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Sports Authority

Shake hands before the game

| Monday, October 14, 2019

The art of a good handshake.

I suspect that this phrase hardly staggers readers. A commonly recycled part of our lexicon, this paradigmatic idea, at surface level, seems paradoxical. How could a human gesture so straightforward have intrinsic artistic value? The audacity of America to taint something so aesthetic, steeped with generations of inspired pioneers, with a simple slap of the hand! Certainly we ought not deem ourselves so uncultured!

Nevertheless, Americans share a far less narrow conception or art. The young musician at a local coffee house unveiling a new acoustic cover, voice cracks and all. The amateur photographer’s latest attempt at panning, an obscure mix of blur and color. A young millennial’s recent blog update on their experience at Starbucks.

Albeit far from the grandiose masterpieces that merit the real estate of multi-story museums or record labels, the genuine expressions of how we, as humans, understand the world around us deserve distinction as uniquely artistic.

Under this logic, then, extending a hand to individuals, known or unknown, acts no differently. We invade the personal space of a new acquaintance, offer a cultural sign of respect, and gain respect in return. Put simply, we show the people around us that we care.

This sentiment falls by the wayside in the heat of a sports rivalry, and understandably so. During my days of Minnesota hockey, I stepped on the ice with the expectation to hear unspeakable attacks on my abilities, my girlfriend and my sisters. Amidst the distant screams and chants of fans, if I ever hoped to talk trash (an utter imperative, otherwise what would you ever talk about on the commute home?), I needed to know how to grit my teeth and bear it, too.

Adrenaline surges, the atmosphere roars and yells from behind the bench only intensify. A cloud of hysteria pervades the arena, and with everyone at peak performance, nothing stands in my way.

Bodies clatter against the glass. A quick retaliating blow as I skate through the collision with a defamatory cuss. Did he just spit in my face?

By the time the dreaded final buzzer sounds, the contest now feels personal, provocative, undeniably bigger than a mere game. And yet, I pick up my head, force my emotions to fall back to earth and congratulate the enemies I’ve made in the course of two hours.

Current and former players know the story, one that seemingly rewrites itself at the threshold of sports’ newest era of trash talkers. Sure, rivalries teach us to defend ourselves, but in many cases, the abusive repercussions of confrontational sports reduce to rubble the possibility of genuine appreciation for opponents.

The world deserves to bring the art of a good handshake back to sports. No matter the brawling, no matter the trash talking, everyone deserves to receive some sort of genuine recognition for their play. While certainly not the traditional postgame gesture of “good game,” at least with a preliminary expression of “good luck,” fans, teammates and opponents find rest in knowing that every kid in that line means it. Several hockey leagues across Minnesota now value this mutuality, but for the sake of our next generation of artists across the country, every contact sports organization should feel compelled to follow suit.

After all, without expressing that we, deep down, care about our bitter rivals, what makes the two hours of trash talking, mocking and fighting worthwhile anyway?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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