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  • Reverend James Squire

Shaking Hands Is An Important Ritual

Updated: Feb 4, 2021



The Super Bowl is this Sunday. There will be a lot of hype before, during, and after the game. There is something that should be highlighted more. It is what comes before and after the game. Before the game after the coin toss the designated captains of the teams will shake hands with one another. After the game the winners and losers will mill around each other on the field with embraces and the shaking of hands once again.


The shaking of hands is an important ritual. The history of it is something more than just sportsmanship. I have always been taught that you are thanking the other team for the OPPORTUNITY to compete and to play the game. We have lost this primary moral action in our culture. At least some have, but perhaps not all.


Another thing that has been lost is the shaking of hands between the Democrats and the Republicans. Both are needed to have a democracy. We need a strong Democratic Party and a strong Republican Party in order to have a strong democracy. Perhaps after taking the British version of their court system as a good model for our own, we should take that phrase the “loyal opposition” from them to describe our political parties with an emphasis on the ethical value of “loyal”. Here I mean the dictionary definition of “loyal” which is “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.” This means support and allegiance of a two-party system.


We need a return to the virtue of “loyalty” and “support” for the opposition and not just our own political party. A democracy implies that you need two in a two party system. Can you imagine if either political party thought that they should thank the opposing party for the OPPORTUNITY to have a democracy like ours where checks and balances are just as important as the majority rules.


I know that Trump has attempted to buy the Buffalo Bills Football Team. He would be a terrible owner. Can you imagine him adhering to that moral maxim of Grantland Rice, the American sportswriter, that “It’s not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game?”


He has said a lot about winning in his presidential campaign. The statement that sums up his declarations about winning is “you are going to be winning so much that you can’t believe it.” I don’t believe, from what I know about his cheating in golf, he would adopt the value of sportsmanship which is one of the key virtues of EA. It is one of our stripes of character. Trump is confused about what winning really means. His definition of winning is “domination and humiliation”. He has proven that over and over during his four years as President.


I am afraid that his attitude has rubbed off on too many coaches. I think first of Nick Saban and the Alabama Football Team. He beats a lot of teams by a whole lot to a very little. I have been in some games where that has happened to me when I have been on the “very little” side of the score. My team and I didn’t have the feeling of losing as much as we felt humiliated and certainly dominated by our opponent who had a lot.


I would like to see a return to the days when a team was ahead by enough that you know that they would win. Then they would put in anyone who had a uniform on. It gave the 3rd stringer an OPPORTUNITY to play. If you were on the winning team, you could celebrate your winning and if you were on the losing team you could celebrate that your loss was an OPPORTUNITY to learn from what transpired on the court or field. You would feel badly that you lost, but you never felt humiliated or dominated by the opponent.


Other presidents who lost an election didn’t feel humiliated or dominated although certainly the lost hurt. Could it be that Trump could not bear the thought of shaking President Biden’s hand which would mean saying thank you for the opportunity to run against you? His world is inhabited by enemies not opponents. Why else would he prefer domination and humiliation?


I wish we had a little less hype before the Super Bowl and a lot more explanation for why the players would shake hands. Can you imagine how that would affect people, particularly the young people in our country, and what it means to be the “loyal opposition”. Both teams are needed or there will be no OPPORTUNITY to play the game.


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