By Jeff Girod
A man wears a wristwatch and he’s punctual. A man shows up places where he’s expected—even a ballet or a piano recital—and he looks you in the eye when he shakes your hand. A man shakes your hand. He doesn’t try to high-five you or go through some highly choreographed hand jive like you’re a member of the Harlem Globetrotters or at cheerleading camp.
A man is dependable and because of that maybe we overlook his other shortcomings and indiscretions. Maybe he drinks too much or swears too often. Maybe he stays out too late and maybe he’s not always the most cautious spender or the best judge of character when it comes to picking a mate. But if a man’s reliable—if he can carouse all night, puke his guts out and still answer the bell for an 8 a.m. conference call—well, friend, that’s a man most people are willing to forgive.
It’s the reason AMC’s Mad Men has enjoyed such a ratings bonanza. Granted, its main character, Don Draper, is not without his problems. Don stole a dead man’s identity, he’s arrogant, he’s occasionally abusive to his coworkers and he sleeps around so much that it cost him his marriage. All of that makes Don a grade-A asshole. But Don’s also supremely talented at his job as creative director of a New York ad agency. Don always seems to perform at his best when the pressure is highest. And if you cross Don, well mister, you’re bound to get a manly-sized fist in the chops. And that’s why viewers keep tuning in every Sunday night to root for Don Draper because, at his essence, Don is still a man.
Regardless of how you feel about his politics, President Obama is also a man. Maybe you don’t agree with Obama’s stance on healthcare or the actions he took during the bank bailout—and, Lord knows, we could all be paying for his shortsightedness on that one for generations—but the fact is Obama didn’t just stand idly by wringing his hands or pointing fingers. Obama acted decisively. He actually did something. And that’s more than you can say for President George W. Bush who rightfully has taken his lumps for waiting four days to respond to Katrina. Ideology aside: Whenever somebody asks Obama a question, he usually thinks about it and then he responds. That’s what a man does.
By contrast, quarterback Brett Favre has started 309 consecutive NFL games (including playoffs), so you’d think he would be on the Mount Rushmore of Man-dom. He’s not. He’s barely allowed to set foot in the Man-dom gift shop. Brett Favre officially had his man card revoked when he said in a 2006 interview with ESPN that he wasn’t coming back. Since then Favre has tearfully unretired, retired, unretired, retired, unretired, retired, unretired and just last week, retired once again, meanwhile holding football teams and fans hostage from Green Bay to New York to Minnesota. And less than a month before the 2010 NFL season—when his current team, the Minnesota Vikings, is picked by Vegas odds makers as 6-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl—Brett Favre has decided to quit again, leaving the Vikings with the very sobering reality of replacing Favre with something called a Sage Rosenfels or a Tarvaris Jackson. (If it’s any consolation, it looks like Favre might unretire again—not coincidentally about the same time summer practices are scheduled to end.)
One Super Bowl win, 3 MVPs and almost every passing record worth a damn, and all everybody will remember about Brett Favre is that he’s melted into the little boy who cried “retire.” He has also shown less conviction than a 15-year-old girl at a Clinique makeup counter.
Man, oh man.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.