The handshake is usually a representation of an agreement, peace or welcome within society and culture of the United States. We frequently see the handshake before and after political debates, introduction to a podium or a new person, and the common formality during athletic competitions as an expression of good sportsmanship.
The origin of the handshake dates as far back to 5th century B.C., when Ancient Grecians practiced it routinely to convey peace and friendship performed only by the “right hand”.
In the athletic world of modern time, we often see the handshake during various sport competitions of all ages, sexes, states, leagues and conferences, amateur and professional levels. It is a traditional representation of good sportsmanship by presidents, managers, coaches, athletic administrators and athletes. However, on occasion, sportsmanship is put to test after the outcome of a competition is not positive. I have witnessed people refuse to participate in the handshake after a defeat, which is not uncommon until it becomes a pattern. There are other occasions when a coach chooses to shake hands for the best interest of his or her public relations, which is always in the best interest of the organization and being a “good sport” for the fans and team. For instance, a few seasons ago, my favorite football coach was publically dogged for showing poor sportsmanship with his sore behavior by refusing to shake hands after a defeat. The head football coach’s action tainted his and the team’s reputation, especially when his program is one of the best in the history of the sport.
Athletics or sports involve emotions to a high degree, at times beyond the norm for an average human. When the stakes are high such as a title game, redemption or other means of gratification, this combined with egos and testosterone can lead to uncharacteristic decisions that normally would not be the variant in a regular situation.
My several experiences as an athlete began at ten years of age. I was a member of some very successful teams that won lots of games and championships. I vividly recall my senior year high school football team getting defeated by a rival high school football team after a 25 year winning streak. My team lost 20-19; the winning team celebrated like they won the NFL Super Bowl or the city won the mega jack pot lottery (by the way, actress Ashley Judd is an alumnus of the rival high school). I certainly did not shake hands after the defeat. I had my reason not to do it considering my team had higher offensive statistics and good defense. This experience is an example of uncharacteristic emotions, when sportsmanship for the losing athlete is not thought about.
During my college football student-athlete experience at Eastern Kentucky University, I vividly remember not shaking hands after two defeats. The first time happened during a regular season game played at my university stadium. My team was ranked number one nationally and positioned to be national champions in four weeks. However, we got defeated by the Morehead State University football team, which had not defeated us in 25 years! The other defeat was by the Marshall University football team, which its win over my team put Marshall in the national championship game.
My high school and college head football coaches are legends. They both sit at the top in most wins, hall of fame inductees and their records will likely go unbroken for decades. The gentlemen consistently preached sportsmanship to their athletes. However, seldom there was a time as aforementioned when I and others had no care for the “handshake”.
I believe true sportsmanship is the “right thing” to do at all time, even during defeat, and without the handshake we are not humbled.