The 15 Greatest Man Cries (Plus 5 Dishonorable Mentions)

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 22, 2008 · 48 comments

in Diversions, Travel & Leisure

Abraham Lincoln-June 3, 1861

Lincoln was a profoundly melancholy guy. And few other men have had as many reasons to weep. Lincoln wept often; even the occasion of first hearing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was enough to make him sob. One of his manliest cries, however, was when he wept over his longtime rival’s death. Stephen A. Douglas had been Lincoln’s rival for the Senate in 1858 and his opponent in their famous debates. Lincoln lost to Douglas in that election. But the two men found themselves squaring off again in the 1860 presidential election, and this time, Lincoln bested his opponent. Despite their differences, the two competitors did have common ground; Douglas vigorously supported Lincoln’s use of military action to oppose Southern secession. Douglas set off on a non-stop series of speaking engagements in the South, urging the secessionists to rejoin the Union. Exhausted, Douglas contracted typhoid fever and died June 3, 1861. When Lincoln heard the news of Douglas’ death, he openly and unabashedly wept. Though the men had been rivals, Lincoln had once called Douglas “his best friend in the world.” If only all politics could be conducted with such civility and respect.

David Letterman-September 17, 2001

David Letterman was the first TV comedian to return his show to air after 9/11, and like Stewart, he put aside the usual yuks and chose to begin the Late Show with a heartfelt speech about the recent events. Letterman described the somber mood in the city, praised Giuliani’s leadership, and celebrated the courage of New York City’s fire and policemen. He then pointed to the example of a small, struggling, agricultural town in Montana as symbolic of the American spirit. As he related how the townspeople had crowded into the high school’s auditorium to hold a rally to raise money for New York City, Letterman got mighty choked up.

Tiger Woods-July 23, 2006

Earl Woods was more than just a father to his son Tiger. He was Tiger’s mentor, best friend, and inspiration. Earl introduced golf to his son while he was just a baby; as Tiger sat in a high chair, Earl showed him how to swing a golf club. On May 3, 2006, Earl passed away from prostate cancer. When Tiger returned to golf after mourning his father’s death, his game was rusty and he missed the cut for the US Open. But he soon recovered his strength and focus and triumphantly won the Open Championship, an event he had dedicated to his dad. After sinking his final putt, Tiger sobbed on his caddie’s shoulder, thinking of the man who had gotten him to the point of being the greatest golfer in the world.

Brett Favre-March 4, 2008

After 16 seasons and 442 touchdown passes, legendary Green Bay Packer Brett Favre decided it was time to hang up his cleats. It’s never easy for athletes to walk away from the sport they love; for Brett Favre, it was positively heartbreaking. At the press conference to announce his retirement, Favre struggled mightily to keep his composure but ended up weeping as he praised his fans and teammates and spoke of his love for the game. “I’ve given everything I could possibly give to this organization, to the game of football, and I don’t think I have anything left to give.”

Ulysses S. Grant-April 15, 1865

On April 9, 1865 General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The Civil War had reached its conclusion and General Ulysses S. Grant could finally celebrate after years of tremendous bloodshed and incredible stress. The celebration did not last long; however, less than a week later, word reached Grant that Lincoln had been assassinated. Grant wept when he received the news. Lincoln had been Grant’s friend and champion. When the public had cried for Grant’s head after the bloodbath at Shiloh, Lincoln had replied, “I can’t spare this man. He fights.” He was, said Grant, “Incontestably the greatest man I ever knew.”

Dishonorable mentions

Iron Eyes Cody

Iron Eyes Cody, who claimed to be of Cherokee/Cree descent, was frequently cast in Westerns and worked as an ardent supporter of Native American causes. But his most memorable role came in the 1971 “Keep America Beautiful” public service ad. At the end of this anti-pollution commercial, a callous motorist flings a bag of trash at Cody’s feet. A tear rolls down the Indian’s worn cheek. The image became iconic; not only had whites taken the Indians’ land, they had also made a heaping mess out of it! The only problem? Iron Eyes Cody was no Indian; he was a second generation Italian who had for decades passed himself off as the real deal. And the tear wasn’t authentic either; it was glycerin.

Tom Coburn-September 14, 2005

During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee John Roberts, Tom Coburn, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, choked back tears over what he felt was the divisively partisan nature of the proceedings. Filled with emotion, Coburn said, “When I ponder our country . . . my heart aches for less divisiveness, less polarization, less fingerpointing, less bitterness, less mindless partisanship.” Bitter partisanship is certainly something that makes every man want to shed a tear, but coming from the man who fought against a resolution honoring Rachel Carson on her 100th birthday, argued that “Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in Southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom,” advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions, placed a hold on a bill protecting Whistleblowers from retaliation, and was actually doing a crossword puzzle before it was his turn to speak, the tears lack a certain amount of, um, credibility.

Jimmy Swaggart-February 21, 1988

In the 1980′s, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was riding high. “The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast” was broadcasted on 250 television stations and watched by over two million people. Wrapping himself in a cloak of righteousness, Swaggart called out fellow evangelists (and competitors) Marvin Gorman and James Bakker for their sexual infidelities. Unfortunately, Swaggart had failed to remove the beam from his own eye. Caught in a tryst with a prostitute, Swaggart confessed his indiscretion to a shocked congregation and television audience. As the tears streamed down his cheeks, Swaggart prayed, “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.” Apparently, Swaggart’s repentance was only skin deep; he was caught with another prostitute in 1991.

Bill Clinton

When Bill Clinton was president, he appointed Ron Brown to be his Secretary of Commerce. Brown’s tenure in the position was cut short when the plane he was flying in crashed in Croatia. When Clinton exited Brown’s funeral, he was seen laughing with his colleagues. But as soon as he spied a camera, his smile instantly turned into a frown and he pretended to wipe away tears.

Richard Nixon-September 23, 1952

In 1952, Richard Nixon was the Republican candidate for the vice presidency. But a scandal erupted which threatened to derail his campaign; Nixon was accused of taking $18,000 in illegal campaign contributions. This prompted Nixon to speak to the country in order to explain his innocence and the honesty of his finances. In what became known as the “Checkers Speech,” Nixon did admit to taking one unusual contribution-a Cocker Spaniel his daughters had named “Checkers.” Nixon choked up as he told the national audience, “the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.” After concluding the speech, Nixon broke down and sobbed. “‘I was an utter flop,” he said, “Well, at least I won the dog vote tonight.”

Pages: 1 2

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin (ReturnToManliness) June 22, 2008 at 10:40 pm

This is a great post. A great follow up to your previous post.

A couple of other good ones that deserve mention from movies. I know not real, but they ought a been…
Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.
Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter
Jim Carey in The Truman Show
Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List

The dishonorable list is not complete without something from either Jim or Tammy Fae Baker. Another one that should get mentioned is Kobe Bryant after getting caught cheating on his wife.

2 Shatt June 23, 2008 at 12:53 am

So wait, how was Nixon’s cry dishonorable? Seems to me he thought his career in politics was over over the incident, which would explain and approve the cry as alright, if not exactly “approved”.

Also, right on with the John Stewart speech. I remember watching it when it first broadcast and breaking out with a HUGE smile as he relayed the change of scenery from his window.

3 Snead June 23, 2008 at 6:06 am

What?! Brett Favre but no Lance Armstrong or Troy Aikman? You’ve GOT to be kidding! Favre cried at the end of the season for like four years. And Aikman didn’t even get to decide when he wanted to retire, it was retire or die for him.

4 Brett June 23, 2008 at 6:21 am


It seems to me that Nixon was using his getting choked up as a rhetorical device. The whole speech is carefully constructed to produce sympathy and is quite smooth, although admittedly effective. Also his crying after the speech seems to be a cry of frustration; men shouldn’t cry just because they think they did a bad job. Nixon was notorious for deeply caring what other people thought of him, to a fault. I think he cried because he was worried that people didn’t like him anymore. Finally, Nixon thought everyone was out to get him-he blamed the accusation on a conspiracy of liberals and commies to take him down. Crying because of a woe is me attitude is not manly.

5 Brett June 23, 2008 at 6:26 am


Aikman is a good addition. I don’t remember Armstrong crying. Even if he did, I’m not a fan of the guy. Extraordinary athlete but kind of a d-bag.

6 Max Laird June 23, 2008 at 8:07 am

May I add one for the Dishonorable Mentions?

Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky crying at the news conference when the Reds fired Jerry Narron.

7 dadshouse June 23, 2008 at 8:39 am

Cal Ripken? Come on! He didn’t go out like Lou Gehrig. Ripken’s cry comes from a girly place. He’ll no longer have all those adoring, fawning fans. He shouldn’t be on this list.

I’m a single dad, and as manly as my breed is, having your kids not be with you on certain occasions can bring a torrent of tears. Of course, you just suck it up and don’t let anyone see. That’s the manly thing to do…

8 Hayden Tompkins June 23, 2008 at 8:54 am

I can’t believe I missed the John Stewart post-9/11 show. Thank you for posting it…it was pretty incredible about what this country means.

9 Snead June 23, 2008 at 11:26 am

The Armstrong tears fell during his press conference when he talked about his cancer and how he was determined to beat it. I think Nike turned it into a commercial. And I agree about him, but that was pre-douchiness. Or at least pre-our-knowledge-of-his-douchiness.

10 Brett June 23, 2008 at 12:13 pm


Yeah, that’s admittedly a really good man cry. Too bad he didn’t fight off the douchiness the way he battled cancer.

11 John June 23, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Uh… not to be a total douchebag but shouldn’t it be ’15 Great Men WHO Cried’, not ‘THAT Cried’?

Personally I don’t give a damn but there are some grammar nazis who will…..

12 Brett June 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm


Sorry John, I’m not following you. The only reference I see to “that cried” is in your comment.

13 Algernon June 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

How about Alexander the Great?

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer” -Plutarch

You’ve gotta love a man who conquered most of the known world before dying at age 33.

14 Brett June 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Fantastic addition, Algernon.

15 derek June 23, 2008 at 5:40 pm

It seems like we could come up with a list less weighted to sports, tv, and politics. I know those are more likely to be caught by a journalist or camera, but maybe the title could have been “The 15 Greatest Man Cries By A Public Figure”?

My Short List:
1. Crying with my dad. A real heart-to-heart conversation with my father after 30 years of trying to live up to his expectations (expectations that he knew nothing about – they were in my head), and him trying to gain my acceptance (that I knew nothing about).
2. An AHA! moment. At a time when it seemed like everyone was looking to me to provide guidance and direction, I realized my ultimate nightmare: I had no answers. I lost it completely for a couple of minutes. Seemed like forever. When I looked up, I was filled with a calmness that could move mountains. And I gained a lot of respect from my community.
3. Missing my kids. After our separation, all I wanted was to wake up with the kids and to be able to tuck them into bed and to tickle them silly. My son was just learning to crawl and changing faster every day. I wanted to see them every day, but the agreement was for much less time.
4. Relates to 2, something out of my control. Looking into my wife’s eyes as we held our lifeless son, thinking that I could be the rock for her, and knowing that I was in way over my head. I couldn’t fix her.

We all have these moments, we just don’t always have the words.

Thanks for a good read.

16 John June 23, 2008 at 9:12 pm

# Brett on June 23rd, 2008 3:13 pm


Check the title bar of the page.

17 Logan June 23, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Edmund Muskie honorable and Richard Nixon dishonorable? The only difference between the two speeches is that Nixon rose up from his and Muskie succumbed to failure.

Concerning Nixon, the funds were 100% legal as deemed by and independent audit firm. Nothing was done wrong. The accusation was a “dirty trick” (literally this time) by the Adlai Stevenson campaign. Further it was revealed that Adali had a similar fund, only his was not legal. However the Eisenhower camp was searching for fire to get Nixon off the ticket. Ike used Adlai’s lies as leverage and allowed Nixon to use the limited TV time slot to give his resignation. Instead Nixon went directly to the American people and spoke as eloquent and genuine as any man. He defied all odds and walked away with a small victory.

“The Crying Speech� holds nothing on the Checkers speech and Canuck Letter is speculated to be a product of the Nixon camp, far from a fact.

Brett I love what you are doing with the Art of Manliness but you really let us down here. I don’t think you followed-up with the needed research before you dishonor a United States President and triumph a loser who found solstice only in the Carter Administration.

PS. despite your accusation, Nixon refrained from “choking up� during the broadcast.

18 Brett June 23, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Sorry Logan, but my piece couldn’t possibly dishonor Nixon more than he dishonored himself. Muskie got choked up because he was defending his wife. This to me is honorable. Nixon sobbed because he thought he didn’t do a good job on his speech. This is not manly. The fact that Nixon would cry about being accused of something that would pale in comparison to the actual crimes he would commit later puts him firmly in the dishonorable section. He’s a hypocrite of the highest order.

And yes Nixon did get a bit choked up there. Not very much, but there’s certainly emotion in his voice.

19 Brett June 23, 2008 at 10:34 pm

PS-Now that I’ve checked out your website, I see there’s no chance we’re going to see eye to eye here.

20 Kevin June 23, 2008 at 11:25 pm

I wish you would have gone with Pete Sampras when he played Courier in the quarters of the 95 aussie open. His coach had just flown back to the states with a brain tumor and pete played through tears after fighting back from being down two sets to none. And the match had such legendary moments as when a fan yelled “Do it for your coach” or when Courier asked Sampras “You feeling all right Pete? We can do this tomorrow you know.” And Pete answered with a huge ace. It is probably the most memorable match of his career and well worthy of this list.

I appreciate everything Agassi has done for the game but I think there is much more honor in fighting through tears and overcoming adversity rather than tears from reflection.

21 Charlie Kondek June 24, 2008 at 5:05 am

Fantastic story. This could easily be one of the great bar-room conversations of all time.

22 Roomba June 24, 2008 at 5:05 am

Great post. We need more men like Eisenhower, Washington and Lincoln.

Since we’re all tossing in various honorable mentions, I thought I’d mention a biblical fave from the story of Lazarus. Christ wept just prior to his friend’s resurrection from the tomb. (John 11:35.). Very deep.

23 Brett June 24, 2008 at 7:40 am


Christ’s crying over Lazarus is a really an interesting cry. Christ knows he can raise him from the dead and does so later on, yet he still weeps. Deep for sure.

24 manbearpig June 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

Christ cried over the tomb of Lazarus because he was human. I suspect that even though he knew that he could and would raise him from the dead, he was feeling the emotions of those around him. I know from personal experience that it is easy to get choked up when you are around other people that are showing grief. I think it was an example of his humaness.

25 Willbert June 24, 2008 at 3:54 pm

I’m with Tom – “There’s no cyring in baseball.” Seriously, I like the article and your choice of man-cries. Glad you picked real events and not fake scenes from movies. There is enough fake stuff in today’s society.

26 Grumbles June 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm

I know it is controversial, but I would have put Bush’s reaction to 9-11. Say what you will about the man, but he felt what alot of us felt. If both Letterman and Stewart made it, I would have Bush there as well. Of course, this ignores those who I am sure believe Bush arranged it, but whatever.

27 Basil Moss June 27, 2008 at 10:27 am

It seems to me the gist of this article that it is generally not manly to cry at all, and when one does, it’s best to get “choked up” and be seen to be suppressing it, despite the huge emotional cause. I don’t think that this is either manly or healthy. I respect any man who expresses his feelings freely, and who is not so overconcerned with others perception of his “manliness” as to go about suppressing his feelings. It has been my experience that those who cry freely whenever they are sad are more able to cry when they need to. It brings a healthy release from feelings that can do us no good bottled up inside. In fact physiologically, it is the only way stress hormones can leave the body without first being metabolised by the liver. I’ve known someone who does not cry because men don’t, and I’ve seen them unable to shed a tear over the deaths of their parents, because they are so unused to expressing feelings in this way. This is not healthy or manly.
Basically I’m saying bollocks to “man cries” and “man hugs” for that matter- manly men don’t need to worry about expressing their feelings in some limited social structure that basically stunts ones emotional expression.

28 Luke Moritz June 27, 2008 at 6:45 pm

With sports mentions, I would have added Wayne Gretzky’s farewell press conference when he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the LA Kings. That, to a Canadian, is one of the most emotion-filled sports cries ever.

29 Logan June 28, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Show me a man who hasn’t made some mistakes and I’ll show you a loser.

On a more serious note, Brett, if you ever mention Nixon again, I’d be honored to fact check or provide you with a background on the man or any Nixon situation you’re covering.

I’m not a Nixon apologist, just a man with the facts.

30 reid July 2, 2008 at 10:12 am

honorable mention: me (while reading this and watching videos).

31 Michael July 5, 2008 at 5:24 am

You left out Apollo flight director Gene Kranz’ allowing the tears to flow after the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts.

32 Will Grigg July 5, 2008 at 6:01 am

Letterman’s remarks were stunning and powerful. They illustrate something I’ve long believed: Genuine eloquence, as opposed to grandiloquence, is a product of sincerity. His words may not read like much when reduced to print, but when spoken live they were infused with a palpable passion that left the listener deeply moved.

33 Will Grigg July 5, 2008 at 6:15 am

Jon Stewart is a national treasure and a genuine patriot.

Incidentally, as far as manly cinematic weeping is concerned, how about the choked, stifled sob heard from Admiral James T. Kirk at the funeral of his best friend, Capt. Spock, at the end of “Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan”?

Kirk had a crying scene in the following movie following the murder of his son. That one may have been even better, because it ended with an oblique but unmistakable — and quickly fulfilled — promise to kill the enemy responsible. I swear, the moment he told that enemy “I’m looking forward to meeting you,” everybody in the theater said, “Oh, boy — that guy’s as good as dead.”

34 tully monster July 8, 2008 at 9:30 am

Didn’t Nixon cry when he resigned? I’m surprised that didn’t make your list anywhere. It’s one of my earliest, most coherent memories–as a very small girl, it shocked me to see a picture of a man crying on the front page of the daily paper. I was three or four, far too young to be aware of current events, no matter how politically cataclysmic, and didn’t realize until later what the context was.

As for the Checkers speech–the whole thing was a (successful) attempt to manipulate the audience, and so it’s hard to have any sympathy for the man there. I’m actually more inclined to feel sorry for him during the second instance–I imagine he must have felt a good deal of remorse and regret then.

35 Joe July 8, 2008 at 10:54 pm

As badass as this site is in general there are some problems, the pros and cons associated with old time manliness. It should be noted that Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. It was much like the Roman Dictators but still it may have been misused in some cases.

To the whole Jesus having manly tears is silly. All the men listed here have a very factual, real basis. 90 percent of the bible is exaggerated story telling. This is not saying that it is bad, that is not my case right now, my case is that Jesus cannot be manly in this sense. He is too different a character from all other men to be manly. Odysseus was a badass though fictional, he cried in the Odyssey, and he was much more human than Jesus yet still he doesn’t have a place on this list.

Oh and Stalin should get some mention for when he cried when Churchill presented him the Sword of Stalingrad. Its funny, its true he was a coward and such but the romanticism that was placed around him and the October Revolution has made another fictional thing so cool. It leads me to believe that manliness is a concept and will never actually be in existence, like communism it will be striven for but never accomplished perfectly except in stories.

36 Joe July 8, 2008 at 10:56 pm

Forgot something: Oedipus Rex. Any takers?

37 DoomRater July 12, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Anyone want to mention Gabe Ruediger for a dishonorable exception to crying? Guy bawww’d on TV because of his inability to make weight, despite doing very little on his part to make weight. we’re talking about trying to enema weight out of himself without exercise.

38 Clay Collins | The Growing Life July 14, 2008 at 2:25 am

That was powerful. The piece from John Stewart really moved me. A lot. Thanks for sharing that.

39 Error July 18, 2008 at 2:06 am

Excuse me, Brett. You spelled “Jon Stewart” with an ‘h’. Thank you.

40 Francis July 24, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Potential dishonorable? Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch cried on the sidelines during a game.

41 Martin Schilling July 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Whatever Michael Jordan announcing his retirement early due to his Father’s murder? Did that even happen, I seem to have a memory of that.

42 Gerry August 15, 2008 at 6:21 am

What a cool site and great topic. I think the mix is perfect – most recently would say Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

43 Dave Walters September 21, 2008 at 11:44 pm

For a variety of reasons (mostly very suspect tax charges) Joe Louis was forced to fight for far longer than he should’ve.

In his final bout, he was KO’d by Rocky Marciano.
Marciano used to listen to Louis bouts on the radio as a young boy.
He was so distraught at ‘having’ to beat his hero that he is said to have wept in his dressing room.

An honourable mention in my book.

44 Dennis October 1, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I think that one of the times when a great man and a great number of men cried was at the 1993 ESPY’s during Jimmy V’s speech. You can see the video here. It is one of the finest examples of manhood I can point someone to these days.

You can watch it here: and I highly recommend that you do.

45 Desi October 3, 2008 at 1:40 am

Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List, definitely needed to be here.

46 Oyaji March 19, 2009 at 5:44 am

It takes a big man to cry. But, it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man when he’s crying.

47 Chris April 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Interesting analysis on Tom Coburn. Sure, being a politician, his tears were very suspect. But his reaction to Rachel Carson and his views on abortionists were spot on. Why should we honor a lesbian? A man isn’t a real man if he’s having ‘sex’ with another man and woman isn’t a woman if she’s having perverted ‘sex’ with another woman.

Why shouldn’t a doctor who is killing the most innocent among us receive the death penalty? A man who takes the life of an innocent adult deserves death and that is exactly what an abortionist deserves.

48 Andrew July 31, 2010 at 6:16 am

@ Brett couldn’t agree more with you about Armstrong

@ Joe Lincoln was not the only president to suspend habeas corpus

Oscar Schindler should receive mention for crying when overcome with guilt for not selling more of his possessions to save more lives during the holocaust. Truly the ultimate philanthropist.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter