It should come as little surprise to anyone following the Winter Olympics this year that the amount of controversy swirling at the games rivals the very snow falling over Sochi, Russia. From the anti-gay laws, rumors of rigged figure skating scoring, and prohibition of symbols of remembrance or mourning, to the mass execution of stray Russian animals, Sochi has been sparking heated debate. The Olympic Games bring out the best and, in the case of one sports com- mentator last week, the worst in people.
Narrating the live postgame coverage of the U.S. women's hockey team's sudden and crushing defeat against Canada, veteran National Hockey League announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick decided it would be a good idea to air his thoughts on the American wom- en's emotional reaction, saying, "Maybe it's a man thing, but when a woman cries, you never know what to say. Sometimes it's better to say nothing at all." An ironic comment considering that's exactly what he failed to do. I don't know what compels someone to say something like this on a live, nationally broadcast television event, but considering the general attitude toward women's sports in America (and possibly abroad), I can't say I'm surprised at the derision that accompanied the image of the devastated players openly crying over their blindsided loss.
Twitter is a fertile resource when it comes to gauging real-time, uncensored reactions to nation- al or cultural events. And the overwhelming reac- tion to the weeping U.S. hockey team was a series of ughs, eye-rolls, scoffs, and complaints about how women can't contain their wacky, wild emotions and have to make the rest of us uncomfortable with their public disappointment and vulnerability.
I don't know about y'all, but this sentiment brings something to mind. What was it? Oh yeah: sexism. Anyone who has played a sport competitively can identify with the agony of defeat that follows a loss—particularly a loss that you were almost certain wouldn't happen. You've trained the hardest, you've focused the longest, you've given everything you have to come away triumphant—and when you don't, there will undoubtedly be uncontainable emotion. For some of these women, this was their only shot at an Olympic gold medal in a sport that doesn't even pay them for their position on a national team, while the players on its male team get paid, on average, six figures. This could have been the ultimate career high for most of these women, and I don't believe they are showing ingratitude or poor sportsmanship toward winning silver by not hiding their disappointment at a dashed dream of gold.
Men cry all the time in sports. American skeleton racer John Daly was holding back tears during his interview after a crushing loss just five days before the hockey team incident. But everyone on Twitter was sympathizing with him and calling him brave.
Postgame tears are common regardless of sport and gender, regardless of whether the tears are happy or sad. Crying in sports is not gender-specific. However, the public reaction to it is. When men cry, it is regarded as brave or noble—but when a woman cries? There is a completely different cultural stigma attached to it. Lady-tears are always irrational or melodramatic—they'll sneak up on you and make you uncomfortable faster than you can change the channel on those depressing Sarah McLachlan pet adoption commercials. However, the U.S. women's hockey team's tears were not irrational. They were not a sign of weakness or in- eptitude in their sport, and they are most definitely not something to be ashamed of or mocked for.