Peterson: Now is the time to show good sportsmanship in other ways than a firm post-game handshake
It’s sad, very sad, that it takes a pandemic to open our eyes to something that, even before most of us knew of coronavirus, COVID-19 and social distancing, has become mostly out-dated.
Ever wonder why athletic teams and coaches shake hands after spending a few hours beating each other’s brains out?
You’re not alone, so once college football starts up again — and yes, I’m optimistic that it will happen in some fashion in the fall of 2020 — at least temporarily, scrap the post-game rite of acknowledging your enemy. Even if it’s determined OK to play college sports again — eliminate shaking hands after games until our world becomes healthy again. There's got to be other ways to show good sportsmanship.
They don’t do it in the NBA. Major league baseball teams don’t shake with opponents after games. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci came out against handshaking during a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Really, it’s just common sense.
If teams must acknowledge a game well-played, then line up on the football-field numbers, face the opponent and then wave. In basketball, line up on the free throw lines and wave.
Do anything to show good sportsmanship after games — just don’t shake hands or hug for a while.
When college football kicks off again, players and coaches should head directly to their respective locker rooms upon a game’s conclusion. Don’t greet the opponent in the center of the field.
We get it that most everyone likes to play nicey-nice, but if elimination of post-game handshakes helps get us back to a normal lifestyle — that seems minimal in the pandemic scheme of things.
For our local teams, that’s easy. The home teams at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames and Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, hang out on the side of the field with direct routes to their locker rooms, anyhow. Post-game intentional or unintentional bumping into an opponent doesn’t need to happen.
That changed at Iowa State recently, but it was only partially to avoid running into the other team while en route to the locker room. It also was because coach Matt Campbell’s Cyclones, like many teams, signal plays from sidelines to quarterback. Moving to the press box side of the field was to keep cagey opposing coaches from stealing those signs from their comfy press box seat.
That changing of sides before the 2017 season came too late to prevent a dustup between a West Virginia star and Iowa State’s defensive coordinator during halftime of a 2012 game at Jack Trice.
That’s when Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith ran into Wally Burnham as the teams crossed paths while heading toward their locker rooms.
"I was just walking," Burnham said then. "He pushed me."
One of the first Cyclones on the scene was Wally's son, Shane, who coached defensive tackles.
"We were holding for the West Virginia team to clear the field," Shane recalled during a 2012 interview. "There was some extracurricular activity after the last play of the half. Geno didn't appreciate something by somebody, and he took out his frustration on dad, so I reacted.
“Part of it is that it's your dad, and part of it is it's your Iowa State brother. It was family and football family for me. It was a double whammy. I might have said a few choice words to him."
After the game, Cyclones linebacker Jake Knott tweeted:
G. Smith trying to push over Coach W Burnham at half was the most classless thing I've seen. Esp. from a "leader" #GrowUp
Did Smith apologize to Wally after West Virginia’s 31-24 victory?
"You think so?" Burnham responded.
I took that as a heck no.
Banning the shake would have prevented the uncommon scene after Iowa’s 84-73 men’s basketball victory against North Dakota in 2016 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. With the outcome already sealed, a North Dakota player nonetheless tried to steal the ball with 3 seconds left.
That led to some irritability, which led to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery not shaking hands with the opposing coaches (two of whom were former Hawkeyes), and seemingly motioning his players toward the locker room.
"Whenever there's a contentious situation, I'm always worried about (what might happen in the handshake line),” read McCaffery’s quote in the Register.
There was this ugliness after Iowa’s 21-7 victory against Iowa State in 1992 at Kinnick Stadium. You think the teams don’t like each other much now? Here’s what Hawkeye Bret Bielema told then-Cyclones coach Jim Walden (also sometimes a free-talker) after the game near midfield.
“You’ve been a big (expletive),” said Bielema, who went on to become head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas. “I’ve enjoyed kicking you’re a-- the past five years.”
Television cameras caught the exchange. The Register’s Marc Hansen wrote about it.
Ban the Shake (if only temporarily while our world recovers), and none of this happens.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.