Scooter Hobbs column: Don’t shake off civility

Published 12:51 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022

There seems to be enough trouble in the world these days.

I won’t go down the entire list, much of it in the sports sphere. But it’s lengthy, and suddenly begs the question: Can’t we all at least just shake hands?

Maybe you saw the postgame dust-up after the Michigan-Wisconsin basketball game on Sunday.

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One coach, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, acted the fool, and the other, Wisconsin’s Greg Gard, didn’t exactly do himself proud in the postgame handshake line.

It didn’t exactly ignite World War III, but it was ugly enough when the jawing was capped with Howard reaching over for an open-handed slap-and-grab at the head of a Badgers’ assistant coach.

He was probably aiming at Gard, who probably should have kept walking instead of invading Howard’s “personal space,” as they say, in an attempt to explain why he called the late timeout that so offended Howard and inspired naughty language and finger wagging.

But players from both sides followed the examples of their adult supervision and started swinging and flailing wildly.

For Howard to say in his defense that he felt “threatened” and needed to “defend himself” was certainly being a bit of a drama queen.

To his credit, though predictable, the next day he had a more lawyered-up response expressing some regret for his actions and the example they set.

But Howard, who’s known as a good fellow off the court but has had other anger-management issues courtside, probably got off light with a Big Ten-mandated suspension for the rest of the regular season and a $40,000 fine.

No less an icon than the late Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes who got fired because of a slightly more egregious incident when he went after and slugged an opposing Clemson player.

Wisconsin seemed to delight in announcing that it planned to pay the $10,000 slap on the wrist the conference hit Gard with.

The Big Ten seems satisfied. Fine.

The overreaction, it seems, is coming about the concept, not the incident.

It’s tricky. But the answer is NOT, as many have suggested, to eliminate the traditional postgame handshake from basketball and all sports, maybe including curling.

What it was was one regrettable incident. Sure, there have been others. But I don’t detect an epidemic of mixed-martial handshakes. Even fist-bumps for the most part are executed with no bloodshed and precious little bruised feelings.

Yet critics have decried it as a prime example of why the after-game handshake is not only outdated and useless, but was a silly exercise to begin with and a sure recipe for disaster in today’s world.

Stop it. Just stop it. We can do better than this.

If the answer to an occasional problem is to eliminate a traditional show of postgame sportsmanship across the board, then we’re giving up on society too quickly.

Sportsmanship is in short enough supply as it is these days. Much cooler, it seems, to celebrate your own small victories by getting up in your opponent’s face and letting him know all about it.

It doesn’t appear we’re getting that genie back in the bottle anytime soon.

And, in the overall scheme of things, a mere handshake and the formal postgame procession probably wouldn’t be missed.

But it’s worth salvaging for a civilization that considers itself civilized.

Maybe this latest incident can even fall under that trendy “opportunity for consciousness raising” for the whole dilemma.

At the end of our nation’s bloodiest and most bitter chapter, the Civil War, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee managed to shake hands at Appomattox with some decorum.

We should expect nothing less from a dadgum basketball game.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at