Identity

Larry Sanders, Professional Sports, and Mental Health

(Photo: Jed Jacobsohn)

During my university days, I once opened up to a professor about feeling depressed and anxious, and completely stressed out – what we call mental health issues. She responded by saying “the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself.” I can’t tell you how much those words helped. Just knowing that in the middle of academia, with its own unique and unrelenting versions of pressure and stress, that this person listened and shared her own war stories. That I wasn’t alone was the only thing that helped. That was 6 years ago, and I was an undergraduate student having a series of never-ending shitty days.

We are all built differently, but with the same parts.

Larry Sanders, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) recently opened up about what makes him who he is, and about the man behind the facade of lights, contractually-obliges censorship, one can easily become a series of canned one-liners. We all know the standard monotone-laden snippets: I just need to do better for my team/I just gotta keep getting better and better/we have to play hard for 48 minutes/etc. It’s a shock to that system when one of the proletariat changes course – in this case a very well-salaried proletariat, but I digress. Speaking out about voluntarily attending a program for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders is not an easy thing to do, especially in the spotlight of the greatest stage in his field.

Professional athletes are supposed to entertain us, take us away from our day-to-day lives, and gIve us a place to project all of our shit and anger and hopes and of course money. They’re not supposed to feel, to hurt, and if they do, they’re supposed to suck it up and get on with the show. They don’t get paid to feel. They get paid to win. This is why they’re paid incredulous salaries. This whole mountain of pressure falls on their shoulders to perform, even when they are having a shitty day. Let’s face it, we all have them. So why are athletes different?

Everyone’s come up with their own theories about why I’ve been absent since leaving the Bucks. I knew people would speculate, but the crazy thing to me is that people are making it about the money. As a person who grew up with nothing, I know money is important. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to play in the NBA. But at the same time, that’s not what fuels me. I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate. – Larry Sanders, The Players’ Tribune.

For anyone that has dealt with similar issues, no amount of money can make it right.

See the entire video here:

Can we relate to Sanders?

He is not the first member of the NBA to have struggled with these issues, and he certainly won’t be the last. I’m certain that many are suffering right now, but functionally need to rationalize within themselves that maintaining the status quo is the better decision (versus going public). Families to feed, etc. This goes for the NHL, NFL, and all other professional sports leagues, and hell, for life generally. I know first-hand what it feels like to admit the problem, having myself dealt with similar issues of anxiety and depression. It’s no easy feat – let alone when the pressures of big sports and/or real life compound what you’re feeling.

Without these things [mental wellness] being corrected, I don’t think basketball would be something that I could do – Larry Sanders, Bucks.comTV, January 6, 2015

This statement applies to life. Just replace basketball with whatever it is that you do in your life.

I’m curious to know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Drop a line below.

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Terry Crews: Cracking the Egg of Male Stereotypes

(Photo Credit: hollowverse.com)

“I’m a man, and I’ve got to look like a man. And I can’t admit that I’m afraid, I can’t say that I’m weak. I can’t say that I’m tired. I’m not allowed to say that I’m sleepy, or I’m hurt, or that I can’t handle this. … When I crack that egg for my son, he was free. And I’ve got to learn to keep cracking that egg for myself, every time.” Terry Crews interview on The Agenda

One look at Terry Crews, and you would think: “there’s a man”. But you would doing so for the wrong reasons. Sure, he’s spent his lifetime modelling the traditional gladiator physique, playing in the NFL, and even being known for his Old Spice commercials. But Terry Crews is a Progressive Man.

Ask him why feminism is so important, and you will get this answer: “Let’s not even go back to slavery, let’s go to civil rights: the people who were silent at the lunch counters, when it was the black lunch counter and the white one. … [If] you were quiet, you were accepting it,” By simply letting stereotypes and institutional power work their magic, you are doing nothing, and certainly not contributing to any progress. He goes on to emphatically forward:

“Same thing with men right now. If you don’t say anything, you are, by your silence — it’s acceptance. I’m not going to be silent.”

He was recently in town for the What Makes a Man Conference presented by the White Ribbon Campaign, and sat down for a full length interview with TVO on The Agenda. 

This is THE conversation on modern manhood. Watch the entire interview here:

Mad love to Terry Crews for being TPM’s Progressive of the Month for December.

10 Songs that Explore What it Means to be a Man

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

The exploration of the question – what makes a good man – cannot be completed without some input from the arts, and in this case, music. Below are several selections that attempt to define the term from multiple perspectives.

1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

A timeless blues standard, and a self-affirming pep talk that could be used equally either before a sports event or speaking in public.

2. The Heavy – What Makes a Good Man?

Truly, it’s what I’m trying to discover, too.

3. Raphael Saadiq – Good Man

You might remember Raphael from Tony!Toni!Toné! or Lucy Pearl, but he’s pretty much trumped all of that on his own.

4. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – How do I let a Good Man Down?

Can Sharon Jones please run for president?

5. The Philosopher Kings – I Am the Man

Put Jarvis Church in front of a mic, and you’re usually guaranteed awesomeness. Case in point; we’ve been blessed here with another self-affirming strut-walk of a song.

6. K-OS – Man I Used to Be

“Ya holler and ya holla/ you folla you fall”. Damn, ain’t that the truth. A great introspective account of what can go on inside our heads.

7. Nina Simone – Sinner Man (Felix Da Housecat Remix)

A very literal interpretation of the video, which blends in the 7 deadly sins, and of course, running.

8. Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men

The line that gets me is “be a man my dad said/ but what the hell did he know?/he lost his dream/lost his flow/and I don’t want to be alone/I’m born KING so where’s my throne/I’m too intense/I’m too deep/I’m too nice for life/so what makes this place so nervous?”

Also, the album Everyday is probably one of the best, ever.

9. Pearl Jam – Better Man

The apparent story here: “before a performance of the song at Pearl Jam’s show on April 3, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said ‘it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma.’ He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother.”

10. Tom Waits – Little Man

Nothing like the epicness of Tom Waits sharing his take on fatherhood. Some good pieces of advice in here, even for those of us who are no longer ‘little’.

What are some other songs we should have included? Let us know in the comments box below!

Joss Whedon: Screenwriter, Director, Producer, Male Feminist, Ally

(Photo: popmatters.com)

For those of you who grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or Serenity, Joss Whedon is not a new name to you. Thematically, he is known for his vision which incorporates strong female leads. Looking ahead to The Avengers and his work in translating other comic books to the big screen, this we can expect him to undoubtedly follow suit.

Why is he progressive? Here’s why:

“You know, it’s one of those things that’s always surprising. I was raised by a very strong woman, I didn’t know feminism was actually a thing until I left home and found out the country didn’t run the way my mom’s house did. So I have this goldfish, idiot, forgetful thing in that every time I’m confronted with true misogyny, I’m stunned. I’m like, Really? That’s like, I don’t believe in airplanes. It’s like, What century are you from?”

Like Joss, I was raised by a strong woman myself and thought it normal to consider a woman’s point-of-view, thoughts, and body, with as much respect as I would treat my own. For us, this has not been as novel an idea as it seems to be in the media of late (#HeForShe, #rapedneverreported #mentalhealth). These conversations need to continue long beyond the point when the media cycle deems them no longer ‘relevant’.

Joss’ work shows quite aptly puts his money where his mouth is, sans agenda:

“Action is the best way to say anything. A guy who goes around saying “I’m a feminist” usually has an agenda that is not feminist. A guy who behaves like one, who actually becomes involved in the movement, generally speaking, you can trust that. And it doesn’t just apply to the action that is activist. It applies to the way they treat the women they work with and they live with and they see on the street.”

The impact of entertainment media (and media in general) on notions of self and constructions of identity cannot be overstated. Joss sets a fine example of how to weave an important topic into the stories that become an inherent part of society’s fabric.

Joss is the TPM Progressive of the Month for these reasons. We look forward to his continued success in the film and television industry, as well as to see how his pop culture influence forwards equality.