Five or six weeks ago Detroit Lions head coach, after a gut-wrenching loss on a last-play field goal, broke down and cried at the post-game press conference. He was widely castigated and made fun of … the audacity of a tough football coach crying in public.
Tom Hanks said a long time ago in the movie A League of Their Own that, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
All the sports media and the myriad of fans that have ripped the coach for crying in public, to me, are very wrong. I don’t know much about baseball and crying but after spending sixty years in football on many levels, as a player, coach and broadcaster, I definitely know there is crying in football.
Football is an incredibly emotional game. You have to invest a lot physically and emotionally to be able to play or coach. I have seen remarkably tough football players cry in the locker room after a very difficult loss. I have seen great coaches choke up when addressing their team in victory or defeat. Football fans or sports talking heads that think it is a sign of weakness for a coach or player to cry in a football situation could not be more wrong. As a matter of fact, I think it shows strength that someone was unafraid to show their feelings in front of their peers.
Bill Walsh, truly one of the greatest football coaches of all time, early in his career, before Super Bowls with the 49ers, was on the plane on the way home after a very tough 49ers loss. Bill started to cry uncontrollably. Dick Vermeil, Super Bowl coach of the Rams, used to cry every other week at the Eagles press conferences. Joe Namath, the first time he retired from pro football with the Jets, cried openly on national TV. I don’t think anyone would question the toughness of any of the aforementioned football gentlemen.
So I can tell you unequivocally, there is crying in football in every high school and college locker room in America. I would also go so far as to say that crying in football is a reaction to the total commitment, physically and emotionally, to a team competing. It is representative of someone that truly cares and competes with every ounce of energy that they have. Someone that has given all that they have to give. I think toughness is being willing to show that you care and show that you will push yourself to your limits to reach your goals. Every now and then there will be tears involved.
Most definitely there is crying in football!
Tom Cole is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Taylor Automotive Family and teaches broadcasting at St. John’s Jesuit and Adrian College