What is it about sports that allows us to accept that men have a full range of emotions and ways of expressing them?
Thousands of words have been written about the despicable behavior of Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said that “crazier things” than ‘nigger’ are said in NFL locker rooms. He also said, “You are in the locker room with 60 alpha males. Sixty guys who are in the NFL, they are men. So, when I actually heard about the situation (in Miami) it was funny to me because I really couldn’t believe it was taking place in the NFL locker room.”
The part that struck me was “…they are men.” They are men. According to Peterson and too many others, being a man is about anger, violence, threats, and insults. I want to talk about the other kind of culture that sports cultivate, though. Something that I find to be incredibly odd and laudable.
What is it about sports that allows us to accept that men have a full range of emotions and ways of expressing them? Coaches who profess to love their players and want to ‘teach young men how to become good men’ can be seen screaming at these same young men on the sidelines. A 50 year old man shouting at the top of his lungs is acceptable behavior on a sideline. That same man hugging and lifting another off his feet is acceptable behavior on a sideline. That same man crying from anguish or joy is acceptable. All of these emotions usually occur in about a fifteen minute period.
Men can cry in sports. When the Florida Gators lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2009 SEC championship game, Tim Tebow blubbered on the sidelines. Sports journalists offered a series of explanations for Tebow’s tears: this was his second to last game in a Gators uniform. He had just lost a hard-fought game on a huge stage. He’d just lost a game in what was shaping up to be quite a rivalry — Gators vs Crimson Tide, Urban Meyer vs Nick Saban, Tim Tebow vs the rest of college football. You know what they didn’t say? They didn’t say he’s weak or he’s soft or he’s girly or any of the myriad jokes that men hear when they cry. Too sensitive? Nope. He’s passionate. He has a love for the game.
Disclaimer: Alabama fans called Tim Tebow everything but a child of God and posted the pictures of him crying all over Facebook. Bama fans are famously cruel, though.
I just can’t help but think that if Tim Tebow had been crying because his girlfriend broke up with him, he would have been treated completely different. No one would have considered him ‘passionate’ about his girlfriend. He would have been a “pussy”. He would have gotten a pat on the back and told to ‘suck it up’ or ‘move on’.
So, I didn’t watch the post-game after the Alabama-Auburn game yesterday; I couldn’t stomach it. However, I’m sure there were probably some tears. I didn’t cry (I felt more like vomiting) but I think I would have been completely justified in unabashed blubbering.
Photo— Flickr/Ali Brohi
Further Reading: NFL Hazing