A man who once escaped a burning airplane by using his head as a battering ram, Hemingway was the epitome of manliness. He survived three wars, multiple gunshot wounds, two plane crashes, and countless hard knocks to the head, but he couldn’t survive the grip of the dark beast within.
How do you stack up? Are you manlier than Hemingway? Try your hand at each of these three sports, which he said were really the only true sports; “all the rest merely games.” And see if you can out macho the original macho man.
1. Bullfighting. While many consider this sport barbaric and grotesque, Hemingway thought of bullfighting as an ancient ritual and a pure art form. His fascination with the thin veil between life and death also fueled his interest for what many believe to be an outdated blood sport.
2. Motor Racing. When Hemingway spoke of motorsports, he was likely referring to the deadliest motorsports race in the world: the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race, where 135 people have been killed in the race’s 105 years of existence. Manly? You betcha. Smart? Eh.
3. Mountaineering. Unlike the two sports above, mountaineering has no easily definable opponent. Instead, it forces one to overcome the boundaries of one’s own limitations, to confront their own mortality head on, which was a common theme in much of Hemingway’s work.
He spent his life searching for meaning at the edge of existence. He fought dangerous game and risked everything just for a taste of “true” life; however, if Hemingway’s final days teach us anything, it may well be that there is nothing to search for. Life, perhaps, is not something that can be forced open. So pop a bottle tonight, raise your glass to the man who coined his own nickname (“Papa”), and relax, for maybe life is not something to be conquered, rather a beautifully mundane gift to be discovered—and manliness nothing more than a fish grown large from the mouths of old men.