The Crying Game

Can we please, for a moment, cut Caleb Williams some slack?

The biggest news to come out of Los Angeles last weekend was not the Clippers signing James Harden nor the inevitable injury that once again riddled Anthony Davis.  It was how, for millions to see, an emotional Caleb Williams cried in his mother’s arms after a devastating loss to the University of Washington.

Allow for the momma’s boy in the room to retort.

Caleb Williams is your defending Heisman Trophy winner, starting quarterback at USC.  Big things were expected from USC this season as Williams returned not only for a shot to be mentioned in the same rarified air as Archie Griffin, the only two-time winner of the Heisman, but to bring Southern California a national championship, something the program hasn’t seen since 2004.

To call USC’s season a disappointment would be an understatement.  Even in an extremely competitive (and soon to be defunct) Pac-12, USC had high hopes, especially after starting the season 6-0.  But back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Utah put a wrench in their grand plan. 

A home victory against 5th-ranked Washington would exorcise those demons, even keep them in the hunt for a conference title and likely get Williams another invite to New York.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  In a game which saw only one combined punt, the Huskies rolled into USC and handled their business, 52-42.  They are the fifth ranked team in the nation for a reason.

Out the window flew any hopes of a successful season, by USC’s standards, along with the hopes for any return to the Heisman ceremony for Caleb.  The three touchdowns and 312 yards he threw for that evening were not enough.

The next image we saw after the loss was a sobbing Williams, in his mother’s arms, her protecting him as any loving mother would.  I mean, who wouldn’t cry after a loss like that?  The kid is 21 years old and has the pressure of the world thrust upon him.  The emotions had to be running at an all-time high, the expectations he set for himself swept out from under him.  When things go south for me, I’ll still cry but I’m an emotional cat.  Anyone who has a problem with that can find another website to read without me shedding a single tear.

Instead of providing emotional support for Williams, and there were a few out there who did, the internet took to trolling as it always does, one ignoramus going so far as to call Williams “undraftable.”  Keep in mind that Williams was pegged, and still might be, the number one quarterback selected in next year’s draft.  So, you’re telling me you don’t want to draft a kid who wears his emotions on his sleeve, who lays it all on the line to win a ball game.  Au contraire, haters.  That’s EXACTLY the kid I want.  You take the one who doesn’t give a care and we’ll see where that gets you.

Tim Tebow cried on the sidelines after losing to Alabama.  They still show that image of him on one knee, but no one would ever make the mistake of calling Tebow soft, at least not to his face.  When Kevin Durant won his first league MVP, he cried throughout his entire speech, praising his mother as the real MVP. 

To be clear, crying is not an indication of weakness but rather that things matter, more so to the average joe with a Twitter account and a half-assed opinion.  Long lined the list of Caleb critics but that’s what’s wrong with us these days.  We tear the kids down rather than seeing things from their perspective.  I’m not suggesting we give everyone who played a participation trophy.  Games have winners and losers.  But after a tough loss, it’s okay to show emotion.  If those emotions well up into tears when someone’s momma happens to be there, that’s okay too.  I bet the trolls would complain about bad parenting if no one was there for Caleb in his time of need.

We bash these kids after setting ridiculously high expectations only to tear them down once they don’t meet them.  It’s a miracle that we don’t see more of them crying.

Years ago, Brett Favre lost his father the day before he was slated to play on Monday Night Football.  A seemingly emotionless Favre somehow went on to play that football game, passing for some obscene number of touchdowns in an unexpected victory.  I always wondered how Favre pulled that night off, machine-like, stoic.  Back then we lauded Favre as the man, a hero, one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived and certainly one of the toughest.  And he was.  Then he misdirected millions of state tax dollars from the needy and channeled those funds to build a school gym where his daughter attended, another family matter over which I’m guessing he didn’t cry much either, not until he got caught.

Call me crazy but I’d rather have a guy on my squad that wasn’t afraid to show emotion than one who was emotionally cripple. 

As he was dying of cancer, the late Jim Valvano said we should be moved to tears every day.  I couldn’t agree more.  Go ahead and call me soft when I’m tearing up.  Do the same to Caleb Williams.  Just be sure to do it to our faces.  And bring some tissues.  One of us is going to need it.

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