The first and best role model any boy can have is his father, of course. From watching dad, boys can learn how to treat a woman, how to raise a family, and what constitutes responsible behavior. However, because no one really wants to become their father, boys are forced to look elsewhere for additional examples of manhood. They look to their teachers and their friends. They look to popular culture and they look to history. And, perhaps above all, they look to professional sports. Most sports are traditionally masculine to some degree, teaching competitiveness and camaraderie, sportsmanship and fairness. And a healthy respect for following and breaking the rules. And with their impressive skills and physiques, athletes look the part of the man, usually far more so than a boy's father. It's easy to understand why boys look up to them.
And so, millions of boys in every generation aspire not just to be athletes like their heroes, but to be their heroes. But no one, at that age, really has any idea what their heroes are like when they aren't in the public eye. And so, those knowledge gaps are filled with versions of their idols conforming to whatever ideal of manhood the boy has, forgetting that many of their idols are in their early 20s (barely men themselves) and (by the nature of the environment they inhabit and how they've been treated) are essentially overgrown adolescents anyway.
Indeed, it is impossible for any generation to truly know its idols (at least until the biopic comes out. Not Mohammad Ali, not Mickey Mantle. Not Evel Knievil, not Reggie Jackson. Not Michael Jordan, not Kirby Puckett. Not Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, or Michael Phelps. Indeed, except for very brief moments, you don't get to see the man behind the athlete's curtain. Unless you can walk a mile in their shoes, you'll never know exactly what kind of men they are/were.
And, it turns out, you may not want to walk a mile in their shoes. In a delightfully candid moment, Hall of Fame 3B George Brett pulled back the magic curtain that separates Brett the man from Brett the ballplayer, and you find out what George Brett does to his shoes (and his pants). The results are not safe for work (though they are relatively quiet). (note: the embedded video has been repaired)
(h/t to Shysterball)
Thousands of 30-40 year olds in Kansas City are weeping openly today as The Common Man writes this. Perhaps that curtain is best left where it is.
Now, who's the pitcher for this game?