Dammit. My man stole my idea. I was all ready to defend Adam Morrison’s tears, and my man Bill Simmons beat me to the post.
Normally, the best part of my day is checking ESPN.com’s Page 2 and digesting Simmons’s latest 4,000-word epic. He’s my man. In fact, I refer to him exclusively as “my man, Bill Simmons.” Seriously, ask around.
(He’s my favorite sportswriter, in no small part because he’s from Boston, hates the Yankees, and is consistently sarcastic, incredulous and hilarious. When you read him, you get the sense that he honestly loves writing about sports – like he’s conned the world into allowing him to do this for a living, because he’d do it for free. We should all be that good, and that lucky.)
But enough ass-kissing. The jerk stole my column idea. Essentially, he explains that it’s all of a sudden acceptable for our male sports heroes to cry (he bashes women’s basketball here, which I’m not prepared to do) because the world has become “one giant chick flick.” He cites Clint Eastwood getting all misty in Million Dollar Baby and the success of Brokeback Mountain. Ten years ago, our society wouldn’t have been ready to witness Dirty Harry weeping over his dead partners, or any movie in which the chiseled male character expresses any sort of vulnerability through emotion – especially if those feelings are expressed toward (gasp) another guy. But now, the male archetype has shifted, so all of these tears are okay. We should tacitly accept athletes who bawl their eyes out. It’s alright for them to show emotion. We should get used to Morrison-esque outbursts, because it’s representative of the world we live in.
I agree with Simmons in that a crying athlete shouldn’t be vilified, so things are back to normal – two weeks ago, he stabbed me in the back when he compared rowing to “playing Madden while walking on a treadmill.” Needless to say, I seriously contemplated burning him in effigy and flying out to Los Angeles on some Keyser Soze-like vendetta. But now that we’re both on the same page again, I’m willing to pretend that never happened.
Apparently, my man and I are the only two sportswriters who don’t think Adam Morrison is a sissy. I was enraged when roughly every sports columnist in America lined up to take turns branding Morrison as “soft,” or “weak,” after he broke down in the final minutes of Gonzaga’s Sweet Sixteen loss to UCLA last week. “How could he let a basketball game affect him that much? Couldn’t he keep his head up and show some class? He’s being a baby. He’ll never make at the next level.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Most of these philistines are male. Many of them are pale, overweight weaklings. They hide behind their clipboards and laptops, and were most likely picked last in gym class. Sure, that’s a sweeping generalization, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely inaccurate. The point is, such writers are on the whole grossly uninformed and inexperienced in what they’ve chosen to write about – sports. To borrow from my man Teddy Roosevelt (yeah, I’ve got a whole stable), these people are “cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Amen.
Before you dismiss Adam Morrison as being soft, ask yourself if you’ve ever been in his situation.
Crying after a loss is bad, eh? It makes you weak, does it?
How do you know? If you’ve never played sports (particularly at Morrison’s level), you cannot possibly fathom what happens when you lose. You just can’t. Oh sure, you can assume what your sports heroes are experiencing – you have the luxury of scripting your reactions from the safety of your couch. But you don’t really know. It’s like if I were to write a column about quantum physics. I’d just be making stuff up.
In the final minutes of the game, Gonzaga blew a double-digit lead. Morrison couldn’t make a shot to save his life. He’s an athlete who admittedly wears his heart on his sleeve, and UCLA ripped that heart out. Morrison failed, and he knew it. Those weren’t tears, they were his soul pouring out of his body.
When you lose, a little piece of you dies. It hurts. It’s painful. And yeah, you get over it, learn from it, and move on. But in the moment, it’s the most excruciating feeling of your life. And it ALWAYS hurts. You NEVER forget what that feels like.
As an athlete, you cannot eliminate your emotions; they are an intrinsic element in sports. Hell, sport IS emotion. It is as much a personal expression as poetry or painting. And it is no less beautiful, exalting or tragic.
Now, I’m absolutely guilty of taking sports too seriously, and I’m completely aware that I place athletics on a pedestal that’s a bit higher than it deserves. (And if you don’t think that I’m going to stretch that last sentence out into a 6,000 word screed for my final column, you’re kidding yourself.) But what the hell do you want in your athletes? Emotionless cyborgs? Isn’t that why we hated the Soviets? Would you rather Adam Morrison played basketball like a Cold War era Bond villain?
Fine. Go cheer for Rudy Gay, the UConn forward who is arguably the most talented player in college basketball. You’ll love him – his playing style redefines the phrase “uninspired ambivalence” as we know it. Sure, there were stretches during the NCAA tournament when it looked like he just didn’t care, but hey, he’s got all the tools, so what’s not to like?
I’ll take Adam Morrison over Rudy Gay ten times out of ten. Give me the guy who would rather die than lose. Give me the guy that bleeds. Give me the guy that cries.
Per Ostman is a Sun Senior Writer. The Victory Lap will appear every other Wednesday this semester.
Archived article by Per Ostman