"I know I embarrass myself," he says, "but I've always been this way. It's part of the reason I had to quit [coaching the Philadelphia Eagles after the 1982 season]. I get so emotionally wrung out. Now it's starting to happen here. I just, when I get to talking about somebody I care about, I just...."
Uh-oh. Vermeil is starting to lose it just talking about losing it.
What's odd is that we admire tears in men but not in women. Men who cry are "sensitive." Women who cry are "weak." When former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder cried during her 1987 exploratory run for president, critics said she set back women's chances for the White House by 20 years. After that she collected pictures of men crying. She finally stopped, she says, "in the hundreds," but not before her gallery included pictures of red-eyed Pete Sampras, Wayne Gretzky and Dan Reeves, to say nothing of Ronald Reagan, John Sununu and Gary Hart. "For men, crying has become this mandatory rite of passage," Schroeder says, "but for women, it's still not O.K."
Sorry, Vermeil just can't help himself. Two weeks ago a young girl named Mindy showed up at Rams practice. Mindy's been getting around in a wheelchair ever since a drunk driver turned her into a paraplegic. Vermeil went over to her, took her hand and tried to talk—only to find his voice box on strike. Then the tears started up, and he suddenly remembered he had to sprint to a punting drill somewhere.
"I know, I know," he says. "It's a fault."
I could think of worse.