Why sporting glory can bring a man to tears

Dave Edwards Roar Pro

By Dave Edwards, 11 Apr 2012 Dave Edwards is a Roar Pro

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    Roger Federer of Switzerland, left, is interviewed by Jim Courier after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France to win the Men's singles semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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    It is no secret that men struggle to externally express their true feelings. In fact, many men brag about how long it’s been since they actually shed a tear. Exactly why the male species is hardwired this way remains unknown, despite years of theorising and countless peer-reviewed papers on the human psyche.

    But if there is anything that can stir the latent emotions deep inside a man – it’s sport. Specifically, it’s an unlikely sporting victory against the odds. And at the US Masters yesterday, Bubba Watson achieved this – which consequently ignited the deep emotions.

    Tapping in his 6-inch putt for par – and the 2012 title – Watson turned to his caddie, accepted his man-hug and convulsed into tears of unadulterated joy and relief.

    Watson’s tears were real.

    There was nothing contrived about the performance – just as there is nothing contrived about the way he plays golf. Much has been made of the fact Bubba has never taken a golf lesson, which certainly adds to his aura.

    His second shot on the playoff hole was a stroke no coached golfer would likely attempt, given the degree of difficulty and the state of the match.

    Hooking a lofted club from deep within the woods is something that no other PGA player could reasonably attempt, but Bubba’s self belief is tempered by no-one. He must be a dream to caddy for.

    That shot, obviously, was the shot of an emotional man – not a rational man. The standard professional golfer would almost certainly look to get the ball back on the fairway and back himself to make the up-and-down for par. But Watson wanted the win. He knew that Oosthuizen had the chance to close the game out and as such backed himself to do the impossible. And to create a slice of Augusta history.

    We’ve seen men cry before after momentous sporting victories and losses. Roger Federer dissolved into a torrent of tears following his Australian Open final loss a few years back. This was shockingly unexpected, given how robotic the Fed-Ex had appeared up until that point. What’s more, the emotional outburst even deprived the victor, Rafael Nadal, of truly savouring what was rightfully his moment. Was this a show of arrogance from a man programmed to win at all costs, or a rare human moment from an exhausted, outplayed tennis star suddenly facing his own sporting mortality?

    Tears following a win are more authentic than those following a loss. The defeated is expected to feel an immediate sense of sadness and loss. But the victor, in this moment, does not think about the millions of dollars that will flow their way; instead, assuming they are human, he or she is simply overcome by a sense of relief and occasion. It’s the hundreds of hours of training as a child, that instant release from hours of intense concentration, the immense pressure suddenly lifted off one’s shoulders.

    And suddenly, upon that final shot, the victor is instantly surrounded by family and close friends, who spill from the crowd to bask in the spoils, provoking ultra-emotional responses such as “yes, we did it!”; “this one’s for Dad!”, and so on. Cue the beaming wife, who thrusts your three-month-old baby into your arms, and presto – you’ve got yourself some Man Tears.

    Bubba Watson’s outburst at the Masters reminded us that without emotion, golf – well, any sport, really – is nothing more than a bunch of rich guys tussling it out over a massive pay cheque. But in surrendering to their natural emotions, athletes become human – just like the rest of us.

    Sport is just the vehicle for their success.

    Scientists say it’s the few minutes immediately after ejaculation when a man is at his most honest. And there’s no greater release than a huge sporting win on the world stage.