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There’s no shame in shedding tears

Dan Murphy | Friday, November 21, 2008

“A League of Their Own’s” Jimmy Dugan is arguably the most memorable coach in American cinematic history.

Dugan’s legacy may not stack up against the likes of our own All-American Knute Rockne, Norman Dale from Hickory High, or even District Five’s Gordon Bombay. But he will forever be remembered for his one famous rule: “There is no crying in baseball.”

The rule has been broken plenty of times, and if it is applied across all sports the number of infractions jumps exponentially. So, is it really wrong to shed a few tears in either pain or joy after an emotionally draining game, season or career?

Cowboys’ star Terrell Owens certainly doesn’t think so – he proved that during his blubbering defense of his “teammate” Tony Romo after a playoff loss last year.

Neither does the one and only Michael Jordan. MJ cried his eyes out after winning his fourth NBA title on Father’s Day in 1996, only three years after his own father was murdered.

Any athlete worth his weight in Kleenex knows that sports are played with raw emotion. Sometimes those emotions spill over into the aftermath, and despite what Jimmy Dugan may have to say on the matter, it’s part of the game.

So, don’t be surprised to see some waterworks following Saturday’s game against Syracuse as a group of 23 seniors leave the beloved tunnel for the very last time. Irish coach Charlie Weis sure won’t be.

“This is a tough game for a lot of players, personally,” Weis said. “You see them in the locker room before and after the game, you’ll see kids after the game that you didn’t even know how much they cared and they’re bawling, just crying because how emotional it is.”

This year’s senior class, both those who have played and those who have watched, have had their up and downs inside Notre Dame Stadium.

The first time they saw “the greatest sight these eyes have ever seen” was a heartbreaking overtime loss to Michigan State. Two weeks later the Stadium hosted one of the most exciting football games in college football history against Southern Cal – we won’t get into winners and losers in that game.

These seniors have witnessed back-to-back BCS bowl bids, and they have also witnessed the worst record in the program’s history. If nothing else, the past four years have certainly been packed with excitement and emotions.

Despite having gone through the highs and lows, this year’s seniors still have no idea how they will handle their last trip to Rock’s house.

Fullback Asaph Schwapp said he didn’t know what would be going through his mind when the ride finally ends. He did say that he knew some guys would break down, but he didn’t throw any of them under the bus.

“I don’t want to name any names, that would be pretty embarrassing for those guys,” he said.

But really, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

For four years the senior class has put in endless hours in the weight room, in practice and in meetings to perform on Saturdays. Many have overcome injuries and adversity throughout their tenure, and for most this is the end of the line for a game that has consumed their lives.

Leaving behind football will be like losing a family member – definitely grounds for weeping.

For the half dozen walk-ons, some that we now know better than others, the journey has been even harder. All of them started their careers in the dead of winter with 5:30 a.m. workouts every morning. While most of us were snug in our beds after a long night of complaining about bowl losses, they were hard at work trying to fix the problem.

Who is going to tell Nik Rodriguez or John Leonis they don’t deserve a good cry? They have already given the Irish their blood and sweat, why not their tears?

Ironically enough, 65 fictional years ago when Dugan first handed out his decree to Evelyn Gardner they were standing – where else? – in our very own South Bend, Ind.

Dugan’s Rockford Peaches were taking on the South Bend Blue Sox when he put a ban on bawling in 1943. The same year that Frank Leahy won his first National Championship and Angello Bertelli won Notre Dame’s first ever Heisman Trophy.

The Stadium has seen seven more championships and six more Heisman winners since then, but none of them were legally allowed to celebrate with tears.

This year, it is finally time that we lift the ban.

So, seniors, this Saturday when all is said and done leave everything you have on the field, the sidelines or even in the stands. And remember, it’s your party so cry if you want to.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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