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February 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

Can anyone tell me why, even though I am not a sports person and I am not interested in figure skating, I don’t like the music or they outfits, WHY do I cry when I watch figure skating??

February 23, 2014 at 10:38 am

Figure skaters may have bizarre outfits and cheesy music, but they are telling a story.  You, along with millions of others are bearing witness to this story unfolding.  We are going through it together, and feel connected to the skater and the spectators alike.  I like to think that it is this feeling of connection and intimacy that brings out the tears.  It is easier to cry when alone, and going through this intimate experience while protected by the privacy of your own television, makes it easier to be vulnerable yourself and let the tears flow.  A more scientific explanation may also just come down to the fact that music of all kinds is processed in at least 10 different areas of the brain, including the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and cerebellum.  These areas process emotional reactions to music.  This is the same reason that people cry at commercials.

February 23, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I also like to think it’s because I’m watching the culmination of someone’s life long passion and ambition, all their energy devoted to this one thing, and we get to witness it.  So strange to make patterns on the ice in a funny outfit to music, jumping and spinning, but the work and determination behind it is noble.


February 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I echo both sentiments shared here: bearing witness to a powerful story, such as the culmination of years and years of hard work is something that touches us on a very human level.

I’d like to add that I am pleased to hear that you, Meghan, cried!  No, I’m not sadistic; I just feel that in our culture today, people don’t cry nearly enough…despite the fact that it’s a very human thing to do, and is often healing and integrative.

It’s interesting to delve into the specifics of what moves us deeply on an emotional level.  I like to think about this on two levels: the way we’re touched or “triggered” on a very personal level, and a more general, or universal one.  With the former, certain events can touch our own personal stories – it reminds us of something specific that we have experienced.  On a universal level, it’s about our shared experience of what it’s like to be human; even if you’ve never been in a war zone, you can feel the tremendous suffering that takes place there (if you allow yourself to connect with it).

As a former competitive athlete, I have a strong “personal narrative” about sporting events and competition.   This plays out in a variety of ways, including the ease with which I can empathize with another athlete – feeling all the excitement, desire, and tension that go with that kind of theatre.  This makes sporting events quite joyous for me, but can also, unfortunately, lead to episodes of yelling at the TV (to the dismay of my partner).   Even if one has not competed in sports, anybody who has ever worked really hard at something knows what it’s like to experience the ecstasy of triumph, or agony of defeat (and I believe that this means every person can relate to this because everybody ultimately tries hard in their lives, given the internal and external resources available to them).

Like Laney said, the feelings of connection and intimacy bring out the tears.  This also speaks to the patriotic piece that arises during events like the Olympics.  As humans, we’re all looking (albeit often subconsciously) to connect more with others, and sometimes even connect more with ourselves (as evidenced by the pride people can feel when their home country does well).  Rooting for the same team facilitates this drive.  That’s the positive way of looking at it (sadly, we all know that people can also take this too far into an “us and them” mentality, which can be divisive and hurtful).

Ok – I need to stop writing now (but topics related to sports, really get me going :-).

But, before I do, back to you Meghan.  In hopes of not sounding too much like a therapist here (you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl), if you care to share more, I’d be curious to hear your answers to the following questions:

Is figure skating the only event that brings up strong emotion for you, or were there others at the Olympics?   What does the figure skating make you think of or remind you of in terms of your own life (even if it seems really tangentially related)?  Does it connect with something nostalgic in you?

February 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of figure skating, but it’s watching someone give a heartfelt performance that touches me deeply.  Whether it’s figure skating or hockey or baseball or theater.  It kind of pisses me off when I see someone slacking when they should be trying.  E.g. Manny Ramirez jogging slowly to first base.

February 23, 2014 at 7:33 pm

BTW I know this is tangential but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinsky.  They have incredibly smart and incisive analysis that makes me care.  And Johnny is so FABULOUS.

February 24, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Kim, I gotta tell you a couple of things here:  I cry all the time.  I cry when people talk about their dogs, I cry when people are crying, when people are happy, when someone says something nice to me, when I’m pmssing, when I’m not pmssing.  I cry an awful lot.  There are certain songs that ALWAYS make me cry that I listen to when I need a good cry.  AND there are some movies that makes me cry:  Biutiful and Bridges of Madison County, which probably make a lot of people cry for obvious reasons, but also CONTACT with Jodie Foster.  There is a scene when she is buckled in to her space craft and it’s rumbling and breaking apart and every one else thinks it’s just sitting there at the dock, but she’s saying over and over, “I’m OK to go.  I’m Ok to go.”  I ALWAYS sob at this point.  I don’t know why.  And I mean SOB.  So, there’s that.

Secondly, it’s not just figure skating.  It’s many sports in the Olympics.  I’ve noticed it during figure skating but also gymnastics and running.  It might have something to do with the hush that comes over the crowd, the commentary, the looks on the  faces of the athletes…It’s a different kind of cry, too.  It starts in my guts vs. starting in my eyes, its something that builds in my chest and I want to make loud sobby sounds.  I’m kind of a connoisseur of crying at this point in my life.  I like to notice all the different ways that tears and emotion present themselves.  Sporting events get the head nodding, tears streaming, chin wobbling, gut clenching ones.

February 24, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Also, in response to your question;  I think figure skating reminds me of when I was young and I thought I could do ANYTHING.  I was gonna be a basketball player and I was gonna be a rock star and I was gonna be a dancer.  I outgrew some of those fantasies, not all of them, but I think it connects me to this old part of me that had a vision, and a goal and when I see people who were able to hold on to that vision and put everything they have into it, I cry for their spirit, which must be very strong.  It’s admirable to have those qualities, I wish that I’d kept them.

February 3, 2016 at 3:43 am

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of figure skating, but it’s watching someone give a heartfelt performance that touches me deeply.  Whether it’s figure skating or hockey or baseball or theater.  It kind of pisses me off when I see someone slacking when they should be trying.  E.g. Manny Ramirez jogging slowly to first base.

December 13, 2023 at 11:39 pm

Thanks for the information!