Sunday, February 04, 2007

Big boys DO cry

Writer's Note: The following column appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007, edition of the Dallas Morning News' Collin County Opinion Pages.

I was cable surfing the other weekend, looking for something other than football, infomercials and game shows to occupy my time when I stumbled upon one of my 10 favorite movies of all-time, "Field of Dreams." It holds a special place in my heart as one of those seminal American films that will withstand the test of future generations as to its greatness.

I joined it in the final half of the movie, which I own on DVD and have seen (conservatively) 50 times, and I reacted the exact same way that I did the other 49 occasions.

I cried. Like a little baby (not unlike my infant granddaughter). You know, whenever I see it, I always cry; I simply cannot help it. And here’s a little secret: I will never (ever) apologize for it. Despite my age (54), my size (6-6, and far too heavy for my doctors’ tastes), I cry at many movies. I am not afraid to let my emotions streak down my cheeks.

I remember being immobilized for 15 minutes after my first experience seeing "E.T." when I hit theaters 24 years ago. I even cried when "The English Patient" was finished, but that was because I actually had to pay to watch that garbage.

Deep down inside, I’m really a sensitive soul. In fact, many things in this world trigger the waterworks. And unlike the macho facade that too many men try to create ("It must be raindrops/’cause a man ain’t supposed to cry"), I admit that they are, in fact, tears and that they are an important part of a man’s character. It represents the ability to be moved, to feel, to accept another person’s pain, passion and triumph.

Hey, what can I say? I’m a sensitive guy, and I’m not alone.

Real men are much more emotional than any of us admit. Women think they have a corner on this market, but it’s not true. It’s just that men mistakenly believe that other males shouldn’t see them cry. Hogwash!

Whenever I hear the late Harry Chapin’s classic song, "Cats in the Cradle," I always feel tears well inside. I heard it the other day and thought of my 26-year-old son, Robert, when we used to ride around in my car. The words, "he’s grown up just like me," strike very hard for any father.

"Field of Dreams," perhaps the best baseball movie ever made (with the defining soliloquy delivered by James Earl Jones on the sport’s meaning to America), is more than a film about a sport; it is about relationships between fathers and sons.

But it’s not always about those relationships. When I saw Texas Ranger pitcher Nolan Ryan leave the mound for the final time years ago, knowing that he had irreparably injured himself, I cried. I cry whenever I see Muhammed Ali in his current deteriorated physical state; I remember the beauty of the motion of a man who was the greatest in his field … of all time. His presence at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was almost too much to bear.

Yes, I cried at all those Disney classics — Dumbo and Pinocchio — and during "The Lion King" when it opened more than a decade ago. I was with my two daughters, Lisa and Kelsey, and they had to reassure me that Simba would be just fine, thank you, at the end of the movie. He was going to grow up and become a wonderful lion despite all that had happened to him.

Of course, I cry when I see my monthly bank statement, but that’s another story.

There’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive guy. Don’t mistake it for weakness; it’s not. In some of life’s most important moments, it’s a sign of strength.

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