On Sunday, when Tiger Woods won the British Open for the second time in a row and the third time overall, he celebrated his win by sobbing on his caddy’s shoulder. That was Tiger’s first win after the death of his father Earl in May and, as Tiger told the world later, he was crying because he missed his father so much.
After the last putt, I realized my dad’s never going to see this again, and I wish he could have seen this one last time. He was out there today keeping me calm. I had a very calm feeling the entire week, especially today.
Tiger’s crying like a broken-hearted child was touching as the wounded boy in him came shattered out of the empirical man. Tiger was comfortable with his public display of emotion and he did not later shrink from the catcalls of crybabyism and being a “Daddy’s Boy” in media commentary and in blogged responses after his tearful win.
In that standing up for the full feelings of a man who misses his father, and who still isn’t able to overcome the pain of longing for him, Tiger Woods, at 30, became bigger than his legend: He grew more human in the landscape of his gifted talents from the Gods. Tiger’s crying has resonance beyond his beating heart.
By showing emotion and by demonstrating it is okay to miss your father in the midst of your glory, he is sending an invisible, yet vibrant, message to young boys all over the world that there is no shame in crying and that sometimes to win is to lose because the father you lost will never see you win again.
Tiger’s fine lesson for a generation of boys hearkens back to 1972 and the debut of the history-making book and album coordinated by Marlo Thomas called “Free to Be You and Me.”
There is a song on that album sung by professional football star Rosey Grier called “It’s Alright to Cry” and, like Tiger’s open weeping, that song
— sung by a gigantic and tough football hero who played for the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams — was a startlingly bright signpost in its time for young boys like me lost in the pit of emotion and the pendulum of wondering.
You can purchase songs from “Free to Be You and Me” on iTunes, but I still remember the simple tune and plain lyric of “It’s Alright to Cry” 34 years later:
It’s alright to cry Crying gets the sad out of you. It’s alright to cry It might make you feel better. Raindrops from your eyes Washing all the mad right out of you. Raindrops from your eyes It’s gonna make you feel better. It’s alright to feel pain Though the feelings may be strange. Feelings are such real things And they change and change and change.
Those were daring words for Rosey Grier to sing in 1972 because, in America at that time, boys were not supposed to cry or be emotional or show their feelings. Boys were born to be tough and unassuaging and determined.
Having Rosey Grier sing to us — telling everyone at the end of the song “It’s alright to cry little boy; I know some big boys that cry, too” — put the world on notice that boys and men were human and vulnerable and if you cried you weren’t less of a man, you were a greater human being.
One can’t help wonder if Rosey Grier’s song somehow found its way into the mash of Tiger Woods’ upbringing because Tiger certainly reaffirmed — in the most public possible way — that what Rosey taught us all 34 years ago still has value and resonance today.