Anyone who watches advertisements during football games knows that American men are doing just great, these days.
There appear to be gazillions of racially diverse circles of thin men out there — roughly 30-50 years of age — who get together all the time in sports bars with loads of disposable income to spend on beer and mountains of chicken wings in a wide variety of flavors. Others travel all over the place in their rad sports vehicles or those pick-up trucks that are part troop-carriers, part luxury vehicles.
There are some rotund, middle-aged, often bald, White losers out there, of course, but their family members or lovers are still around to laugh at their misadventures.
Yes, this screed from an elderly guy (on a diet, even) is directly connected with this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (CLICK HERE to tune that in). This week’s program focused on a fine, fascinating New York Times piece by religion-beat pro Ruth Graham. The double-decker headline on this piece proclaimed:
For Suburban Texas Men, a Workout Craze With a Side of Faith
In Katy, outside Houston, many men have taken up F3, a no-frills fitness group where members push themselves physically but also bond emotionally.
I heard from several readers praising this story (and followed buzz on Twitter) and people kept saying: What inspired the Gray Lady to do a positive story about a bunch of evangelical men (one with a “Republic of Texas” tattoo) bonding through exercise, fellowship, service and prayer?
The first answer: The story was written by a veteran religion reporter, not someone off the political or strange cultures desk. The men talk, they tell their own stories. They are not walking straw men ready for a beating. By the way: It also looks like F3 groups, or at least the one in this feature, are pretty diverse in terms of race. Hold that thought.
I think the crucial statement is at the top of the article and it isn’t the lede. Here is the note from the editors:
We’re exploring how America defines itself one place at a time. In a Houston suburb, men have been flocking to a workout group that promises more than just a sweat session; together, they aim to ease male loneliness.
Note the touch of humility: “We’re exploring how America defines itself one place at a time (I added the bold type). The goal here is to let Americans outside describe their own lives, as opposed to the Times doing that for them?
We shall see. I think this feature worked because it was written by a religion-beat pro. Also, it has elements of first-person reporting, with details through Graham’s eyes. Here is the overture:
KATY, Texas — By day, Glenn Ayala is a 50-something account manager who spends much of his time behind a desk. But at Rick Rice Park in the early morning darkness, doing push-ups and jogging with a 20-pound rucksack on his back, he is known as K9, and he is with his people.
One Friday in August, Mr. Ayala joined about 20 other men in what they called the predawn “gloom” for the group’s regular workout. They grunted and hooted un-self-consciously, razzing one another and shouting encouragements, using nicknames generated by the group. (Mr. Ayala got his because he trains dogs in his spare time.)
The members also often gather to pray together and talk, building friendships that have extended into their daily lives: When Mr. Ayala separated from his wife, members of the group helped him move. When his relationship with his adult son floundered, they texted him Garth Brooks songs to buoy him.
What’s the Big Idea here? What subject is linked to this anecdotal lede?