Friday, August 14, 2015

When Crying Is Communicating

headhands“An athlete crying in public during an actual game?  You mean at a press conference?" someone asked. 

No, I meant precisely what I said.   The player I am referring to became teary-eyed as he was moving about in the field…and as a result, touching the hearts of Mets fans and becoming “an official local folk hero!"

There's gotta be something more to this story, right? Okay, so here it is.

The player is infielder Wilmer Flores, who had been with the New York Mets baseball organization since he was 16.   Unbeknownst to Wilmer, he was about to be traded (with one of the Mets’ young Minor League pitchers). The negotiations were ostensibly happening even as the game was being played. 

Somehow the story leaked and got to Wilmer on the field.  No one knows how that happened; but it did.  Tears started coursing down Wilmer's face.  Some smart photographer with a great close-up attachment was surveying the players on the diamond and caught the very distraught Wilmer

The next day, Wilmer's teary picture was in all the New York media and other media as well. The fans were totally touched. The image of a well-heeled, muscular athlete showing his true feelings and such love for his team was more than most could believe.  And that emotion ran particularly high for a member of the Mets, a traditional underdog that hasn't been in first place in eons…until now.  

It was so wonderful to see a player who cared so deeply for a team that so many others have dismissed. It was so wonderful to observe this emotional embrace! 

Most of us, however,  have been taught that crying in public reflects weakness or creates embarrassment.  How many of my readers remember when, in 1972, Democratic Presidential hopeful, Ed Muskie, made a tearful and passionate speech in defense of his wife when charges surfaced that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign? The press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and logical…qualities that would seem essential for a U.S. President.  Essentially, that act ended his candidacy.  

But it’s a whole different kettle of fish when you’re a larger-than-life sports figure!  It is real! 

In most situations, it is normal to let sadness show, in the form of tears. It is okay to let real feelings come out; it shows you are human.  It is healthy to have emotions and be free to appropriately release them. 

The next night, Wilmer Flores got a standing ovation every time he came up to bat…and most notably, in the fourth inning, when he smacked a single off Ian Desmond's glove to give the Mets their first run of the game. 

You gotta love the guy for what he did.  Wilmer clearly loves the team and the fans,  and they love him.  As Terry Collins, the Mets manager noted, this is a story that, if the writers had imagined it, it couldn’t get any better than this.