The biggest lesson from Steve Smith's interview wasn't about cricket

"Man plays with ball" is the kind of front-page news that tends to make me shrug, in much the same way that the headlines "Pope is Catholic", "Bear defecates in wood" and "Jeremy Corbyn is deranged" might.

Of course men play with balls! That is what they have done since they first discovered rolling objects, way back when. Honestly, if the world stopped spinning every time some bloke cheated with his balls, nothing would ever get done. We would simply grind to a halt, paralysed by the powerful combination of testosterone and things that are round(ish).

It's good to get all the lazy and toxic clichés about masculinity out of the way, isn't it? Here's another cliché: men don't cry, unless it's over something involving sport.

Not a dry eye in the house

The images of the Australian cricketer Steve Smith – "Captain Cry Baby", as one paper described him – bawling at Sydney Airport on Thursday have been ripped apart on social media as crocodile tears. John Howard, the former Australian prime minister, described the sportsman as "weak" for his emotional outburst, while Darren Lehmann was also accused of playing the "crying game" when he welled up as he announced his intention to step down as head coach at the end of the series.

"When you see an Australian man crying," said one male colleague watching the press conferences, "you know it's the end of masculinity." He was joking, I think. But why do we find it so uncomfortable to see pictures of men sobbing? It's not just the question mark over the authenticity of Smith's tears (by the way, why is it that the word "authentic" sounds so... fake?). It was clear from the unmistakable redness in Lehmann's eyes that he was overcome with emotion, and nobody seemed to like that either. The overwhelming reaction seemed to be: put it away lads, you're embarrassing yourselves.

The only time it is acceptable for a man to cry in public is if his football team loses an important match or a loved one dies suddenly. Otherwise: dry your eyes, mate.

Unfeeling territory

I searched all over the internet for photographs of men weeping – I promise, I'm not a pervert – and the only ones I could find were of sportsmen (David Beckham, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo) or actors pretending to cry in films.

Do you remember when Paul Gascoigne broke down and sobbed on the pitch at Italia '90? I mean, it's still so iconic that it's almost more memorable than the pictures of the England team the last time they actually won the World Cup.

Yes, I'm writing a column about feelings and emotions again. But I hope you'll forgive me, given that, while Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann were being flamed by the press for having a weep in public, a charity was launching a campaign to raise awareness of the 84 men in the UK who take their own lives each and every week.


Deadly figures

If you are a bloke under the age of 45, the thing most likely to kill you is not a car or a gun or a heart attack or crying in public. It is yourself. Yes, one of the biggest killer of young men is suicide. The brilliant but tiny charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) have long been trying to change this shocking statistic, and their collaboration this week with ITV and Mark Jenkins, the American artist, in which 84 sculptures of men were placed on the roof of the network's headquarters, has attracted much attention – not all of it positive. Some have described the artworks as insensitive, given the tragic way in which some people choose to end their lives. Others said that they were shocking. Then again, suicide is.

But the sculptures on top of the building are not poised to jump. They are a defiant group, looking out over the capital in solidarity against suicide. A short distance from the sculptures, you will find Waterloo Bridge, a notorious suicide spot in London. In 2008, Jonny Benjamin was talked down from it by a stranger, with whom he was reunited years later. Together, Benjamin and Neil Laybourn tour the country educating people about the reality of male mental health.

The beauty of Jonny and Neil is that they could not be more different: Jonny is a gay man with schizoaffective disorder, Neil a Jack-the-Lad former personal trainer from Watford. Together, they teach people that there is no one way to be a man – that masculinity doesn't always involve toughing things out and putting on a brave face. That to be a real bloke, you don't have to play with balls. And if you do, it's OK to cry – even if it's not over the cricket.

The Telegraph, London