Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Athletic Cup

Last year when Son Number One moved up out of T-ball into the big leagues, one of the new requirements was a cup. All boys playing in the league were required to wear an athletic cup, to protect all the boys’ boys. Never mind that at seven years old there isn’t much to protect. Rules are rules. As near as I could tell, the cups did three things. They made all the kids walk funny, they made all of them constantly adjust their crotches on the field, and they made it very difficult to strip down in a hurry to pee. As far as if they protected anything, I’m not really sure.

When I was playing little league we were only required to wear a cup if we were playing catcher. The proximity to the fast-moving baseball, either from the pitcher or the bat, combined with the rather exposed position that the catcher’s squat leaves the goods in, makes a cup almost mandatory behind the plate, no matter how old the catcher may be. In my day, the hard plastic cups at the sporting goods store came in three sizes. Small, medium, and large. At nine years old, the small was still five times larger than I needed it to be, but it was my only choice. Then began the conversation that every parent in America who has ever shopped for a cup with their nine-year-old son has had:

“Take that off your face!”
“But, I’m pretending to be a jet pilot. It’s my oxygen mask.”
“It is not a mask! Take it off your face!”
“But, why?”
“Because it’s gross, that’s why.”
“It’s not gross.”
“Yes it is. Just stop it. It just is. Give that to me.”

The small-size cup fit over my nose and mouth just fine. I could have worn the large cup home as a hat.

Back then, the athletic supporter, commonly known as a “jock strap,” was the only means of holding the cup in place. They consisted of a fabric pouch to hold the cup, an elastic waistband, and two elastic bands sewn on either side to keep it in place. The elastic bands were there to go around either side of your butt and hang on to the bottom of the pouch at your crotch, thus alleviating the need for it to be an athletic thong. While the thong would have no doubt been much less comfortable, the two elastic bands still sat in places that no underwear had gone before. This made you, the novice jock strap-wearer, walk like you were trying to shake something loose inside your trousers. You were constantly reaching around, behind, and up trying to grab the straps to reposition them, but you were never able to get a hold of them through the back of your pants. It was impossible to walk in a straight line while wearing your jockstrap and cup.   

Fast-forward to today, and the world of crotchal-region protection has improved greatly. Material science technology and common sense sizing have caught up to the cup industry. When we went to buy Son Number One’s first cup last year, I was amazed at the advancements. For starters, the days of the traditional jock strap are over. Actually, I think you could probably still get one if you wanted, but I don’t know why you would. Cups are now held in place with regular cotton briefs and tight-fitting boxer trunks, with the cup pocket built right in. Genius! Was that so hard to think of, cup manufacturers of the 70’s and 80’s? We already had briefs, but you just couldn’t make the connection, huh? Oh, well. No elastic straps in strange places for today’s youth. Good for them.

Also, somewhere along the line, the industry realized that kids between seven and eighteen years old come in more than three sizes, so the cups are now on a graduated, albeit confusing, scale. After figuring out if we were “youth” or “peewee,” and “regular” or “large,” we settled on a peewee large, youth size 6-7. I found it kind of humorous that the manufacturer apparently shied away from the term “small,” but was OK with “peewee.” I guess it’s always going to be a terminology minefield when you’re trying to place names on the different sizes for that region of the male anatomy.

The cup was much more size-appropriate than mine was back in the day, and it was better contoured and even semi-flexible. Mine was like shoving an empty tuna can down your pants. Things have come a long way since I was a kid playing little league. Although, some things won’t ever change, I guess. It was promptly removed from the package and placed over the nose and mouth, like a strange miniature flight attendant giving a really weird safety briefing.

“Take that off your face!”
“But, I’m pretending to be a jet pilot. It’s my oxygen mask.”
“It is not a mask! Take it off your face!” 

Well, the new cup technology and the “classic peewee briefs” did their jobs last season, keeping Son Number One safe and sound on the field, and making it difficult for him to walk in a straight line. We’re getting ready for another season now, and Son Number Two is moving up into the cup leagues this year. We were talking about cups the other day, and how he would need one this year, and Son Number One decided, due to his vast experience on the subject, to handle the explanations for me.

“It protects your penis.”

They both thought that was endlessly funny, and I just left it at that, because I didn’t really have the energy to get into the discussion about the rest of its job.

My wife just went shopping at the sporting goods store again, this time without bringing the boys with her, and she came home with a brand new cup and brief combo set. However, as will happen with siblings and articles of clothing, the new one was the next size up, and it was for Son Number One again. She handed it to him and told Son Number Two, “You get his old one.”

Some hand-me-downs are a little weirder than others.

“Take that off your face!”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Some things should never be allowed to be hand-me-downs!

  2. Ha!
    Son Number Three will never own a new pair of underwear until he buys it for himself!

  3. Need to start investing in clorox so that he can pay for the years of therapy associated with years of wearing hand me downs from both brothers.

  4. Ha! We have already started a preemptive bail fund. Maybe it can be a bail/therapy fund. If they beat the odds and stay out of trouble with the law, they can have the money for elective therapy.