When Kevin Durant accepted his MVP trophy, he said very little about himself. Instead, he singled out every one of his current Oklahoma City Thunder teammates and told them how much he appreciated them, how much he learned from them, and how much his success hinged on their contributions. He told Russell Westbrook, “I love you, man, I love you.” Then, he looked at his mother and summarized his humble beginning, the circumstances of his upbringing, and told her that she was “the real MVP.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, most notably his. During the speech, he looked out into audience and asked earnestly and with a bit of surprise: “Why am I crying so much?”
Modern masculinity, in a variety of shapes and sizes and attitudes, was on full pop culture display last week. And, if our sports stars are any indication, the gender may be in some kind of flux.
First, we were all treated to Neanderthal man, Donald Sterling, an 80-year-old billionaire with a much younger girlfriend, vomiting racism in a way that disgusted everyone. Despite the universal condemnation, there was a ring of familiarity to his words, a reminder that there was indeed once a time when many men harbored such values.
Then, there was Bro man, Johnny Manziel, who got drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, then partied with Drake, bought shots for everyone in the bar, and danced all night with a variety of women who happily relayed the news via Instagram.
And finally, there was Revolutionary man, Michael Sam. In a quick sequence, Sam became the first openly gay football player to be drafted by an NFL team, broke down and cried, kissed his boyfriend, and then nearly broke the internet as the world reacted to all of it.
According to the Good Men Project, the current definition of what it means to be a man is multi-dimensional. “Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. “
Without a doubt, considering sports to be a mirror of society may be an absurd undertaking. But it may also be a canary in the coal mine. As Durant cries and Manziel parties and Sam kisses, masculine values may be on the move, too. And with them, conceptions of fatherhood, family, education, business, sex, health, ethics, and much more.
In that respect, a wild week of sports spectacles may be the harbinger of a new era.