Today because I was antsy before the 3:30pm playoff game, I tuned in to some inconsequential college basketball game between two teams I didn’t care about whatsoever. One of them was Oklahoma and I don’t remember the other. Well I’ve commented on this before, but I’m growing concerned about what I see as the inappropriate affect demonstrated by athletes in all sports celebrating a nice play. It used to be that a nice basket, or a TD, or a homerun or a goal was celebrated by a small acknowledgment by others that you’d done nicely. Originally, it may have been a simple head nod from a teammate – as if to say “that was nice, but it is your job too, so I’m not going to go overboard here”.
Eventually, that gave way to the high five and some more overt demonstration of joy. I think of 60’s or 70’s basketball players with socked jacked up to their knees and shorts that were little more than glorified jock-straps. I think of their high fives after a nice play – maybe an awkward jump into the air of jubilation. That’s about it. Still, back then positive plays were generally met with smiles, happiness, joy.
Fast forward to the last decade or so and something has shifted. It’s rare for an athlete now to make a great play and show a form of joy or happiness afterward. What you see instead is a painful fist bump or an even more painful chest bump coupled with the inevitable face of anger. Lots of aggressive pointing, screaming. No smiles, no happiness, just a portrait of anger despite the positive play.
As I was watching the game today, after a particularly nice basket by one guy, his teammate ran full speed and offered a chest bump – a collision that the guy who scored will feel tomorrow – and then they both made angry, defiant faces at one another. What were they so angry about? His basket was in fact a critical basket in the game.
So anyway, this has made me start to wonder, what will be next in this line of inappropriate affect celebrations? There has been a progression (regression?) from minimal acknowledgment to muted joy to outright joy to apparent anger. What’s next then? How about a punch right in the face? Guy scores a fade away 3 pointer to win the game, or makes a one handed TD grab – how about sprinting over and taking a swing at him? Then maybe spit on him. Seems possible. Seems it would convey the apparent anger that some of these guys want to convey in a far more direct an efficient way.
Funny flip-side to this whole thing is that when these same athletes screw up seriously hurting the chances for their team what do they do? Smile of course.