By now you’ve seen the viral video of University of Michigan head basketball coach Juwan Howard’s altercation with Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft in the aftermath of a game between the two teams. Howard has been suspended for the rest of the regular season, and it has called into question the need for the postgame handshake line. Hall of Famer and Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing would like to see the tradition eliminated. He discussed this on Tuesday on Toronto’s “Smith & Jones” SN590 The Fan radio show:
“I don’t like the handshake line. I don’t like it because anything is possible. You’re just getting through a heated battle, a heated game and anything can happen to make things worse, which is what happened in that situation. If it’s my call, I think we should just take away the handshake line. Just do like we did last year in COVID. You wave bye and you move on.”
The incident took place in the postgame handshake line when Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard put his hands on Howard after Howard voiced his displeasure over a timeout Gard took late in the game.
We are here because of a late game timeout and some “unwritten rule” about what?
Howard warded Gard’s hands off him shouting, “Don’t touch me, bro,” and that’s when things between both sides escalated. Krabbenhoft entered the fray and was snuffed by Howard.
— Paul Ross (@pauleossi) February 22, 2022
This entire matter is so ridiculous, but every pundit will use it as an avatar for their position in the ongoing culture wars ripping at the fabric of humanity.
We do this thing in sports where we equate games to war. Every contest is a high-stakes battle with seemingly real consequences. It’s asinine, and we in the media are partly responsible for it. We have to explain these games through stories and analogies, and given our collective violent history as human beings, war is the accepted analogy.
Given what’s going on right now in Ukraine as the country and its people are under siege from Russia, comparing a game to that is idiotic. There are real stakes in war. Life and death far outweigh wins and losses.
So, Ewing gets no points for his tired cliché use. But the idea of removing the handshake line has some merit. Why not just wave like many coaches in the NBA do? If players want to exchange pleasantries with each other, fine. But this forced notion of showing “sportsmanship” and being “gracious in defeat” is tired and played out.
If someone isn’t gracious why fake it? Why not simply remove yourself from the situation and stew in the locker room or wherever?
Sports holds an outsized amount of importance in society relative to the actual benefits provided. The idea that it is a “teacher of life lessons” and a model for other areas of life is wildly overstated.
Sure, in their purest most idealistic state, sports can at times be that. But more often than not they aren’t. Sports are played, coached, managed, and run by imperfect human beings who make mistakes all the time. There are examples of abhorrent and indecent behavior from all individuals involved at all levels of sports from pee wee to the pros.
In this incident everyone is at fault. Gard for putting his hands on Howard. Howard for retaliating. Krabbenhoft for entering the fray and escalating the situation, and every other individual whose primary objective wasn’t deescalation.
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