This morning I was listening to the DJ on 102.3 say that he was rooting for Brett Favre yesterday. He kept referring to him as the "old dude." As you may not know, Brett and I are the same age and consequently I found this DJ to be totally offensive and very ignorant and here is why.
The notion of "old" I argue is just one of many of our mythical and socially constructed realities. In other words, we abstract our sense of truth and reality based on what is said by various facets of our society, e.g., the media, parents, coaches, friends, etc. Yet, what are these people basing they are claims on?
The problem with socially constructed realities is that they lack empirical evidence that would support a person's claim. So, for example, if I am "old" how is that there is no one in my classes that can keep up with me in a 5 mile run? If 40 is old, why is Brett Favre one of the best QBs in the NFL? If 40 is old, why is Daniel Craig able to be so convincing as James Bond? Does he look old? Or how is it that Tom Watson almost won the British Open at age 58?
Socially constructed realities are very dangerous because they tell us that there are limits to what people can do. Not only with age, but concerning other issues such as gender and race. For example, concerning gender, a socially constructed reality is that women cannot handle management level positions or that they don't know enough about sports to work for a place like ESPN (a very small percentage of women work for ESPN. It is totally dominated by men). Additionally, years ago, a socially constructed reality was that girls/women should not play sports at all. Competing in sports it was believed was too masculine and a violation of a woman’s real place in society which was to stay home and be a wife and mother. Yet, this belief has clearly been debunked. As for race, a socially constructed reality within sport is that whites are more effective coaches than blacks. Consequently, we have very few black coaches in DI football. But where is the empirical evidence to support such a belief? In the case of race, lately there have been more black coaches reaching Super Bowls than whites (Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin over the past few years).
Socially constructed realities cause people to blindly think that we must be a certain way or only possess certain capabilities depending on our age, gender, race, type of job, socioeconomic background, etc. Personally, I resist subscribing to any of it. I find it much more fruitful to live a life that is more socially unrestrained while believing that the possibilities are endless and that the limits are few. The alternative is to be stuck among the status quo where harmful beliefs and practices are perpetuated and call for change is rarely requested or heard.
Andrew Rudd, Ph.D., Dr. Rudd is a graduate of the University of Idaho, Center for ETHICS*, and is now on faculty at Florida State University, Sport Management Program.