This is going to be a little more topical than I usually get, but it’s one of those rare instances where I feel strongly enough about something to risk it. Warning! Actual current events and stuff ahead! Plus opinions!
Yesterday the US women’s hockey team played Canada in the final game to determine who got gold and who got silver medals in Sochi. In the last few minutes of the game the Americans lost their 2-1 lead and ended up in overtime, where they lost. They were really, really bummed. Most of them looked upset during the (immediately-following-the-game) medal ceremony. Some of them visibly cried, wiping their eyes on their jerseys as they accepted second place. This morning there was discussion on ever morning show I watched about whether or not these women were “poor sports” because they weren’t jumping for joy over their silver medals.
Let me answer that question in one word: No.
You know who else cries when they lose? MALE ATHLETES. Tom Brady crying has it’s own Tumblr. Peyton Manning looked sad and upset all through his (horribly played) Super Bowl game this year. And while some people may make fun of them (oh noes, men don’t cry!) they certainly don’t act like being upset over losing a sporting event is somehow unreasonable. And no one ever tells the loser of the Super Bowl “Hey, you should be THRILLED with second place!”
But in women’s sports, we often focus more on playing nice than winning. And even if you do win, don’t think about celebrating it too loudly. That’s unlady-like and you might hurt the other team’s feelings. You should just be proud of doing your best.
Excuse me, but f**k that. Being a poor sport is refusing to shake the winning team’s hand. Or walking out of the award ceremony. Or cheating, which is something that happens all the time in pro (spoken: men’s) sports. Or swearing and shouting at the other team. Being sad you lost in the minutes RIGHT AFTER your loss is human. This was the Olympic games. The LAST chance some of these women will get to play with their whole country cheering for them – or even play in a widely televised game because last time I checked the NHL didn’t include many ladies.
If it was my daughter on that rink I would have been crying right along with her. I want both my children to know they’re allows to feel upset or sad and that there’s no shame in expressing those emotions in reasonable ways. Throwing your helmet? Breaking your stick? Hitting people? (Alllll of which happens in football almost on a weekly basis…) Not OK. Crying because you’re disappointed in your own performance? TOTALLY OK. The American team’s sadness has nothing to do with the Canadian team’s joy. I’ve seen or read absolutely zero interviews where any of the US women’s team talked about anything beyond their dedication to the sport and how proud they are of making it the Olympics.
This morning my daughter cried because her flashlight stopped working. I told her I understood her feelings and hugged her and told her we could look for some new batteries. I certainly didn’t ridicule her or call her a poor sport. A few minutes later I cried when a shelf in the kitchen collapsed, shattering half my dishes and scaring me out of my mind. Luckily there was no one here to tell me to suck it up because at least the other half of my dishes was OK. Emotions are complicated, sometimes unwelcome, and often impossible to control. Think about the last time you cried and whether or not you would want that broadcast worldwide for everyone to judge on the occasion’s worthiness and how sportsman-like it seems.
Good job, ladies of the US Olympic hockey team. I’m proud of you and I wish I could give you a hug.