When I was a senior in high school, my last game I ever played was in the playoffs. We lost at home to one of the best teams in our region in super close game. When the clock finally hit zero, and I turned in my pads for the last time, I went straight to my mom and dad and cried. It hurt to feel like you left everything you could out on the field, yet the wheels of fate weren’t turned in your favor.
Of course, the moment with USC’s star QB Caleb Williams is different from mine. After losing to Washington 52-42, effectively ending the Trojan’s playoff hopes and Pac-12 title game aspirations, Williams let all of his emotions come out on the field. After the game ended and he shook hands with the opposing team, he went to his mother in the stands, and did what any other well-adjusted human being could do in that moment: he cried.
After the game, Williams took us through how he was feeling in that moment, and it’s honestly been the most relatable thing anyone in college football has said this entire year.
Asked Caleb Williams about his emotions after tonight’s loss against Washington: “I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows.” pic.twitter.com/dvfoYTnY88
— Luca Evans (@bylucaevans) November 5, 2023
It was an incredibly vulnerable moment, in a sport that doesn’t allow for vulnerabilities very often. Football is a gladiator’s game, breaking your body and spirit over 60 minutes of hitting another human being with the same force as a minor car accident. However, I think in consuming football as a sport some people tend to overemphasize things that ultimately don’t matter. After the moment of Williams crying went viral, there were obviously people coming out of the woodwork to question Williams’ manliness and maturity, to which I think people have genuinely lost the plot.
We’ve dug ourselves so deep into the sport of football that some people now will only care about the logo on the side of the helmet or the name on the front of the jersey, rather than the name on the back or the person wearing the helmet. Football is often a reflection of our society, in both good and bad ways. The toxic relationship we have with it has told us that the gladiators are only to show anger and joy, because that’s the reflection of what we have defined as manliness. Being the stoic manly man for your entire life can be really exhausting. Putting on that shield and pretending like nothing hurts for your entire life, actually kind of sucks! Williams already has to carry the weight and expectations of being the presumed top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and literally carrying the USC football team (and a coach who might have quiet quit) on his back, and sometimes there’s just one moment that makes you break.
Crying in your mother’s arms after losing a highly contested game doesn’t draw a red flag from NFL scouts. That’s what passion for the sport looks like, but we’re holding Williams to a different standard than other QBs who have cried after losing games. Williams is a 21-year-old college student who’s had the eyes of the college football and the NFL world on him since he was 15 years old, and people haven’t given him the grace to feel emotions or become a well-adjusted human being. We want players to give everything to the game, but when everything isn’t good enough and you have to show an emotion, a different tune is sung.
Is Williams perfect? No, he’s 21 years old. He’s feeling the emotions that a 21-year-old should feel in highly emotional moments. The times where I was crushed emotionally I also wanted to go home and watch some shows, and just get away from everything. However, the ability to know and articulate how he’s feeling in an honest manner should be commended. He’s letting his vulnerability show, and that matters in a sport where being vulnerable is seen as a weakness.
Caleb Williams crying in his mother’s arms after an emotional loss is more of a man than most of the people criticizing him for doing so.