We need leaders who are willing to cry   

Updated: January 15, 2008, 3:49 PM ET

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A couple days ago, I was quite certain that Hillary Clinton would be my candidate of choice in the upcoming presidential election.

Do I like the way she's running her campaign? Not especially. Do I think she's chock-full o' integrity and goodness? Not especially. Am I inspired every time I hear her speak? Not especially.

So what about New York's junior senator swayed my nod?

That's easy.

Terrell Owens

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

We got to see a kinder, gentler Terrell Owens on Sunday night.

Like millions of registered voters, I am a moron. No, scratch that. What I mean to say is that, like millions of registered voters, I am indifferent to the issues. Iraq, Iscmaq, abortion, achorshion -- give me some good old-fashioned heart. I need to know that the candidates bleed; that they hurt; that they feel. Mostly, that they cry.

Hence, when Clinton broke down in that dinky New Hampshire diner over the $4.99 ham-and-Swiss special, she had me at hello. I no longer cared about her health care policy inconsistencies or her odd take on flag burning. All I knew was that now I had someone to watch "Terms of Endearment" with. And that's good enough for me.

Unfortunately for Clinton's campaign, the ensuing days have led me to an even better candidate -- a man possessing neither class, dignity nor professionalism, but blessed with the most explosive tear ducts this side of Joan Rivers.

Though 10 months remain before the general election, Clinton is woefully old news.

I'm a Terrell Owens guy.

Think about it. If Clinton's four-second ode to Dick Vermeil was powerful enough to turn Barack Obama's 10-point New Hampshire lead into a two-point Hillary triumph, how much mileage can Owens get from his dramatic (and seemingly heartfelt) two-minute tearfest following Sunday night's 21-17 playoff defeat to the New York Giants?

With his eyes concealed behind a pair of K-Mart sunglasses (a man of the people!), his diamond earrings glistening in the camera lights (a man of style!), his bottom lip quivering just so (a man of sensitivity!) Owens gazed toward a gaggle of reporters and defended Tony Romo, his pop tart-loving quarterback (a man who'll fight for what he believes in!). "This is not about Tony," Owens said in a soft, somber voice. "You guys can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation. And if you do that it's really unfair …" (A man who strives for justice for all!)

Enter: Tears.

"… It's really unfair. That's my teammate … that's my quarterback. And if you guys do that it's not fair. We lost as a team. We lost as a team, man …" (A man of unity!)

So perfectly orchestrated was Owens' speech that I half expected a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner to unfurl in the background. (Then I remembered that, ahem, here was another mission that went unaccomplished.)

What we can say with unequivocal certainty is that, led by the actions of Clinton and Owens, the movement toward acceptance via tears in this country is stronger than ever. Whereas once upon a time a presidential candidate or NFL star sobbing before the viewing public would be seen as weak and, quite frankly, unelectable, nowadays a little boo-hooing offers a sure-shot gateway to acceptance.

Don't be surprised if Owens pops up on "The View" sometime this week, then slinks his way onto the Ellen-Rachael-Oprah circuit of sensitivity. (Or, as I put it, hell.) Before long, we'll forget -- as we have with Hillary -- that Owens has spent much of his public career serving as an controversial, divisive presence. Yeah, he once publicly questioned Jeff Garcia's sexuality, threw Donovan McNabb under the bus, caused Bill Parcells to lose his love of coaching. But, again, did you see the man weep? Did you see how he felt for his fellow humans?

With Owens leading the charge, we are destined to enter a new era in the world of sports.

Instead of storming off the stage of his own news conference, Roger Clemens would respond to "Are you a cheater?" with the simplest -- and most noble -- of rebuttals: "No, I just need a hug." Instead of drowning and electrocuting his dogs, Michael Vick would tie pink-and-yellow bows around their necks and turn names like "Killer" and "Slaughter" into "Sunshine" and "Lovepooh." Instead of attempting to pulverize anything that moves, Islanders left winger Chris Simon would look himself in the mirror and sob, "Why can't we all just get along?"

The truth is, we can all just get along.

We just need crying.

We just need … T.O.

Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero," now available in paperback. You can reach him at anngold22@gmail.com.


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