By Steve May, copywriter and consultant at Rockatansky.
Marin Cilic broke down and cried during his Wimbledon Final match against Roger Federer.
Federer won the match (in straight sets), then he too shed tears.
So, at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, we saw two men crying for two very different reasons.
One in pain, the other in paradise.
Extremes of emotion on show as the world watched.
I can’t begin to understand the pressure these athletes are under. When I was 28 (the age of Cilic), my greatest pressure was choosing chicken or beef in my Thai stir fry. Ah, those were the days.
People react to pressure differently – especially when it comes to sport. Some thrive, others tank, many choke. And we, the viewers, lap it up as the ultimate unscripted drama.
Professional tennis players represent kin and country with each saunter to centre court, especially Wimbledon. Commentators wax lyrical about hopes of countries on shoulders. War-painted faces of national colours and flags worn as capes are peppered throughout an impassioned crowd.
On this occasion we had a player who’s won a Grand Slam up against a player who has won 19 of them.
Cilic, the underdog, broke down and sobbed during a break. On centre court. Slap, bang in the middle. Nowhere to hide. Unable to communicate with his support team. Tournament staff were on-hand, but this guy, you could tell, was alone and hurting.
Enter Piers Morgan. A British television personality with 5.6million Twitter followers. He tweets:
‘Get a grip, Cilic. You don’t sob like a baby because you’re losing. That’s pathetic.’
My first reaction: did I read this correctly?
Second: what a dick.
Third: why not sob?
After all, tough-as-nails football players sobbing after defeats is nothing new. The same players also sob after great victories. Olympic athletes sob on the finish line and on the pedestal. What about press conferences? Seen plenty of tears in press conferences after games. Hell, Federer sobbed as he was crowned champion.
Notice a pattern?
To the Piers Morgans of the world, sobbing post game for male athletes is acceptable – win or lose – but during the battle, well, that’s another story. Of course, smashing a racquet (which makes greats TV) is fine. Showing anger and frustration by pounding Wilsons on the lawn until pulverised is ok. Yelling abuse gets the tick, but tears are a no, no, fellas.
Would he have tweeted such an insult if it were a woman player sobbing under similar circumstances? Would he call a distressed female athlete ‘pathetic’? Doubt it. Then again…
There seems to be an unwritten rule that men must wait until the final buzzer, the last whistle, the hooter, the ultimate lap, the nail in the coffin before tears can make an appearance.
That if you’re a distressed male athlete during competition, you should resort to violence rather than Kleenex. Perhaps Morgan feels so uncomfortable seeing a man in such a state of sadness that it’s easier to attack his masculinity rather than extend the hand of comfort?
Obviously, to people like Morgan, it’s about the timing of tears having a bearing on whether you’re seen as emotionally weak.
For heaven’s sake, crying is crying. It’s automatic. Unless you’re an accomplished actor, you don’t just click your fingers and squeeze tears from your eyes. Crying is a release of pressure. We’re no different to volcanos spewing lava – too much pressure and something’s got to give.
It’s why it feels good once we’ve ‘let it all out’.
No one should be ashamed or shamed for crying. Not a woman or a man. No one. We’ve all seen people sobbing on trains, in offices, on streets. Can look a little unusual, but it happens – and we don’t consider them pathetic. We consider them upset.
It’s happened to me. On one vivid occasion my centre court was on the phone in my car, at the traffic lights, for all flanking drivers to witness. I was talking with someone and just broke down. Afterwards, I felt a little better. It helped me. And if anyone around me thought I was pathetic, I really couldn’t care less.
Maybe if men cried more there’d be less broken racquets in the world.