After watching Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter’s emotional press conference after their loss to Xavier, I got choked up. I’m a father and former (small) college athlete, so it really resonated. Regardless, if that didn’t wreck your emotions, then you’re a heartless bastard.
Growing up, when it came to showing any emotion or weakness over anything, your formative years had about the same rules as prison: weakness is for suckers. You never wanted to be the kid who cried, because like peeing your pants, people don’t forget. While some slip ups were had, and crying during youth sports does happen (just watch the Little League World Series or any of my parents’ home movies of my baseball games), it wasn’t spoken about after, because no youth admits their emotional weakness.
One of the benefits about growing older (and let’s face it, there aren’t many, so listen up) is that it’s more socially acceptable to admit your damn feelings. It starts in your late-teens/early twenties with saying, “that hit me in the feels”, and eventually evolves into “that made me cry like a fucking baby.” And while the man, the myth, the legend Ron Swanson has told us that crying is only acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon, I’m here to say that dammit, sports qualifies too. That being said, whereas you rarely are at the Grand Canyon or a funeral (hopefully), sports can destroy your feels on a daily basis, but I’m telling you that’s okay. Opinions are like assholes: they’re all shitty, especially yours, but I feel like being emotional over sports falls into a few categories, and getting a little admittedly choked up is perfectly acceptable.
Your final athletic event
If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t a professional athlete (if you are, contact me, participating in a point shaving scandal is on my bucket list), so your athletic career is in the past. Whether high school, college, or playing semi-pro in a 3rd world country in an arena where they also hold cockfights, it’s over. When that end came, you cried like someone made you watch the last 10 minutes of Marley and Me on repeat while sitting at the pound. And dammit, it’s okay that you did. It doesn’t mean that you’re Uncle Rico and you’ll never let it go. It just means that you put enough work and passion into something that mattered to you, and made enough friendships and memories along the way, that when it’s over, you had to let out some man (or woman) tears. The great thing about playing sports is that it does give you that feeling, the same feeling that makes you love sports is the one that makes you sadder than Bartolo Colon standing outside a closed Golden Corral when your playing days are over. Take a moment to think about your athletic career. Now wipe your eyes (there’s some dust in them) and continue reading.
ESPN’s “E:60” is the biggest offender here, but every day you see stories that just tear your damn heart to pieces and expect you to not be a little watery eyed while sitting at your desk watching videos on your company’s dime. Every story about a team manager draining a 3 pointer during the last game of the season, every inspirational underdog, or every sick child living a dream, they are all emotionally wrecking. Watching back to back E:60’s is just asking to put yourself in the emotional state of any nineties girl post-Titanic viewing. Think I’m soft? Go to the 8:40 mark of : this clip and get ready, because according to Jean Ralphio, “your eyes are going to piss tears.” While that may not do it for everyone, unless you’ve got the sensitivity of a 9/11 truther, there’s a sports documentary out there that really gets to you.
What also falls into this category is the work of Tom fkn Rinaldi. Every Saturday, when you’re at your most vulnerable, hungover, reeling from a long week of work, and looking forward to enjoying college football all day, Rinaldi shows up like an agent of emotional terrorism and brings you the most heart wrenching story related to the Gameday hosting team possible. When it comes time for the experts to make their picks you’re in such a state of emotional duress that you can’t even process that Kenny Chesney is the celeb picker for a school he has no prior affiliation with.
This is when sports is at its best, something live that just brings you to your knees and makes you ask God knows how you’re expected to handle so many feelings. Whether joy or sadness, sports will get you every time. As painful as it is to see the seniors whose teams lose during March Madness, or the aforementioned 12-13 year old LLWS kids who lose and cry during their two week run as free labor for ESPN, it is equally as uplifting and inspiring to see every tearful new draft pick, and of course the small school father/son combo who pull off an amazing NCAA tourney upset.
The penultimate, for me at least, is a live speech. My mind instantly draws to Jimmy V, or more recently, Stuart Scott. Sports figures have given us some of the most incredible words ever orated, and while they are not always entirely focused on sports, they are what have given them this incredible journey and perspective to speak on. During Jimmy V week in college basketball season, you get a heavy dose of his speech from the ESPY’s while fighting cancer, and each time it hits me about as hard in the feels as anything possibly can.
There’s plenty more that I’m sure I’m missing, but that’s my rundown of why it’s absolutely okay to tear up, or even sometimes cry like a little bitch about sports. Just make sure no one sees you, you giant pussy. .