On Friday we discussed when it is appropriate for a man to cry. In short, a man should only cry when something truly significant happens. The less frequently something occurs, the more weight given it. Thus the rarity of male tears lends to them true potency. When a man sheds tears, particularly in the public eye, people sit up and take notice. We know something truly consequential is occurring.
For the purposes of this post, a “man cry” is defined as anything ranging from being choked up to an out and out sob. Now without further ado, the Art of Manliness presents the 15 greatest man cries in modern history:
Walter Cronkite-November 22, 1963
Cronkite, the famous anchorman for CBS, had a reputation for being cool and composed. But he is perhaps best remembered for the moment he lost a bit of that composure and captured a nation’s heartbreak. On Nov. 22, 1963, Cronkite interrupted “As the World Turns” to break the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. At this point, the media was unaware if the wounds had been fatal and Cronkite began what he called “the running battle between my emotions and my news sense.” At 2:38 the news came in that Kennedy had died. After making the announcement on air, Cronkite valiantly tried to keep from crying. He swallowed hard as his eyes grew moist and his voiced filled with emotion. Recalling that fateful day several decades later, he said, “I choked up, I really had a little trouble…my eyes got a little wet…[what Kennedy had represented] was just all lost to us. Fortunately, I grabbed hold before I was actually [crying].”
Dwight D. Eisenhower-June 5, 1944
In the hours before D-Day was to begin, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, visited with the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division to bolster their morale. As he moved amongst the troops, Eisenhower’s heart was heavy; he knew a 70% casualty rate was possible for the men standing before him. At 11:00 pm, Eisenhower stood on the roof of the nearby headquarters and saluted each plane as it took off en route to France. As these brave men soared past him, tears filled Eisenhower’s eyes. “I’ve done all I can,” he had told them. “Now it is up to you.”
Cal Ripken-Sept. 6, 1995
Despite Tom Hanks impassioned argument that there is no crying in baseball, many a player has broken down from time to time. Cal Ripken’s moment in the tearful spotlight came the night he broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive game starts. Baseball’s own Iron Man surpassed the 2,130 record during a game between the Orioles and the Angels. When the new record became official in the fifth inning, 50,000 fans erupted into a standing ovation that lasted 22 minutes. While such a reaction might make any man weep, Ripken soaked it all in while remaining merely misty-eyed.
Anderson Cooper-September 3, 2005
While news anchors have traditionally been known for stoically reporting the facts, Anderson has become the poster boy for a more emotive style of covering the news. Cooper cut short his vacation in Croatia to be in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina hit. Cut off from his producers for several days, Copper made his way through the city, taking in the death and destruction. On the fourth day of coverage, Cooper berated Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu for her glib answers to his questions. He then started talking to a group of desperate-looking evacuees, one of which was holding an American flag. Cooper’s emotions, which he had been bubbling at the surface for days, spilled over and tears ran down his face as the camera rolled. While not every one is a fan of his “emo-anchor” style, Cooper gets points for being himself and showing some genuine humanity.
Andre Agassi-September 3, 2006
Suffering from intense pain in his back that required the anti-inflammatory injections after every match, Andre Agassi announced that his appearance in the 2006 US Open would be his last professional event before retiring from the game he loved. Agassi’s stunning career came to an end when he fell to 112th ranked Benjamin Becker in the third round. The crowd gave Agassi a four minute standing ovation. Tears poured from Agassi’s eyes as he addressed his fans. “The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I’ve found.”
George Washington-April 30, 1789
On April 16, 1789 George Washington began the journey from his beloved Mount Vernon home to the nation’s capitol, New York City. All along the route, in every hamlet and city along the way, freshly made Americans flocked to wave and salute the man who had led them through the country’s War of Independence and who would now lead it into the future. Citizens similarly lined the streets of New York City as Washington made his way to Federal Hall on Wall Street to finally take the oath of office. As Washington stood on the balcony of that building, the enormous crowd watched the momentous occasion. Chancellor Robert B. Livingston solemnly pronounced the oath, the Bible was raised, and the President bowed to kiss it. “I swear,” he declared. With eyes closed, he then fervently added, “So help me God!” Then the Chancellor said, “It is done,” turned to the crowd and loudly exclaimed, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” The crowd erupted in praise and applause. The new President bowed again and again, and had to stop to wipe tears from his eyes.
Lou Gehrig-July 4, 1939
It seemed as if the luminous career of Lou Gehrig would go on forever. The Yankee’s first baseman and prodigious slugger, was nicknamed the Iron Horse for his durability and commitment to the game. Sadly, his record for suiting up for 2,130 consecutive games came to an end when at age 36 Gehrig was stricken with the crippling disease that now bears his name. On July 4, 1939, the Yankees held a ceremony to honor their teammate and friend. They retired Gehrig’s number, spoke of his greatness, and presented him with various gifts, plaques, and trophies. Finally, Gehrig addressed the crowd and said, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” The crowd gave Lou a standing ovation and Gehrig cried some of the manliest tears ever to have been shed.
Edmund S. Muskie-March 4, 1972
Heading into the New Hampshire primary, Senator Edmund S. Muskie was considered the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Publisher William Loeb had been printing editorial attacks on Muskie in Manchester’s Union Leader newspaper, one of which impugned the character of Muskie’s wife. The paper also printed what became known as the “Canuck Letter” which accused Muskie of a bias toward Americans of French-Canadian descent. Muskie called a press conference to respond to the attacks. As he vehemently defended his wife, Muskie’s speech broke three times as he rubbed his face and tried to regain his composure. Pictures of his anguished expression were splashed about in the media. Muskie claimed that he never cried and that the multitude of “tears” on his face were from melting snow. Regardless, voters found his emotional outburst off-putting, and Muskie’s political fortunes never recovered; he eventually lost the nomination to George McGovern. Later it was revealed that Muskie was almost certainly a victim of one of Nixon’s “dirty tricks.” The Canuck Letter turned out to be a fabrication written by a Nixon staff member intent on discrediting a man who had put the president’s reelection in jeopardy.
John Stewart-September 20, 2001
After 9/11, many newscasters and media personalities had an understandably difficult time keeping their composure, and comedy programs faced the additional challenge of continuing on during such a somber time. As media personalities remarked on the devastation and shock of that day, many revealed a very human side of themselves. Few such commentaries came off as authentic and heartfelt as John Stewart’s on the day the Daily Show recommenced. Watching his remarks now, one can vividly remember the way 9/11 felt like a horrendous punch in the gut. Deeply affected and choking up many times throughout his remarks , Stewart came off as a class act and as a man who truly loves his country.
Dick Vermeil was a football coach known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. He cried all the time: at press conferences, during speeches, when he cut a player, when he traded a player, when his team lost, when his team won. Yet his crying was never born of selfishness or a woe is me attitude. He cried because he loved the game and he loved his players. “If you don’t invest very much, then defeat doesn’t hurt very much and winning is not very exciting,” Vermeil once said. One of his finest cries came after Ram’s quarterback Trent Green was injured. Vermeil had ended a 14 year retirement to return and coach the Rams. Their first two seasons had been an embarrassing wash. And things seemed to take a turn for the worse when Green was sidelined at the beginning of the 99′ season. Yet Vermeil didn’t cry for himself and the heat his career would continue to face; he cried for Green, knowing how hard the man had worked and how badly it would feel to have it taken away. Vermeil next cried when his back-up quarterback, the then unknown Kurt Warner, won his first game as a starter. Vermeil’s eyes seldom remained dry that season, as the Rams went on to win the Superbowl.
Last updated: November 15, 2017
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