‘No Crying in Basketball’ showcases Media’s true colors

Published: March 8, 2011

It’s the hot topic right now on every sports radio talk show. Entire segments are dedicated to it on ESPN and even casual NBA fans are talking around the office water coolers about the fact that several Miami Heat players were crying in the locker room following a tough loss on Sunday afternoon to the Chicago Bulls. Fans are labeling the players soft, players in other locker rooms are speculating as to which Heat players were shedding the tears, and analysts from every sport are chiming in to rip these guys to shreds for daring to show the wrong emotion in a man’s game. As a society we often like to praise ourselves for how far we have come. Then an incident like this occurs and it is blatantly obvious that this statement simply is not true.

Most would have you believe that in this progressive nation of ours, the goal is to empower citizens to make their own choices without fear of being oppressed or marginalized. The truth is, however, that we only feel safe when we can stick groups of people inside of a box that reflects a societal norm. For men, this is called the ‘Be a Man’ box and you are placed in that box from the day you are born and most men live in that box until the day that they die.

This box tells you that only certain emotions are good, while others simply are not allowed because you were born a male. Anger and hostility are acceptable for some reason, but any emotion that implies vulnerability are not. The uninformed will attribute the desire for males to lash out in anger to high testosterone levels, but the scientific research continually shows that men are prone to anger because it is an emotional substitute for other, less acceptable emotions.

Numerous studies have also shown that there is no real difference in the way that men and women experience sadness, but there is considerable difference as to how they express these feelings. An incident like this one with the Heat showcases exactly why this continues to be the case. Does anybody think that it would have been a national story if the Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team would have been seen crying after their winning streak was snapped earlier this year? Would analysts and fans alike have questioned their ability to win the National Championship because of it? Would they have been labeled “soft”?

Of course not, and it is because showing that kind of emotion is acceptable for a woman and actually serves to enhance their perceived character in certain situations. For men, however, it becomes a scarlett letter that they are branded with for life. It follows them around everywhere that they go and they are continuely asked to justify it or apologize for it because of its abnormality.

That is exactly where this whole situation is heading with the Miami Heat. Erik Spoelstra is getting heavily criticized for casually mentioning that his players were crying in the locker room because it is seen as a betrayal of sorts. There is a perception (unfortunately it is likely a correct one) that the Heat players will be held accountable for the actions of their coach, as if what they did was shameful in the first place. They will continually have to defend this apparent sin to the media, while simultaneously hearing taunting chants from fans and players alike.

But why is this such a big story in the first place? Why did this strike a cord with media members more than anything else Coach Spoelstra said in his post-game press conference? Why have the Heat’s late game struggles and apparent lack of cohesiveness taken a back seat to the fact that they showcased a perfectly natural human emotion?

It is because new-age media has more of a desire to make news than it does to report on it, and they recognized this as a vehicle that could accomplish that objective the second that Spoelstra opened his mouth. From that point on, a story was born. Armchair psychologists posing as newspaper writers and bloggers took to their computers to label these players as soft. Others said that these were fear based tears or that the Heat were simply cracking under the pressure.

Again we see a need to justify or explain something that inherently needs no explanation. And if you think this is just about sports or basketball, then you are missing the big picture. Like it or not, these athletes are role models for the youth of this country. Dwayne Wade had the fifth best selling NBA jersey this season, LeBron was first. They are both faces of numerous ad campaigns and have followers in the millions on their social media platforms. Without question, young men are looking to these athletes for examples of how to live their life in some form or fashion.

What are we telling these young men when we pile on their heroes for showing this kind of emotion? What are fans of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire going to think when they read that their hero is laughing at these guys for crying in the locker room? Do you think that they are more or less likely to express their anger or frustration in a healthy way the next time an incident occurs?

The answer to that question is not a rhetorical one. You want the answer, go and attend a Challenge Day at a local high school or volunteer to mentor a student in an urban community. I have done both and there is no question that this message is out there. “Be a Man, don’t cry, don’t be a punk, don’t act like a wimp; toughen up, don’t act like a girl.”

And we all know where these messages lead, yet we keep promoting them through our rhetoric. It is no longer acceptable and rather than crucifying a group of men, we can actively choose to embrace them and praise their bravery. If we are going to create the news rather than report on it, let us create something positive that can influence a generation that still has a chance to live a life free of ignorant mentalities such as these.

The opportunity is right in front of us to right a wrong that has gone on for far too long, and I for one am willing to step out of that box to enact change and I look forward to hearing from every one of you willing to join me.


  1. Pingback: So There Is Crying In Basketball… – Wall Street Journal : Hot Miami Heat Blog

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