Who’s crying next?

Crying has been featured prominently in the news the past week or so.  First, there was the “crying” of Sen. Clinton.  Okay, she didn’t really cry, despite what most of the headlines declared.  She welled up with emotion.  And then she won a primary in New Hampshire that 24 hours before polls showed she’d lose by double-digits.

Just after this, the Dallas Cowboys lost a playoff game to the New York Giants, a game they were 7 1/2 point favorites to win.  And then, wide receiver Terrell Owens cried.

Both of these criers have in common the fact that they, of all people, are the sort some would say most definitely should not cry–an extraordinarily gifted tough guy professional football player and a woman running to become what used to be called “the most powerful man in the world.”

Opposing patterns are developing here:  cry first, win later….lose first, cry later.  And it would have to be the first pattern for Sen. Clinton, wouldn’t it?  Suppose she had lost first, then cried.  That would have been bad for the campaign.  Crying first “humanized” her, as the news put it, and it probably got her a few more votes than she might have gotten otherwise.  Crying later would have made her out to be a poor sport or just plain weak. 

I hate to use the G-word here, but does gender does seem to have something to do with this?  I say this without judgment:  I have known women who have cried to get out of a speeding ticket (and other tough spots) successfully.  I don’t know any men who have succeeded with the same strategy…but hold on a moment:  Obviously, had T.O. cried first he would not then have expected to win a football game (he would only have looked pathetically weak).  However, after T.O. cried he did get a victory of sorts:  the savagely critical sports talk radio around Philly, for instance, actually found a nice word to say about T.O.  Unthinkable!  But his crying seemed to “humanize” him.  “Maybe he doesn’t just wreck football teams…maybe there is something decent in him….”

Okay, in both cases there were suspicions voiced from some quarters that the crying was feigned (crocodile tears).  You can look at the video of Sen. Clinton and T.O. and decide for yourself.  I happen to think it was genuine emotion in both cases.

Crying is starting to look like a good thing, public relations-wise, but only if crying comes before the judgment of others (“Should I vote for her?” “Do I like him?”) and is (or seems) sincere.  So, keep an eye on the news to see who will be crying next…and keep an eye on your reactions, too.

Meanwhile, gender-schmender, I cry almost all the time.  Or at least I could if I weren’t on a strict hanky budget.  Here are some up-to-the-minute reasons:

Well, I could go on and on and on and on….you get the idea.

Last night on the season debut of American Idol, one contestant was Temptress Browne, a sixteen year old girl large enough to play middle linebacker (which she does!).   She said she came to the Philadelphia auditions “for her mother,” a morbidly obese and seriously unhealthy woman who accompanied her.  Dear Temptress is seriously untalented, singing-wise, but it is clear she loves her mom and her mom loves her.  Temptress cried and cried when the judges turned her down.  Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul held a group hug for the poor girl, and even the villainous Simon Cowell accompanied the unsuccessful constestant back to her mom.  My wife and I watched together, and one of us–I am not saying who–bawled like a baby, it was so touching. 

Meanwhile, some Canadians are debating whether it was okay to laugh at them.  A forum entry ran as follows:

Pathetic American Idol Contestants

Is it wrong to laugh at them?

Just saw a GINORMOUS (translation: massively obese) 16yo girl try to sing for the judges, all so she could win to help her MORBIDLY OBESE mother.

The audition was absolutely terrible, and I can’t help but laugh!

Am I an evil person? Do people like this deserve to be laughed at? If you are going to go on national TV with no talent, and try to win a singing competition, why should we laugh at you?

So a survey was launched:  “Is it wrong to laugh at really bad American Idol auditions?”   At last count the results were that 38.89% of respondents thought “No, there really are pathetic excuses for auditions.”  50% thought, “No, they wanted to stand in the spotlight, so they have to suffer the consequences.”  11.11% opined that, “Yes [it is wrong because], nobody deserves to be laughed at.”  No one selected the choice:  “Yes [it is wrong], they are giving their best.”

But what are we laughing at?  I laugh (’til I cry, sometimes) at some of the miserable performances–they can be just awful!  Even wonderfully so!  Sometimes I laugh…but it is a nervous laughter…at some of the really bad contestants who don’t seem to know they are bad.  I certainly laugh at the “I just want to be on tv for 15 seconds” acts, which are meant to be funny (at least I hope they are).  We might even laugh at someone’s name:  “Temptress” is just a funny name!  However, if we are laughing at Temptress or her mom because of their obesity, say, or even just because they failed at some wild idea they had, then we may have a problem.  What would make that funny?

But we’re not talking about laughter; we’re talking about tears.  “Jesus wept” [John 11:35] is famously the shortest sentence in the New Testament.  Why did he cry?  His friend, whom he loved, Lazarus, had died.  The tears were produced from the intensity of the relationship.  Why did Sen. Clinton cry?  Who knows a person’s heart?  But it seems to me she welled up just at the moment when she was thinking about her country and about the opportunities it gave her, an intense relationship between a person and her country, her home.  Why did Terrell Owens cry?  Well, at (tear-streaked) face value, he was crying for his quarterback, who was once again taking it on the chin for losing (all by himself??) a playoff game.  Another intense relationship (too bad one couldn’t have developed here in Philly, but that’s another story…), between T.O. and those with whom he works, shares a mission, engages in mutual striving to be excellent, to be victorious.  Their fates are in each other’s hands (quitel literally, in the case of a quarterback and a wide receiver).  Why would one cry while watching a game show?  Because for a brief moment there was evidence of something more important than a game show right in the middle of a self-important game show.  A mother’s love?  The pain of a fading dream?  Intimations of mortality and loss?

Looking around the world these days, there are plenty of reasons to shed a tear.  But the tears are signs of a deep, transcendent connection to a reality that makes possible but gets hidden by all the superficial nonsense we get caught up in every day.

Wish I could have said this better, but no use crying of spilled milk.

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