Sure, the Heat's 87-86 loss to the Bulls today was painful, and just the latest in a long series of disappointments for a squad that seems to be 98% great when it needs to be 100%. But players crying about it in the locker room, while rational and natural, is probably not something those players want the world to know. That makes what Erik Spoelstra told ESPN's Brian Windhorst a little awkward at the very least.
Spoelstra said some Heat players are crying in the locker room at the moment.
I'm not the person who's going to take the Heat to task for softness because players get emotional after losses; I think that's probably perfectly in character for some of the competitors the Heat have, and might actually be a catharsis for a team that could benefit from one. But some pundits will, and they'll lump it in with the Heat's bizarre struggles late in games to brand this as a team full of "bullies" and "wimps" without the "killer instinct" necessary to be "closers."
And, what's more, you can be sure that every other player in the NBA will know about these tears — and, probably, who shed them — and remind the Heat of it in every future meeting. (I'd also guess that there will be some short-term blowback for Spoelstra if his players don't take kindly to the violation of locker room secrecy.)
This is the problem with crying in sports, or in other "masculine" pursuits: while it's not bad, unless you think "soft" is as damning an adjective as there is, it does create an opportunity for a ruthlessly cruel culture full of "winners" and "killers" to take its jabs. The way to shut those folks up, though, is by winning, even tearfully.
If the Heat can do that, these tears will be the last thing critics can hold on to, rather than the first of many knocks. If they can't, they should expect the critical beatdown to get louder.