Blood, Sweat and Tears. Lots of Tears.
By JOE LAPOINTE
In the 1992 film "A League of Their Own," Tom Hanks portrayed the manager of a women's baseball team who told a weeping player, "There's no crying in baseball!" It's one of the great lines of a good movie. And if it was once true, it certainly is no longer.
As George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, showed on Monday when he shed tears after his team beat the Boston Red Sox, there is plenty of crying in baseball. And people also weep, sob and sniffle in tennis, golf, basketball, hockey and plenty of other sports.
At Wimbledon on Sunday, after Roger Federer of Switzerland won the men's tennis title by beating Mark Philippoussis, Federer sobbed in celebration. "I've cried a few times on big occasions," he said.
On Monday, after Hilary Lunke made a birdie putt in a playoff to win the United States Women's Open, she burst into tears as she held the trophy. In the Masters golf tournament in April, Len Mattiace lost a sudden-death playoff to Mike Weir; afterward, he wept.
"The intensity was so high," Mattiace said, "it all just came out."
On the same day, Phoenix Suns guard Stephon Marbury cried after his team clinched a playoff berth. "You just can't hold back your emotions when it's real," he said.
A few days earlier, when his team lost the N.C.A.A. men's basketball championship to Syracuse, Kansas Coach Roy Williams (now relocated to North Carolina) addressed the subject of his frequent crying. "I am emotional," Williams said, noting that reporters and opposing fans often made fun of him for it. "But I've never had one of those suckers come up and do it to my face. So I guess I'm just a little weird."
Or maybe he's just very normal. According to experts who have studied crying, athletes - and men in general - are more comfortable about displaying their emotions in public than they used to be.
Steinbrenner, explaining his crying after a 2-1 victory that involved injuries to Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter, said: "You know, I'm getting older. As you get older, you do this more. Winning is emotional. To me, I get very emotional about it."
William H. Frey II, a neuroscientist and biochemist who wrote the book "Crying: The Mystery of Tears" (Harper and Row, 1985), said in a telephone interview that public crying by men as they get older might not be so much a function of physical aging as of perspective. "They care less and less about what other people think," Frey said. "They give themselves more permission."
Frey's studies show that men cry an average of 1.4 times a month and that women cry about 5.3 times a month. Until age 12, boys and girls shed tears with equal frequency, his studies show.
Aletha J. Solter, a developmental psychologist who wrote "Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry" (Shining Star Press, 1998), said in a telephone interview that the reasons women cry more than men have to do with both nature and nurture.
"Boys get the message: 'Big boys don't cry,' " Solter said. "Their fathers tell them that 'if you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about.' " She said boys are teased on the playground by their peers for their tears.
But Solter also said hormonal changes at puberty made it easier for women to cry. "It's universal," she said. "Women cry more than men in most cultures of the world. Most American men could and should cry more than they do." She said she had noticed an increase in public crying among athletes, particularly at the Olympics during medal presentations.
Perhaps this is a function of media exposure that both reflects behavior and encourages it. Television producers and directors are attracted to the visual impact of moist eyes. When other athletes see these images and note the public approval, they can be conditioned to react in similar ways.
Sometimes even private moments are made public for a purpose, if not by pictures then by words. During the Eastern Conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs in May, Joe Nieuwendyk of the Devils was in tears during the first intermission of Game 7 at Ottawa because an injury had forced him out of the game.
Pat Burns, the Devils' coach, said he noticed Nieuwendyk crying in the medical room and used the scene in an inspirational speech. "I went back in the room, told the players, 'We have a rangy old veteran who would love to help you out,' " Burns said. "I said, 'He has got a tear running down his eye right now.' That seemed to pump up the team." The Devils won the game and went on to win the championship in the next round.
Crying in the locker room is not a recent phenomenon. Roger Kahn, in his book "October Men" (Harcourt, 2003), tells the story of Yankees relief pitcher Goose Gossage, who made consecutive errors to lose an early-season game in 1978.
"Gossage wedged his large frame into his locker, closed his eyes and began to cry," Kahn wrote. "Presently he rolled out of the locker onto the floor and curled into the fetal position. His sobs carried through the clubhouse."
A more current example of Yankee tears came on Sunday when Curtis Pride, just called up from the minor leagues, hit a home run, his first hit as a Yankee. Long before Gossage and Pride, Lou Gehrig wiped his eyes as he announced his retirement due to illness in 1939 and called himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
It is not just an American thing. A recent article in Sports Illustrated about the English soccer star David Beckham began this way: "David Beckham cries. Always has. 'I get it from my mum,' he says. . . . He cried that awful night in 1998 when he was red-carded at the World Cup and became the Most Hated Man in England. He cried a year later when he won back his nation's affection. 'I'll even watch films and cry,' he says.''
Tom Lutz, the author of "Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears" (W.W. Norton, 1999), offered some skepticism about the apparent increase in public crying. Lutz said in a telephone interview that crying by athletes "is like presidential infidelity; there's more press now."
Lutz, who teaches English at the University of Iowa, said: "The crying man is fashionable. We learn what's appropriate and we kind of produce it. Sometimes we can't quite control ourselves, but, in a sense, we are acting when we display emotions. It doesn't mean we don't feel them."
Lutz argued that Bill Clinton changed the public perception regarding tearful displays by political figures. This, in turn, he said, affected even the behavior Bob Dole, Clinton's Republican opponent in the 1996 presidential campaign. "Dole learned to cry in public as a necessary part of political acting," Lutz said.
Denis O'Hare, who won a Tony award for his portrayal of the accountant Mason Marzac in the play "Take Me Out," said that he can summon tears on stage and that "it is not a trick."
"You get yourself into the exact state that the character would be in,'' O'Hare said. "You have that incredible moment when you are not present but the character is."
Such a moment, he said, comes at the end of the second act of "Take Me Out," which is about a gay baseball player on a team that resembles the Yankees. O'Hare's character is on the field after a game and tells the audience, "For several minutes, I had an entire stadium entirely to myself, and that was thrilling." O'Hare said he was not supposed to cry in the scene, but had shed tears on occasion.
"It's kind of overpowering," he said. "It's an overwhelming feeling pushing me toward crying, and I push it back. Oftentimes I hear people in the audience crying. If we cry, they don't. If we go right to the edge and push it, they get moved. It's hard to control."