Technology has transformed the modern world for the better during the last decade, improving access to information and opening the lines of communication across cultural boundaries.
But progress has historically been accompanied by the loss of tradition, and that holds true today. For men in modern society, the old rites of passage handed down from our predecessors have increasingly become obsolete.
Marriage rates have dropped since the 1980s, participation in the military is no longer a de facto decision after high school graduation, and universities don’t place the same emphasis on fraternities and Greek life as they once did. The lodge meetings and men’s clubs of old have fallen by the wayside, and even in the age of interconnectedness, today’s generation is more isolated than ever on the societal level.
That’s not to say rites of passage have disappeared, they’ve simply evolved to keep pace with the modern age. We’ve identified a few of the most widespread rites of passage boys use to turn into men in 2016 — so see which ones you’ve already got in the books, and those you need to cross off the list sometime soon.
Join a Fantasy Football League
Every year, millions of Americans compete in season-long fantasy football leagues, and in fact, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) estimates that 57 million people in the U.S. and Canada aged 12 and up played fantasy sports in 2014. That number grew to 75 million players lin 2015, and with the advent of daily fantasy sports (DFS), it’s sure to climb this year too.
While women are obviously welcome to compete, and do, fantasy football leagues are still predominately played by men, many of whom have competed against the same group of friends and family members for a decade running. The beauty of extended season-long fantasy leagues is getting together every year with old friends from college, co-workers, and your father, uncles, brothers and cousins.
For millions of American families, football fandom itself has become the ultimate rite of passage, with baby boys donning team-color pajamas, following their father’s viewing patterns, and eventually becoming diehards themselves. But for folks who can’t get to the stadium all that often for the actual games, creating a long-term commitment with the guys in the form of an extended league offers the next best thing.
Play in a Big Time Poker Tournament
For men who came of age in or around 2003 — the year Chris Moneymaker made Texas Hold’em poker a household name by winning the World Series of Poker Main Event — nothing quite matches the thrill of shoving all in.
ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of poker during the boom days gave an entire generation of college-aged males several archetypes to admire. The stone-faced poker shark making moves at the table, and taking pots from opponents with ruthless precision; the boisterous table-talker putting on a show; and the twenty-something millionaire calling down bluffs without a care in the world.
Despite whatever disposition one possesses off the table, the game gives everybody equal opportunity to craft their own poker personality, which is why so many young men flock to Las Vegas or local casinos to this day to try their hand in a Texas Hold’em tournament. The spirit of competition fostered in a poker game can be unrivaled, especially today when community organized team sports for adult-aged men are on the decline.
Nothing matches the American male’s spirit of rugged individualism like starting with the same chip stack as everyone else in the room, before beating rivals in a game of skill to build it up.
Take a Long Road Trip
Whether you’re hitting the highway for your first year of college, heading south for a Spring Break adventure, or just crisscrossing the country to see the United States in its patchwork glory, an extended road trip gives young men a sense of perspective.
For most teenagers, their first experiences outside of the hometown norm, and away from adult supervision, occur during one of these impromptu road trips. And although it’s preferable to pack the car with a few buddies, building camaraderie and forming bonds that can wind up defining lifelong friendships, solo excursions across America’s highways and byways are a great exercise in independence.
Hollywood has always known how road trips seem to resonate with men, from the newfound brothers learning to know one another in Rain Man (1988), to the slapstick buddy comedies of Dumb & Dumber (1994) and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), even the classic man-and-his-family epic National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983).
The idea of traveling to unknown lands and taking on whatever might be out there holds universal appeal. That’s especially true for men today, and a long road trip offers a tremendous opportunity to see as much of the world as possible before settling down.