traits and I turned out just fine," an opponent of this machismo may contend. I find this enriching; there is not one specific mold for the bonds that hold male-male relationships together. We cannot, however, deny the existence of one form of relationship because it is something we do not know or understand.

One of the few conversations my father and I had that sunny day at the ballpark was a simple one that stemmed from me asking him if he had ever walked through the locker room under the stadium. "Yes," he answered, and he began to recount the times he had strolled through the tunnels under the stadium. He started to describe the locker room and soon began to tell me how great the bathroom stalls were. "And there are Playboys everywhere you look in the bathroom," he remarked.

This is often the crux of the argument for why masculine bonds should not be encouraged; a natural result of these relationships is this sort of chauvinism, an emphasis on the opposite sex as something less than a human being. Naturally, this detracts from the value of these macho connections and is an unfortunate trait of some young men. However, the masculine relationships (and the chauvinism) that extend into a professional ballclub's locker room are the sort that have been a part of our society for centuries and will not--no matter the efforts of opponents--suddenly vanish into thin air.

More appropriately to the situation at Dartmouth, denying people the forum to congregate will not eliminate this single regrettable byproduct of these relationships. Like it or not, some college-age males will be chauvinists--it happens--and eliminating their congregating place will not eliminate chauvinism. It will simply deny them the ability to build solid relationships that are more beneficial than they are detrimental.

It is unfortunate that some chauvinism may accompany these relationships with certain individuals. However, it is important that we see beyond these instances and recognize the benefits of these masculine relationships before we begin to dismantle the framework of valuable friendships simply because we don't understand.