Having a bawl

June 09, 1999|By Andy Rooney

LAUGHTER and tears are a lot alike considering how different they are. Each represents an extreme human reaction. Tears express sadness; laughter -- pleasure or amusement.

Tears are harder to fake or call up on command. A person can decide to smile or laugh to convey the idea that he or she is pleased or amused but, except for some good actors who can do it on command, tears come unbidden to our eyes.

But the mechanics of tears are a mystery. Where do they come from, what evokes them and where do they go?

Suddenly and often unexpectedly, there is this tickling sensation behind the nose and eyes in something called the lacrimal gland and saltwater floods our eyes. We are crying because something is sad. Why does sadness bring tears to our eyes?

This occurs to me today because I watched a lot of tears on television recently, mostly from athletes.

Chris Antley, the jockey who rode Charismatic in the Belmont Stakes and finished third as the horse broke two bones in his leg, had tears coming down his cheeks after the race.

Jockeys are tough little guys and it was moving to see Mr. Antley so moved. We can be moved to tears by tears.

Mr. Antley may have been sad because he lost the chance to be the first Triple Crown winner in 21 years, but I think -- I hope I think, anyway -- that what moved him most was what had happened to his great horse.

Mr. Antley jumped off Charismatic immediately as they crossed the finish line. It wasn't apparent to viewers, but Mr. Antley knew the horse had broken its leg.

Charismatic looked like a very nice animal as workers tended to him and it was apparent that the jockey really liked him.

The horse seemed to understand they were trying to help him, too. He seemed gentlemanly and cooperative as they loaded him into the horse ambulance. I could have cried.

And then there was the dramatic picture of 18-year-old Martina Hingis sobbing in her mother's arms after losing the French Open to 29-year-old Steffi Graf. As Ms. Hingis wept, Ms. Graf accepted the cup.

Ms. Hingis needs to grow up. Crying over the loss of a tennis game isn't a healthy reaction. Even at the highest level, a game ought to be fun, win or lose. They don't destroy tennis players.

Ms. Hingis finally pulled herself together and made the loser's speech to the French crowd -- in French. From what I could understand of her speech, she said that she hoped to win the French Open next year.

Then, tears gone, she smiled her great smile and said she hoped to win the French crowd, too. It was nice. I forgave her for crying like a spoiled brat.

The last tears I saw were Andre Agassi's as he was awarded the French Open winner's cup on Sunday. Now, if we understand the tears of sadness, why do they come sometimes with great joy?

Andy Rooney is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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