Let’s play student, for a moment, and pretend we are in Dr. Kimmel’s class. Professor Kimmel to answer your question “to be a real man “at what age or phase are you referring since there are significant differences or variables that must be addressed. For instance, as infants, the only noticeable difference between the sexes is a penis. However, when I interviewed Tom Curtis, Frank Gusich, Thom Darden, Jim Brandstatter, Fritz Seyferth, Gary Moeller, Mike Keller, Jim Betts, and Reggie McKenzie, I got a very different description of them when they talked about the year 1969, and Michigan football compared to today.
In 1969, these testosterone driven men were put through a series of unorthodox training and conditioning challenges by the newly hired Coach Bo Schembechler. With high testosterone levels [aggressiveness, ability to build muscle, bone strength etc.], these men pounded and beat up each other in the boxing ring with conditioning drills like “slap and stomp.” In one episode, of this drill, first string defensive end Cecil Pryor got pissed off when a teammate hit him the wrong way. The physically aggressive Pryor responded and knocked him out of the boxing ring. Quickly, Coach Schembechler jumped into the same ring, and aggressively looked Cecil in the face and retorted, “If you want to fight someone, fight me.” That got Reggie McKenzie’s attention along with others and he then realized, that this man is the boss and totally in charge.
Frank Gusich told me that he thought to himself about how difficult and brutal the conditioning and practicing sessions were. He believed that it would make him stronger and that he would be able to excel in the fourth quarter of the football games as a result of his excruciating ordeals. Reggie McKenzie learned that he had to work his butt off despite all the sadistic and harsh swearing, he received from Coach Schembechler. From that U of M experience, Reggie carried that to the pros .He incorporated the idea that he had to physically and mentally destroy his opponents. These young athletes needed all that testosterone to help them release more aggression, dominance, coupled with the mental strength and ability to tolerate mental and physical pain and injury. Expressions like “full of piss and vinegar;” “sewing his oats;” “boys will be boys;” and “he thinks with his little head not with his big head” pertain to this age generation.
Today, with less testosterone and injuries sustained from the brutal game of football, we get a different picture of these men. Reggie McKenzie, a physically giant of a man, was primarily responsible as a member of the Buffalo Bills for assisting teammate OJ Simpson in breaking or smashing the NFL rushing record. In the pros, head coach Chuck Knox referred to Reggie as the enforcer. Currently, Reggie runs the Reggie McKenzie, Industrial Materials Incorporated. However, Reggie’s physical aggressiveness is expressed when he hits a white golf ball. He cannot run but he can slowly walk. My friend and teammate Ed Budde of Michigan State and Kansas City Chief Fame during his playing days with a dominant left guard on the Super Bowl winning Chiefs. Among other things, this left guard helped protect quarterback Lenny Dawson’s blindside. Ed played 14 years and totaled the second most games in Kansas City Chief history. Ed’s testosterone level remained high not only on the field, but off the field as well with numerous brawls. He had a reputation. In fact, Hall of Fame Howie Long for the Oakland Raiders told the story that after he broke Brad Budde’s nose in the game, he was afraid that Brad’s father Ed was going to come after him, and do him harm. Today, Ed can light up and smoke a good cigar and slowly walk his dog. However, physically he is hurting.
So young men in their 20s and 30s present one picture. I recently researched men and women, age 65 and older, who were still physically, competitively competing in sports. In my book “It Has Nothing to Do with Age,” I learned a lot about Russ Kiernan, Jim Steere, Lew Hollander and Jack Sholl. Russ Kiernan, in his late 70s is called the Dipsea legend. The Dipsea is the third oldest running race in the United States behind only the Boston Marathon, and the Beta Breakers. Dr. Jim Steere, at age 80, completed the Tevis Cup. He was the oldest to complete this feat. The Tevis is the oldest 100 mile one day equestrian race in our country. Dr. Lew Hollander at age 83, became the oldest to complete, the Hawaiian Iron Man. Jack Sholl in his 80s was the ultimate rower and still racing in international Masters Crew races. Although, their testosterone levels have declined [Lew Hollander would like to be able to run the marathon distance faster], their, motivation, competitiveness and mental toughness continue to run strong. These men have also determined and made good health style choices. On top of that, these individuals [outstanding females were also interviewed] have found meaning, passion, inspiration, and have enriched their life greatly. They can and are able to look to the future .None of these men are physically fighting with others today.
These men are not grumpy old men, like so many in their age group. We know that because when individuals engage in diminished exercise, poor nutrition, smoking and drinking in their lives, their health is nothing to brag about. In fact, with poor health, men get to look forward to meds, doctor visits and death as a result of heart disease, cancer, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and more. The future for these souls do not look great. Chances are they didn’t find meaning or passion in their lives.
In conclusion, professor Kimmel, the study of men has many variables. The starting point or socioeconomic beginnings of parents; the physical and mental health of the two parents; religion or faith; political environment; capitalistic economics; physical and mental health; location reared in the United States; rural or urban; educational level achieved; amount of stress; damage to brain and the ratio of positive to negative lifestyle- health style decision and choices made along the way. These factors determine at different phases or different ages, “What it’s like to be a real man?” And professor, I would add that these factors and variables also determine “What it is like to be a real person?”
By the way, join us in Ann Arbor on September 17, from 6 to 8 PM for a book signing of Bo’s Warriors. Our event will be hosted by Jim Betts, the newly elected president of Michigan Football Association Network [MFAN] and Joe Sesi of Sesi Lincoln-Mercury. Wine and hors d’oeuvres are on the menu.