And now for something completely different: sports rituals that need to stop

06/28/2021

I'm a huge sports fan. For crying out loud, I've even watched curling and lacrosse so no one should question my sports-spectator cred. And after spending literally thousands of hours in front of my TV screen watching pucks and rocks and balls of all sizes, I have sadly concluded that there are certain rituals in the major professional sports that, for the love of God, need to disappear.

Let's start with basketball. I don't know who came up with the idea of the time-wasting practice of a player bumping fists or shaking hands or lightly finger-touching every one of his team-mates before he takes his second foul shot, but I do know that I really want to hurt that guy. The gesture might mean something if the other players were congratulating him when he succeeds with his first shot, but all that bumping and grinding takes place whether the shot goes in or not. Please: can you skip all that moving around and maybe just yell 'well-done' or 'better luck next time, chap'? I'm guessing the non-shooting players would probably be a lot happier getting a snack or a brief rest on the bench rather than getting in line to deliver positive reinforcement to their team-mate whose $25 million dollar salary should be sufficient incentive to get that damn ball into the basket.

Now let's talk football. Love those touchdowns but I can live without the elaborately choreographed end-zone celebrations. Be men, for crying out loud. Bump chests, pat tushies, high-five 'em, anything but simulated bowling or bobsled racing or bartending or whatever other inane and/or juvenile celebrations they manage to come up with. And you coaches: how about asking your players why they're not practicing running or blocking or tackling or catching instead of spending hours coming up with these Broadway-ready theatrical performances? Can we just play football, and in the words of the immortal Vince Lombardi, when you score a TD, try acting like you've been there before?

Then there's baseball. It requires tremendous self-control and patience to sit through a game that can last 3 or 4 hours where the actual playing occupies, at most, about 30 minutes. Do we really have to waste 10 or 15 minutes watching players jogging out of their dugouts and bullpens (slowly of course, this is baseball after all) every time a pitcher throws a ball too close to the batter's rear end or the batter flips his bat in a disrespectful manner after hitting a home run or whatever other ridiculously inconsequential event motivates the players to put down their bags of sunflower seeds and suntan lotion to run out on the field to wag their fingers at their opponents? How about following hockey's example and eject those players who leave the dugout or bullpen to participate in these vapid exercises? Better yet, how about expelling anyone who doesn't throw at least one punch (that might at least make fans feel like they got their money's worth).

Hockey is not without its idiotic spectacles, witness the conga line celebration following each goal. All the players on the ice when their team scores skate past their bench, fist-bumping all their team-mates. It's done exactly the same way each and every time, rendering it both time-wasting and meaningless. To make things worse, the players often have to skate past their opponent's bench in order to get to their own, thereby unnecessarily taunting players who are already feeling angry enough about giving up the goal. What are you guys, the U.S. women's soccer team playing Thailand? Score a goal, give a quick man-hug to your team-mates on the ice, then skate politely and quietly back to your bench like the good Lord intended, okay?

Let's talk golf now, shall we? Why, oh why, does some palooka have to yell "in the hole!" each and every time a player makes contact with the golf ball? I can understand when it's a 20 foot putt, but is the screaming banchee impression really necessary when it's 350 yards to the green and no one in the annals of golf history has ever holed that particular shot?

Course officials should be empowered to evict anyone who disturbs the peace with their mindless utterings. Better yet, ban them for life from all golf courses around the world. That would be quite the deterrent, no?

Finally, there's soccer. I really don't want to comment, but people keep telling me that it's a major sport revered by fans around the world, so I guess I have to. Well, there are so many rituals in soccer that are objectionable, where to start? Is it the Shakespeare-worthy death scenes that take place every time a player touches an opponent? Or is it that virtually every goal is waved off because of an offside, a rule that requires a doctorate from M.I.T. to understand? Perhaps it's the drearily predictable temper tantrums and crying jags that inevitably erupt after the referee hands out a yellow or red card.

The fact is, what is most objectionable about soccer is soccer itself. Any sport whose post-game stats show that one team took 2 shots on net while the other might have taken 4 shots, and the final score was 0 to 0, how can you even call that a sport?

Hope the commissioners of these professional sports are listening and that they take the necessary steps to eliminate these distasteful distractions. I will happily accept complimentary season tickets (not from you soccer guys though) as full and final payment for this valuable and constructive advice.

Henry Roth

June 28, 2021