The World Cup has created a lot of interesting story lines, but one caught my eyes this morning.
The captain for the Brazil team, Thiago Silva, has been in the news recently. Not because of his play, or any off-field shenanigans. But because he cried.
After the nerve-wrecking shootout against Chile last weekend, Silva started to cry. That shootout held a lot in the balance, mainly the Brazilian team’s immense pressure to deliver a World Cup as host country. It’s likely that he was scared, or maybe he felt like a huge burden was lifted. Either way, the sports world is not used to these sort of tears.
He was crying because he was exposed, vulnerable, and the world was there to watch.
Julio Cesar, their goalie, cried, too, and so did their superstar, Neymar, but they were different. They were displaying the “champion’s emotion:” what athletes do after they are victorious or stage an amazing comeback. At least that is how the media is differentiating that from what Silva did.
“I am a guy who overcame tuberculosis, so my mind is fine. Is it natural of human beings to feel emotional and I will not change because of what people say” – Thiago Silva
So far, the story is that Silva was scared. Silva, the team’s leader, was displaying vulnerability while in the thick of battle. This made the sports world uneasy. They felt like the guy who doesn’t know what to do with a crying colleague at work. The undertones of this story as presented by the media are about weakness and fear.
You won’t often read columns that appreciate the pressure all these athletes, in this case, all these men, are under. Their entire country is rooting for them, which is another way of saying their entire country is counting on them to win. Some of these men are just boys, barely 19 or 20 years old, trying their best while billions of people watch. You won’t often read about these things, because that sort of stuff is messy. It’s hard to say, Let’s remember that they are human beings, and they are not perfect, or, These men are still people with their own fears and moments of vulnerability. Instead, we just make fun of their manhood, or question their leadership.
It’s easier to turn their story into a tabloid than explore the topic with respect and kindness.
Sports is the great unifier, the great equalizer, but it still has work to do. It’s still not comfortable with human emotion outside of the expected. It’s still not good at handling the fragile elements of manhood or humanity. But if there’s any thing that can broaden the conversation it is sports, as it has in the past in issues of equality, unity, and fairness.
Meanwhile, let’s just take tears for what they are: that guy’s right to shed them.
What is your reaction to how the media is portraying the Silva story?