There’s No Crying in Football

January 16th, 2008

On the heels of our Hilary tearjerker blog last week, let’s stick with a “crying” theme and talk about Terrell Owens’ playoff post-game breakdown on Sunday.’s not just that I want to make fun of public figures blubbering like babies in front of millions of people, although that is a great side benefit.   It’s more that that these two instances both demonstrate lessons in the delivery, the context and, ultimately, the public response to mass communication.

We’ve already established the idea that everything communicates, but what we haven’t addressed is how the context around a communication can color a message and completely change a reaction. This couldn’t be demonstrated any clearer than in the case of Hilary’s waterworks versus T.O.’s outpouring of emotion.

Let’s re-cap.  Hilary cries, expressing how much she cares about our country and the political process.  The result?  She catapults to a come-from-behind victory in the New Hampshire primary. T.O. cries defending his quarterback after a tough playoff loss.  The result?  He’s lampooned by everyone from columnists to teenagers on YouTube. 

What gives? It’s all about the context, baby. For Hilary who is seen as tough, even robotic, the crying humanized her and allowed people to connect with her in a way they may have never thought possible. It was a huge positive.

T.O. is seen as a selfish prima donna who has been run out of several cities for repeatedly criticizing his quarterbacks. Given that context, the notion that he would be so fiercely loyal to a quarterback that he would be driven to tears at the unfair treatment of him was viewed as laughable by just about everyone. In short, his crying lacked credibility.  His message certainly lacked credibility.

So the next time you have to address the media or give a presentation, don’t consider your message or even your delivery in a vacuum; consider the communication context around the situation. And remember one thing: it’s your party, and you can cry if you want to. But you better know what the tears communicate before you turn on the waterworks. Just ask T.O.   

Posted Under: Public Relations, Storytelling
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