Are You a Real Man?
Andrew: “I made a New Year’s resolution.”
Me: “It’s April.”
Andrew: “I’ve decided to train for the 2014 Winter Olympics.”
Me: “That’s less than a year away. And in Sochi, Russia.”
Andrew: “Yes, so I need to start training immediately. And I’ll need a big coat.”
Me: “OK…which sport?”
Andrew: “Since I like jumping trucks, I’m thinking ski jump. I’ve been watching YouTube videos and all you really have to do is to get down low, explode up, and land. I can do that. I’ve become inspired by the British sensation Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. He came out of nowhere and made Olympic history. Also, he was farsighted and wore glasses on the slope. That’s what makes a Real Man to me, someone who can beat the odds—all while his glasses are fogging up under his goggles.”
Me: “You don’t wear glasses. Or ski.”
Me: “I’m googling him, and it says he placed dead last in the 1988 Olympics. Plus, the International Olympic Committee had to create the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ rule that forced future Olympic competitors to meet specific criteria so as to not make a mockery of the Olympics again like they felt he had.”
Andrew: “But he was a serious athlete, and all he wanted to do was compete in the Olympics, so he entered. And that’s the true Olympic dream. He was the underdog, and people called him the best of the worst. But to me, he’s the worst of the best, and I love that. What do you think it’ll take for me to be the worst of the best?”
Me: “Oh, I don’t know, Russia and a ski jump?”
Andrew: “See, that’s why I need to learn from the best of the best right away. And like ‘The Eagle’, I’ll need a cool nickname. While you’re googling, look for a skilled bird that starts with an A.”
Me: “There’s the Arctic Loon.”
Andrew: “Sweet. I’m Andrew ‘The Arctic Loon.’ Now, let’s go get me a coat, glasses, and a Russian dictionary.”
At this point, I wasn’t sure whether we were at the start of our next Real Man journey or I was about to become an accessory in some kind of international incident. I wondered aloud whether he might consider something a little more practical for his Olympic dream.
Andrew: “You mean like bobsled? That shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. They’re sitting down. It would be like calling four-wheeling a sport. They’re also sitting down.”
Me: “Wait, you don’t think four-wheeling is a sport?”
Andrew: “Are you kidding? It’s people driving. If there’s a motor, it’s not athletic. If your heart is the motor, you’re an athlete. Except for golf, of course. Sorry, Tiger.”
Me: “What about competitive rockcrawling? What about NASCAR?”
Andrew: “Again, those are just a bunch of guys driving. And NASCAR is about going to the left. Boring. Sure, there’s reaction time and endurance for both, but anything with horsepower isn’t a sport. It’s got to be a real horse. I mean, look at that racehorse, Secretariat. He’s a better athlete than four wheelers by a long shot. Four-wheeling is fun, but my point is, it will never become an Olympic sport.”
(Send those letters c/o Andrew Schuth, Four Wheeler magazine, 831 S. Douglas…)
He was calling this Olympic pursuit a New Year’s resolution, but was the underlying reason less about having a new challenge and more about a new calendar year causing him to examine where he is in life and how much time he has left to do certain things? I also wondered whether this stemmed from how he strives to be the best of the best at everything he does, and being the best of the best in sports eluded him due to a soccer injury in high school, and maybe now he felt he had something to prove before it was too late.
Other things concerned me more, though. I had doubts that a self-described perfectionist would allow himself to be called the worst anything. I’ve witnessed moments in which he deemed himself a failure—what others would call the steep learning curve. While I’ve never seen him give up, I have seen him become somewhat frustrated by not being able to master things on the first try. Also, I can tell he doesn’t want to train to become the best; rather, he wants it to just happen. And while he has always approached life and relationships with the goal of being the best anyone has experienced in every capacity, I think this mentality is both his strength and his weakness and is becoming exhausting for him to maintain.
Perhaps the greatest concern was, does he understand that being called the best doesn’t mean he’s perfect?
Training to become the best of the best is kind of what this Real Man series is about—Real Men are teaching Andrew to become the best and most real man he can be through their example. Ivan Stewart, soldiers in the U.S. Army, bus and big rig drivers, and other Real Men in our previous installments have been exposing him to their lives and careers to help him get to the heart of what’s real in his own.
And who better to teach him about best of the best than the Real Men who make a career out of trying to be better than anyone else: Olympians.
“Da,” Andrew agreed, as he straightened his new Russian ushanka hat. And don’t forget to tell them they’re also making me a real ski jumper.” With that, we hopped into the vehicle of Real Men, a ’12 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. The facility opened in 1995 and is where Olympic hopefuls and medalists train in archery, BMX cycling, field hockey, rugby, soccer, track and field, and other sports—but not ski jumping. I figured Andrew would find a way to adapt to that challenge, too.