Shawn Windsor: Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell's tears reminds us society is changing -- for the better

Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Football

Abraham Lincoln cried when his rival, Stephen A. Douglas died. George Washington cried. So, too, did Dwight D. Eisenhower, both as they contemplated loss during war.

Walker Cronkite, the iconic anchorman, cried, on air, after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And Jon Stewart cried, also on air, the day his "Daily Show" returned after 9/11.

Professional athletes have shed tears for decades, perhaps most famously when Lou Gehrig stood inside the old Yankee Stadium and told the crowd he was the luckiest man in the world.

Former Detroit Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, would cry during the telling of a story, or remembering a life hardship, for him or someone he loved. And while “A League of Their Own” unleashed the phrase “There is no crying in baseball” upon us, that hasn’t kept tears out of baseball.

NFL players cry during retirement speeches, or when holding a trophy, or when leaving a city — and franchise — they've loved. NBA players cry after playoff wins and losses — remember Isiah Thomas’ wrenching sob after the 1988 Finals loss?

Crying is cathartic. It is also revealing, showing joy, or gratitude, or sorrow, or pain. Dan Campbell revealed the last three when he cried during his postgame news conference Sunday in Minneapolis after his Lions lost again in heartbreaking fashion.


He was grateful for his players’ effort, sorrowful that effort didn’t get rewarded, in pain because the losing, well … sometimes the last-minute (or last-second) losing is just too much.

“When you see your players give all that they have and you lose that way it’s tough,” he said, sniffling, voice cracking. “You know, you don’t want that for them.”

Video of Campbell’s tearful news conference have gone viral, in part because of the shock of such raw and honest emotion, in part because of society’s expectations for an NFL coach, at least society’s expectation for a winning NFL coach.

Bill Belichick doesn’t cry, not publicly, not after a loss in October. Sean Payton, Campbell’s mentor and the head coach in New Orleans, doesn’t cry, not in news conferences about games.


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