In his press conference yesterday, following a fourth straight loss, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “There are a couple guys crying in the locker room right now.” 12 words he’d probably love to have back right about now.
In fact, he has backtracked today and blamed the media for blowing that statement out of proportion. He may just be doing some damage control, but there is no need.
A four-game losing streak in the middle of an 82-game season, where the team is 43-20, is not a reason to freak out, but whichever players did allow a salty discharge to drip down their cheeks actually care. Not something you can say with certainty about every professional athlete.
It’s OK for Little Leaguers to cry. It’s OK for collegiate athletes to cry when they realize they have just completed the final games of their careers. Once athletes reach the pro ranks and are paid millions, we tend to think of them as machines. In a sense they are because their jobs are to perform at the highest possible level and bring their teams championships, while putting more money in their teams’ owners’ pockets as well as their own. When it’s all said and done, however, it’s the same game they played as 10-year-old kids.
Maybe crying shows weakness. Then again, if I were a Heat a fan, I’d much rather hear a couple players were crying following a fourth straight brutal loss than partying the night away at a South Beach club after the game. I wouldn’t want them to be crying after each loss, of course, but perhaps they reached a breaking point, which may consequently be a turning point in the season. Again, the Heat are 43-20. They can rebound from this and still gain home-court advantage in the playoffs.
After all the pomp and circumstance from this past offseason, when LeBron James had his “Decision” and the Heat held a glitzy pep rally of sorts to introduce their Big Three, most non-Heat fans have savored the few rough moments the team has had. The tears in Miami have quickly become fodder for bloggers, talk radio, sports TV shows, and likely will get a mention on the late-night talk shows tonight. However, world-class athletes tend to be at their best when people are doubting them. Now they’re not only doubting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and company, they are laughing at them. As a Knicks fan with no love for the Heat, this is scary.
I admit that I got a chuckle out of hearing that a couple of Heat players were crying after the game. I’m enjoying this losing streak as much as anyone — especially when the Knicks beat them on February 27. I also understand the media making a story out of this; crying isn’t deemed acceptable in male professional sports. Erik Spoelstra doesn’t need to cover up his tracks, though. His team is hurting. They are mentally and physically drained from four awful games and it’s human to let your emotions get the best of you.
While I can only hope the Heat continue to struggle, I fear that is a far cry from what will actually happen.