I enjoy a game of tennis every week.
At the end of each set the four players meet at the net, try to say something witty to partner and opponents, and we shake hands.
Of course it’s only social – just a few old blokes hitting a ball around. There’s nothing at stake, no money involved and no months of hard training required. But we try our best to win each set and even get angry and frustrated when we don’t play as well as we think we should. Heated words are sometimes directed at ourselves, never at partners or opponents.
This weekend most of us watched two football Grand Finals, the Australian Rules ‘AFL’ final won by Sydney Swans and the rugby league ‘NRL’final won by Melbourne Storm. As the final siren sounded in each game, we TV viewers were treated to scenes of the jubilant winners hugging each other while the losers were left slumped on the ground. Not once did we see the simple gesture of the losers and winners exchanging a handshake. If it happened, the TV director didn’t consider it worth showing.
Yes, when things cooled down and we went to the presentation ceremonies the winning and losing captains remembered to congratulate their opponents. But straight after the game – nothing.
At the NRL presentation there was another bit of ugliness as the umpires were presented with their medals – and roundly booed by a substantial proportion of the crowd. The announcer was forced to make a little shamefaced joke – ‘They really love you guys, this is just their way of showing it.’
Shaking hands with opponents after the game is par for the course in tennis, golf and cricket and we saw it often in the Olympic Games. In years past I’ve played serious competitive hockey and, at the end of a match, shaking hands with the guy you’d been trying to smash for 70 minutes was absolutely the expected thing.
Is modern football simply too intense? Is it the physical contact? Or am I missing something here?