Tom Hanks'character in the movie, A League of Their Own, famously said, "There's no crying in baseball!"
Au contraire, Tom.
Every NY Met fan remembers the night when, in the middle of a game, shortstop Wilmer Flores heard a rumor that he'd been traded. Having been with the organization since the age of 16, he was devastated at the thought of leaving the Mets. The rumor turned out to be false, but Wilmer didn't know that. He gamely played on, while the camera repeatedly zoomed in to catch him wiping tears from his eyes.
So, clearly there is crying in baseball.
But what about politics?
Well, think about 1972, when Presidential candidate Edmund Muskie was allegedly brought to tears by a newspaper report based on a forged document from the Nixon campaign, and because of the paper's editor's scurrilous remarks about his wife.
Muskie's aides claimed it was melted snow on his cheeks, not tears, but media accounts said he had cried, causing some voters to wonder if he had the strength and composure to run the nation. George McGovern went on to defeat Muskie for the Democratic nomination, only to lose to more of Nixon's dirty tricks. I supported McGovern, the anti-war candidate, but his loss, while devastating, never resulted in any tears from me.
I can, however, cite three political events involving the names Kennedy, Obama and Gorman that did bring me to tears. (That last name may be unfamiliar to you, so read on.)
On the morning of June 6, 1968, I awoke and headed out to grab a morning paper and a coffee. I sat on my front stoop, opened the paper, and there it was, blasted across the front page: Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated the night before, right after winning the California Presidential Primary. I was stunned.
I hadn't supported Kennedy in the beginning because I was a volunteer for Eugene McCarthy's campaign. McCarthy came within 7 points of defeating Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Primary, an unheard of blow to a sitting President's campaign. Five days later, Kennedy got into the race.
We McCarthy supporters cried foul, accusing Kennedy of being opportunistic. He had, after all, repeatedly declined to run, but after seeing how McCarthy's near miss in New Hampshire revealed Johnson's vulnerability, Kennedy jumped in.
Initially angry about his Johnny-come-lately move, by the time of his death I'd become a believer. It was clear, especially after winning California, that the Democratic nomination was now Kennedy's to lose. And the common wisdom was that, once nominated, he would defeat Nixon in the fall, and keep his promise to end the Viet Nam war. Reading of his death that morning, and realizing what it meant to our hopes for a quick end to that immoral war, brought tears to my eyes.
Those tears were shed for good reason. After Nixon won, he continued the war, even expanding it into Cambodia and Thailand, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 21,000 Americans, and untold thousands of Vietnamese.
The second instance in which a political event brought me to tears was on November 4, 2008 when, toward the midnight hour, it became clear that Barak Obama was about to be elected President. An Obama supporter, my greatest fear had been, not that he would lose the election, but that he wouldn't survive the campaign. I was sure that at some point a racist, white nationalist (redundant, I know) would take him out. With his victory now a certainty, my eyes brimmed with tears at the realization that, not only had he survived, he also was about to create history by becoming the first man or woman of color to be elected President.
The third and final event that made these watery old eyes even wetter was the Inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2019.
Jill Biden had discovered a young, twenty-something African American poet named Amanda Gorman, and successfully lobbied her husband to invite Gorman to write and perform a poem at the Inauguration. She would be the youngest person ever to do so.
Not only did this young woman have to perform in front of the nation and a TV audience of a billion or so, she had to create a poem that, a mere two weeks after the attack on the Capital, recognized the enormity of that tragedy while somehow bringing a sense of hope about who and what America is, and who we need to become.
The challenge was enormous, and she absolutely nailed it.
This young woman, standing before Presidents, Senators and Justices of the Supreme Court, flawlessly recited a poem that still brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.
The Inauguration is saved on my DVR, and I listen to Gorman's poem every once in a while to remind myself that perhaps someday America will come to its senses, and elect public servants who care more about our country than for their own, fleeting, fifteen minutes of Twitter fame.
If you're not familiar with Amanda's poem, I could quote a few lines, but you need to see and hear it for yourself. If you copy and paste this link into your browser you can watch her performance and read the text of her poem:
Or, you can simply go to You Tube and search under "Amanda Gorman The hill we climb".
One more note: on a recent episode of David Axelrod's podcast, "The Axe Files", he interviews Gorman, and you can learn more about what the experience was like from her perch up there on the steps of the Capitol. His podcast can be found wherever podcasts are available.
As always, thanks for reading this far.