Tonight (April 18), Isaiah Thomas will undoubtedly take the court in Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls amidst learning how “uncomfortable” he made commentators like Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Crockett Jr. feel. No more than a few days has passed since the tragic death of his younger sister, and yet this budding star is pushing past his tears.
Why, then, are we so uncomfortable? In fact, shouldn’t we be celebrating and applauding his willingness to be vulnerable on such a high pressure stage like round one of the NBA Playoffs?
Nope. Male tears are like elementary school cooties, nobody got time for that.
“I’m not feeling comfortable with him sitting on the sideline crying like that,” Barkley said before the Celtic’s first matchup against the Chicago Bulls Sunday evening. “That makes me uncomfortable because that tells me he’s not in shape to play. I don’t know how this night is going to turn out. But to be sitting on the sideline a few minutes before the game, crying, that makes me uncomfortable for him. That’s just not a good look, in my personal opinion.”
“He needed to be protected and cared for, and I don’t know what role the pressure of being the best player on a team with a real chance played in this, but he needed an owner or a coach to step in and take that decision away from him so he didn’t have the pressure of feeling like he needed to play,” Crockett wrote on The Root. “He should have been held out of the game, if for nothing else, but to keep the cameras from catching him grieving which he’s entitled to do without the eyes of millions watching his pain.”
I’m certain both of these men meant no harm to the Celtic’s guard. In fact, I can understand Crockett’s position, however, their discomfort stems from a place of protecting a man’s vulnerable state from public viewing.
We are conditioned to believe that men don’t cry. Men need to be strong. But men bleed if cut, and the value of teaching mature emotional intelligence – what Isaiah Thomas embodies – is far more important than beating the old adage “boys don’t cry.”
Despite being a New York Knicks fan, I know – don’t come for me – I am proud to be a fan of such a man that shows true resilience. I can relate to his need to continue doing the things he loves despite loss, entering the court with an elevated sense of purpose.
How are we not yet tired of pretending that men do not shed tears? His reasons to play are his own and not for another person to feel comforted by. He is held up by his family, his team, the league, and fans like myself who are applauding his unwavering effort.
I’ll be tuning in tonight to watch Thomas hit a few cross overs, and if he sheds a few tears during warm ups or following the game I’ll probably tear up too.