— Last Tuesday, 4:45 p.m. That was the last time I cried, when the urgent care doctor looked at my triple-digit thermometer reading and vacant Dawn of the Dead facial expressions and told me I had the flu. He clicked his prescription logo pen and explained that no, I wouldn’t recover in time to run the half-marathon I’d spent three months training for. When it hit me that it had all been for nothing — the frigid pre-dawn five-milers, the surrendered toenail shards, the spandex in public — I found myself swabbing at my eyes with pieces of my paper gown.
Disappointment can do that to you, as I learned a week ahead of the unnamed Miami Heat players who allegedly had the same reaction after their 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. The difference between them and me — other than the fact that they don’t have rent-to-own end tables — is spilled the details of my exam room breakdown, rather than have someone else do it for me.
Shortly after the loss — the team’s fourth straight — coach Erik Spoelstra told the media, “This is painful for every single one of us to go through this. There are a couple of guys crying in the locker room right now.”
It’s ridiculous we’ve spent three days talking, typing and tweeting about "Crygate," but it’s ridiculous-er that Spoelstra blabbed to the media in the first place. After spending over two decades in basketball as player and coach, Spoelstra should know what to share, and not share, with anyone who doesn't have a Heat logo stitched on their chest. I don't have a problem with athletes crying, I have a problem with personal moments being broadcast to the world, especially when there's no good reason for it.
Regardless of the widespread criticism of the Heat, it's great some Heat players cared enough to leave salt stains on their jerseys. A genuine outpouring of emotion, the kind that only happens when a player is swaddled in terrycloth in front of his locker, resonates with me a thousand times more than the pseudo-psyched in-game posturing. I’m more impressed by the player who’s openly devastated after a loss than the one who spends his on-court time bashing his head into blunt objects, shouting toward the retired jerseys in the rafters or chewing the beer vendor’s face off JUST TO SHOW HOW PUMPED HE IS TO BE IN THE GAME.
Conjuring those overblown gestures and overdone emotions can be an act, but what happened in Spoelstra's locker room — and what should've stayed in Spoelstra's locker room — was authentic.
The only thing Spoelstra did right was not identifying the player(s). Public reaction to an athlete’s most vulnerable moment is proportional to his stardom. It was OK for Michael Jordan to press his forehead to the NBA championship trophy and cover its 24K gold overlay with the Tearness of His Airness. It was acceptable when Wayne Gretzky cried after being traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=381966">sobbing behind a bank of network logo microphones and it was fine when Roger Federer acted like being the 2009 Australian Open runner up was more depressing than The Notebook. They’re champions. Legends. And immortality comes with a complimentary box of Kleenex.
But if you’re on the wrong side of the box score, you’re doomed as soon as you lose control of your lachrymal ducts. From then on, your life story may as well star Jon Cryer. Take Adam Morrison, who spent the final seconds of his college career at Gonzaga doubled over and weeping. Yes, his team had just blown a double-digit lead in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, but the game was still going on.
That’s Morrison’s legacy: the guy who bawled through his final college game, which is slightly more flattering than his alternate legacy, “Spending his undergrad years looking like that guy who isn’t allowed within 600 feet of the library.”
After reading approximately 10,000 versions of that same damn Tom Hanks quote, Spoelstra has since backed off his original story. "I really think you guys [the media] are probably reaching for this," he said. "Guys were very emotional about it in the locker room. Heads were down, glossy eyes, but that’s about it. I think everything else is probably an exaggeration.”
But it’s too late. The damage — unfair as it is — has been done. The reaction from other athletes has been mixed, although http://deadspin.com/#!5779710/dwight-howard-cried-after-losses-all-the-time/">Orlando Howard star Dwight Howard told the Dan Patrick Show, “I used to cry after all my basketball games, then one of my teammates said, ‘Look Dwight, you’re in the NBA now. You’re going to have 82 games a year plus the playoffs, so just get it back next game.' If they were crying, it means they really care about winning.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson took a shot at the Heat, saying This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed." One of his players, Ron Artist — who ranks between Charlie Sheen and a rabid badger on the emotional health scale — said “I think it’s good to cry.” http://www.sportsgrid.com/nba/ron-artest-heat-crying-ice-cream-video/">Artest told NBA TV. “I think it’s good to let things out. In my psychology sessions, sometimes I cry with my therapist and we cry and we hug each other and we hold each other and we talk.”
(Warning: Only a trained professional should attempt to hug Ron Artest)
It was still a poor decision on Spoelstra’s part to open his mouth and insert his tear-covered foot, but it’s nice to know, that the Heat have Heart. And if anyone has a problem with that, with a player showing his true feelings after a game, come over here and I’ll give you something to cry about.