As a beat reporter for Somerville Patch last fall, I made sure to cover Somerville High’s boys’ soccer team. That included the Highlanders’ playoff game against Chelsea, which ended dramatically in overtime.
As the Highlanders came off the field, I noticed many of them in tears. They were the most successful, highest-profile fall team at SHS, hoping to at least return to the divisional semi-finals, as they had in 2010. Instead, their postseason ended after one game.
When I wrote my first draft of the game recap that night, I mentioned the Highlanders’ post-game tears. My mom convinced me showing teenage boys crying would emasculate them, and I took the line out.
Friday night’s McAlester football game put me in the exact same scenario: a dramatic overtime loss that reduced the Buffaloes to tears. This time, I left in details about how broken up the players looked.
Though the sentence doesn’t appear in the online version (too low in the story), here’s what I basically wrote:
“Heads hung low, eyes red and watery, bodies shivering at times uncontrollably — the Buffaloes didn’t look defeated so much as broken by a victory literally snatched from them at the last minute.”
My editor changed my sentence slightly, removing the words “and watery” and starting the second half of the sentence with “Some of” (which is probably more accurate, anyway), but she left the sentiment in.
So far, no one has vandalized my house or left me nasty messages because of that sentence. But even if they do, I think I’m in the right for two reasons:
1) It’s the truth. I didn’t make up those details — I went into the locker room, and I saw kids crying and shaking and slumped against their lockers. I interviewed a quarterback with eyes turned beet-red from anguish, and he lost focus twice in an interview that lasted maybe 45 seconds.
I’m a journalist, and I have an obligation to report scenes honestly. Sadness was the dominant emotion following the game — in a way it hadn’t been after losses in Week 1 and 2 — and I couldn’t leave it out.
My editor said I could’ve just said something like “the sadness was palpable in the locker room after the game,” but that’s telling, not showing. Details sell the scene, and when a fellow reporter told me the line gave her “goosebumps,” I took that as a sign I’d written it well.
2) It protects the kids. The Buffaloes have gone 0-3, and they’ve made a lot of mistakes in those three losses. It’d be extremely easy to accuse these kids of not caring, of not having any heart, as fans so often do with pro players.
Depicting the sadness these kids so clearly felt after losing should do away with any notion that these kids don’t feel badly about the start to their season. No matter how frustrated Buffs fans may get with this team, they can rest assured the players feel everything on a level fans couldn’t imagine.
Is a scene of boys crying unmanning? Hard to say. From my perspective, setting goals and working so hard that you cry when you don’t achieve them are admirable traits. I wouldn’t call them “manly” traits, because women can act this way as well, but I also wouldn’t call them “unmanly.”
Male athletes cry when they win all the time, and only the truest douchebags of our society ever mock them. So if a male athlete can cry when he achieves, why can’t he cry when he doesn’t?
Not every sad moment needs to be reported. But when sadness dominates an atmosphere as completely as it did Friday for the Buffaloes, I don’t think it can be left it out.