Is the sportsmanship of a handshake a myth? A follow-up to the handshake-line column

Here's a quick follow-up on the handshakes/sportsmanship column that I wrote for Wednesday. One reader e-mailed to say that the handshake lines "are a joke." He has been on the field and witnessed them and says that "the handshake line promoting good sports is really a myth."

In one way, he's right. Although I'm on the field after games all the time and I often see members of the opposing teams chatting, I know that there can be some raw emotions in the handshake lines.

But here's why I think the handshake lines are still important:

The "good game" part doesn't have to be sincere. Simply by gritting your teeth and following through with a civil ending to a hard-fought achievement or disappointment, you are learning a valuable trait for adulthood. You must carry yourself with dignity in order to be treated with dignity. As a reporter, if I responded in kind to some of the people I've encountered over the years, I wouldn't have a job. I would have an ulcer.

It's the same in many professions, I'm sure. It's something we all have to learn in life.

The handshake line is a sign that the game is over and it was just a game. It doesn't have to be pie-in-the-sky hugs all around for the players, but if we can't trust athletes to handle a simple hand tap and then move on, then athletes aren't learning the best lessons sports can offer.

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