Monday, April 4, 2011

Respect for Opponents and the Postgame Handshake

I've been thinking some lately about the practice of shaking an opponent's hand after a game, and wondering whether--as Randolph Feezell and Craig Clifford put it in Sport and Character--" the end of the game, should we always, without exception, attempt to shake the hands of our opponents (p. 36)?"

My intuition is to say that there can be morally justified exceptions to this practice. For example, as a player I would think it would be justified to refrain from this practice if an opponent has clearly intentionally injured one of my teammates. Or if an opponent consistently displays deep disrespect for the game, officials, and her opponents, is there something disingenuous about shaking her hand after the game?

Or take a case that is less clear, but one that I've been thinking about lately for personal reasons. As a coach in youth sports, am I obligated to shake the hand of my opposing coach if he or she spends the entire game berating their own players, criticizing the referee, and engaging in other patterns of disrespectful behavior?

The bottom line question is this:  Is the respect that is communicated via the postgame handshake dependent in some sense on how an opponent conducts themselves, such that there are times when it is appropriate to refrain from this tradition? Thoughts, anyone?