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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 9, 2006

Football, the key to manhood

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Columnist

It's not an illusion after all. Football really will make you more of a man, even if you are just watching it from the comfort of your couch.

Last month about this time, I was worrying that my weekend football-watching TV time was just some sort of airy-fairy attempt to avoid doing yard work. I figured I was kidding myself, but I wanted desperately to believe that my fate and the fate of my favorite team, the Chicago Bears, were somehow cosmically intertwined across oceans and air waves.

You know the old saying, "As goes General Motors, so goes the nation?" Well, that's how I felt about pro football this year. "As go the Bears, so do I." I know it sounded a little looney, especially given how GM is going lately, but it turns out I'm right.

And now I've got scientific proof to back me up, thanks to an alert reader, Ana Horn.

According to a news story Horn passed along, researchers at the University of Utah and Georgia State University found out a few years ago that testosterone levels of male fans dropped significantly immediately after their team lost. Conversely, testosterone linked to increased sexual activity, aggressive behavior, and feelings of confidence rose sharply when their team won.

We really do play the game vicariously. Who needs Viagra when your team is 12-4 and headed to the playoffs for the first time in six years?

The phenomenon may date back to our animal ancestors, the researchers said. Males who faced fights with their rivals may have experienced increasing testosterone in anticipation of the battle. If they won, testosterone levels remained high because of the likelihood that they soon would be challenged by other rivals.

No wonder June Jones couldn't stand to have his team called the Rainbows. No wonder the old-school teams are still called the Lions, the Bears and the Cowboys. No wonder players spend so much time patting each other on the rear or butting chests like two rams in heat.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty good until another alert reader pointed out it was the then-General Motors CEO "Engine Charlie" Wilson himself who first postulated the "As goes General Motors, so goes the nation" idea. That little bit of hubris so enraged members of Congress in the 1950s that Wilson ultimately pleaded that he misspoke, having meant exactly the opposite.

Which might mean the Bears might have to rely on me for their heightened testosterone levels as they make their way through the playoffs. So fire up the barbecue, ice down the beer and bring on the big-screen TV. I am man, hear me growl: "Go Bears!"

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.