Heat, Boehner Show There Is Crying In Basketball ... and Politics

Miami Heat players and the GOP's John Boehner have something in common.

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I am a devoted Democrat and fervent fan of the Boston Celtics so I normally don’t have much sympathy for the GOP House Speaker John Boehner or the NBA’s Miami Heat but I do now.

After a string of losses, the coach of the Heat, Erik Spoelstra, told a room of reporters that his players were so upset about the team’s latest loss that two of them cried in the locker room. Cries of “crybabies” filled the air and L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said there were no boys in NBA locker rooms, only men and that there’s no crying in basketball. Jackson’s comments inevitably led to ESPN running the famous clip with Tom Hanks from the classic baseball movie, A League of Their Own. [Check out a roundup of this month's best political cartoons.]

Personally, I wished more professional athletes cared enough about their performance to cry after a loss. Most professional athletes just don’t care enough about their sports to show any emotion in defeat.

Of course, this was not the first crying scandal in professional sports. Reportedly, San Francisco Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds cried when he received a letter from the U.S. attorney informing him that he was the target of a criminal investigation. However many people inside baseball believe that Bonds’ tears, like his home run totals, were artificially enhanced.

There is a long history of crying in politics.

Late last year, Boehner got all misty when he talked about his childhood. Soon the GOP leader was the butt of jokes from the late night comedians and scorn from many Democrats. [See 2010: The Year in Cartoons.]

Back in 1972, tears (or the appearance of them) helped destroy the presidential campaign of Maine Democratic Sen. Ed Muskie. Muskie was a tough pol and had been Hubert Humphrey’s running mate on the 1968 national Democratic ticket. Campaigning in New Hampshire, Muskie seemed to mist up on the stump when he defended his wife from a vicious personal attack leveled by the Manchester Union Leader newspaper. Muskie’s presidential dream was toast.

Gender stereotypes die hard and the wrath of God falls on the head of any man who dares to break down in tears. But it’s apparently okay for female politicians to cry.

[See a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP.]

In 2008, Hillary Clinton cried the day before the New Hampshire presidential primary. Her show of emotion apparently convinced voters that she was a real person and not a political automaton because she scored an upset victory over Barack Obama the next day.

I would like to think that society had progressed enough to let politicians show their emotions. If more male politicians shed some tears every once in a while instead of being so buttoned up and programmed, voters would see them as real people instead of viewing them as trained parrots.

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