I’ve been through the heart of darkness: I’ve sat through an entire New England Patriots game with my dad and his buddies. I’ve seen Tostitos get double-dipped, heard grown men refer to the Patriots as Brady’s Bunch, and witnessed 50-year-olds go for high fives only to whiff completely, attempt a do-over, and then awkwardly laugh it off like it never happened. I’ve survived perhaps the worst idea the male sports fan has ever had. I have witnessed the horror of the man cave.
If you didn’t know, the man cave is supposed to be every middle-aged man’s inner sanctum. It’s the one place in the house (i.e. the basement) where a guy can escape the troubles of the real world, get away from his wife’s “incessant nagging,” and just enjoy the game in peace for a few hours. The popularity of the man cave has increased steadily in the past few years, so much so that its very concept has been warped into a self-serving exercise in demonstrating how masculine the cave dweller is, and how much sports memorabilia he can fit onto his basement walls.
In a society where the average middle-aged man is often belittled on cable television, where his talents are shown to be exclusive only to fantasy football, knowledge of domestic beers, and his ability to do basic do-it-yourself home repairs, I can’t blame today’s male fan for trying to reclaim his masculinity, but it all seems so unnecessarily forced. Just like wearing pink polo shirts or quoting lines from Entourage, building a man cave is simply the newest in a long line of asinine behaviours that guys have arbitrarily declared to be things that “real men do.” When we were 10 years old, it was beyond cool to sleep in a bed shaped like a racecar. When we’re 50, it will be just as cool to accumulate as many beer koozies, dartboards, championship pennants, team blankets, and mini fridges as our basements can withstand.
There are a few common knowledge Man Laws all the guys must follow when in the man cave. When a penalty flag is thrown, the Know-It-All Guy has to tell the rest of the guys what the penalty is for, and for how many yards. When the cheerleaders come on the screen, all the guys must say something cringe-worthy about their attire, while using the word chick, or babe, or other various outdated vernacular. And finally, all guys must spend the entirety of the 30-second Geico commercial pontificating on how today’s Geico commercials aren’t as good as the old Geico commercials.
But it’s about time that somebody says what needs to be said: the man cave is not an emblem of the 21st-century sports fan. The sad truth is that the man cave is nothing more than a pillow fort for grown-ups, a secret club with a secret password, and the one room that the man can call his own. But that’s not how the average male fan sees it. To him and his buddies, it’s all-masculine, all the time. Look out, everybody—the guys are down in the man cave and they can’t be bothered with anything else. To my knowledge, some men even go so far as to bar women from the man cave. These husbands, at best, will meet their wives at the top of the stairs to grab the plate of chicken wings—wings that they selfishly didn’t even make the effort to prepare themselves.
I know these man caves well enough to avoid them completely and just watch the game upstairs. But I also know them well enough to understand that, as hard as they may foolishly try, this glorified basement shouldn’t be the masculine sanctuary that men intend it to be. What we men need to realize is that we all have the power to build a decent place to watch sports. But do we really need to try this hard?