When the U.S. women’s hockey team lost the game that stood between them and a gold medal at the
“omg. The U.S. women’s hockey team is crying! There’s no crying in hockey!!” wrote one self-satisfied wit — not the only one I came across who borrowed the famous
But the criticism wasn't just that they were women crying; it was that they were athletes ungrateful to be getting second prize, the silver medal.
OK, let's stop and think about this for a moment. You train your entire life to get to the Olympics, you out-compete U.S. athletes to get on the team, your team wins to get to the final game in the Olympics. You lead by two goals and are minutes, barely 3 1/2 of them, away from winning, when the Canadian team ties the score, forces overtime — and wins.
It was a stunning win for Canada. And a brutal loss for the American. The grief and raw pain on the American players' faces, so evident through their masks, was heartbreaking and riveting at the same time.
"We didn't train as hard as we could for second place," team captain Meghan Duggan said Friday.
Of course they didn't. And understandably, they're devastated they didn't win the gold. Why should they cover that up? Yes, there are some athletes who are just thrilled to be at the Olympics, who know — or suspect — that the nearest they will come to a medal of any color is if they get a chance to fondle one around the neck of a competitor. But if you're a contender for a medal, you only got that far with extraordinary drive and focus and hard work. Criticizing these women for not smiling politely as they were awarded silver medals seems churlish, doesn't recognize the tremendous mental and emotional energy that they expended, and dismisses — to borrow the well-worn cliche of televised sports — "the agony of defeat." And it was a defeat.
It wasn't bad manners to cry at the medal ceremony. If they hadn't shown up at all for the medal ceremony, that would have been rude.
For all the great athletic feats we've seen at the Olympics, it's amazing how overly polished and slick and television-ready so many of the athletes look and act. The female athletes look made-up and blow-dried just minutes after hurtling down a ski slope. (Does Drybar have a pop-up salon in Sochi?) Their answers to TV reporters' questions have been, with some fun exceptions, practiced and public relations approved.
So it was bracing to see a real and uncensored moment of emotion. And it was grim; the hockey players looked dejected and glum. Duggan clapped her hands over her face to hide her emotions on the medal platform. Other players wiped tears from their red eyes with their shirts. No blow-dried hair or blow-dried smiles for these young women.
But by Friday morning, members of the team were on
In fact, they weren’t the only silver medalists crying. Did anyone catch South Korean figure skater
Nor was it just women sobbing. Witness American skier
The point is these are all fierce competitors with a well of emotions inside. And they're all there to win. It's not unsporting for athletes to cry when they come up short. But it is unsporting to chastise them for it.