15 Famous Athletes Who Had a Good Cry in Public
Tom Hanks’s character Jimmy Dugan famously said in ‘A League Of Their Own’ that “There’s no crying in baseball.” But that warning hasn’t stopped some of professional sports’ top players from showing their softer side from time to time.
Just this week there were three high-profile examples of athletes and coaches letting their emotions get the best of them. First, Peyton Manning had a heartfelt goodbye from Indianapolis. Then, running back Arian Foster shared some fond childhood memories. And, lastly, on Thursday, Indiana University coach Tom Crean was brought to tears discussing a player’s injury.
With this recent spout of tearjerker moments, here’s a look back at sports’ most memorable crying athletes:
Upon winning his first championship in 1991, Jordan let it all hang out. Long considered a great scorer, Jordan carried the burden of having to prove his greatness through winning titles. And with this trophy, he did just that. It would be the first of six that Jordan would take home in his career.
It was Favre’s so-called retirement speech in 2008, and one the moment meant a great deal to him. But some critics came down hard on the gunslinger for his crying display. ”All these years, and I didn’t know there was a woman quarterback in the NFL,” said radio host Laura Ingraham. Favre would return to the NFL to play for the Jets soon afterward, which led some to wonder whether Favre had merely cried wolf. Even now that Favre has finally stepped away from the game, there’s no telling if he’s really gone for good.
When “The Great One” was shipped to Los Angeles, he had a hard time leaving Edmonton. And he let the local media know that in a very candid press conference where he choked up when discussing the idea of leaving Canada. “What makes this instance of crying most acceptable is the fact that he wasn’t alone. Millions of Canadians and hockey fans the world over knew exactly how he felt,” said one blogger. That sentiment can be heard at the end of the clip when Gretzky gets an ovation for his brief comments.
When Tiger took home the British Open in 2006, it had additional meaning for him since the death of his father, Earl. “After my last putt I realized my dad’s never going to see this again. I wish he could have seen this one last time,” Tiger said. It was Tiger’s third career Major win, but demonstrated his unflinching prowess to dominate when it mattered most.
Still near the top of his game in 2009, Federer dropped the Australian Open to young hotshot Rafael Nadal, leaving the aging star sobbing through his post-match comments. These tears earned Federer respect from the crowd and adoration from others. “Federer showed us the soft side of a man and his sense of sportsmanship and fair play at the same time,” said one commentator. “It’s easy to praise your rivals when you are on the winning side; handling a devastating defeat in such a manner is different.”
It was the “Why?” heard ’round the world. Kerrigan’s cries after a man smashed her leg in 1994 left her in indescribable pain and searching for answers. Eventually, fellow skater Tonya Harding was nabbed along with her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly for taking Kerrigan out. Harding was banned from the sport, while Kerrigan recovered to earn a silver medal at the Olympics in Lillehammer.
The wide receiver choked up when talking about his quarterback Tony Romo who he felt was being unfairly thrown under the bus after a Cowboys’ playoff loss in 2008. It was a particularly noteworthy moment for T.O. because he had a reputation for being a selfish player. Was he turning a new corner? By the next season, Owens, who left for Buffalo, was bashing Romo on Twitter. So much for standing up for his teammate.
The famous Philadelphia Phillies third baseman announced his retirement in 1989, and he had a hard time walking away. ”You may not be able to tell, but this is a joyous time for me,” Schmidt said. ”I’ve had a great career.” It’s held up as one of the great emotional tributes reflecting a man’s love for the game he played. “Today, most fans are probably too cynical about modern ballplayers to appreciate this kind of emotion, but as a kid growing up under the spell of baseball, Schmidt’s tears validated everything that was good about the game,” said one blogger.
One of the Tennis greats, Agassi left the sport behind in 2006 with a final loss at the U.S. Open. His emotions came out amid a standing ovation from the crowd. ”The scoreboard shows that I lost today, but what it doesn’t show is what I found,” he said. Five years later, he was crying again. This time, over the $26.1 million he’d raised for his foundation. He remains an ambassador to the sport he loves.
Before he was thrilling Broncos’ fans, Tebow was a star college player at University of Florida where he led the Gators to the SEC Championship game in 2009. In the final moments of the team’s defeat, Tebow can be seen crying on the sidelines. “Tebow crying demonstrated the emotion he puts into the game, and it generated a variety of responses,” The Huffington Post said. Even then, Tebow was dividing American opinion.
“Big Baby” lived up to his nickname during a Celtics’ game in 2008 when he got his feeling hurt and began to cry on the sideline after teammate Kevin Garnett chewed him out. “I get the frustration, nobody puts Baby in a corner,” joked one blogger. Davis dealt with the situation quietly with a towel on his head, yet he’s faced a bit of ridicule from league commentators ever since. He may never live this one down in the eyes on NBA fans either.
“As the second weekend of the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament drew to a close there was one water cooler topic that proved to have legs. It was Adam Morrison’s crying jag on the floor of the Oakland Coliseum,” said a San Francisco Chronicle blogger. After Gonzaga took a heartbreaking loss at the hands of UCLA, the college basketball phenom broke down near midcourt. It wasn’t the public display of emotion that bothered people as much as Morrison’s inability to wait until after the final buzzer to show it – he began to fall apart with two seconds left and a chance for his team to rally back.
Perhaps as famous as Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament. He “reacted as if he just won the lottery,” said one writer. Hill is remembered for a play he wasn’t even in the game at the time for. But the cameras centered in on him first after Laettner’s big shot, and he is forever immortalized as the face of one of the greatest moments in the tournament’s history.
After Spain took home top honors at the 2010 World Cup, team captain and goaltender Iker Casillas wept like crazy to celebrate the victory. The win meant a great deal to the country, too. “Many of this morning’s newspapers in Spain have hinted that the victory could herald a new dawn for the country, where a sense of national identity might now take precedence over regional concerns,” reported CNN.
McCall won the heavyweight title in 1994 after knocking out Lennox Lewis. Three years later at the rematch, McCall had a breakdown and refused to continue to fight. Years later, when discussing the episode, he said: ““I usually cry when I go to the ring anyway. So I can pump myself up emotionally. So I can really inflict what I need to inflict on my opponent. That’s my only way of really pumping myself up other than him actually hitting me. Before I do so.” Since his boxing career ended, McCall has suffered from drug abuse.