By now, you’ve seen the Jim Harbaugh vs. Jim Schwartz post-game handshake showdown. Jim Harbaugh came in, even by his own admission, a little fired up and shook his hand too hard. Schwartz reacted to it in the moment. It was the type of incident that can happen on occasion, though coaches of old didn’t get into these types of incidents after games because they rarely shook hands. I’m not going to pretend that there is something unique about these two individuals, at least relative to the coaching profession.
Some writers have suggested that the post-game handshake is pointless and should just be done away with. Pete Prisco of CBS said “The NFL should do away with post-game handshake. Who needs it?” Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, beat writer covering the Cardinals, “NFL coaches should do away with silly post-game handshake. Has any good ever come of it?”
I’m an idealist, but at least I recognize my idealism. I think it’s hypocritical to promote sportsmanship, but then say that it doesn’t apply at the highest level. I also like my heroes to be cowboys and my sunsets to be beautiful. Life is full of hypocrisy, and better to not have an exchange if it is not handled sportingly. Coaches should shake hands if they want, and avoid it if they want. Don’t do it out of a sense of duty. Years ago, according to this lengthy breakdown of the tradition of the hand shake in advance of Belichick vs. Mangini, coaches didn’t shake hands. The practice became more common in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, and Jim Finks even wanted to outlaw post-game handshakes.
Football has always had competitive guys, and it’s always been about the competition. Sports is usually at its best when the opponents respect each other, though occasional spice just adds to the flavor. Harbaugh and Schwartz are just the latest spice. Let’s not act like Jim Harbaugh is breaching some dutifully observed code of conduct or that Schwartz reacted poorly relative to how other coaches would have handled it. Plenty of good coaches from the past would have had a similar exchange if they had felt compelled to shake hands after every game.
[photo via Getty]