Daily Cover: An Ode (and Wave Goodbye) to Sports Handshake

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Did you know today is National Handshake Day? That's right. On the final Thursday of every June, people across the nation observe National Handshake Day.

Well, probably not this year. And maybe never again.

A handshake is an introduction. In sports, it’s also a congratulatory good-bye, whether it’s the traditional postgame handshake by football coaches or the time-honored tradition of two players in tennis walking to the net following a match.

In the mid-2010s, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb celebrated touchdowns with understated shakes of the hand. There was nothing understated about Brett Favre putting it in the old vice.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested we wave good-bye – forever – to the handshake.

“I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again,” Fauci said in April, because abandoning the ancient practice would not only curb the spread of the coronavirus, but it would dramatically decrease flu cases in America. “Just forget about shaking hands. We don’t need to shake hands, we’ve got to break that custom.”

With coronavirus maintaining its grip on most of the world, Steve Rushin wrote an ode to the handshake for Thursday’s Daily Cover.

Former Marquette basketball coach Al McGuire called these increasingly elaborate greetings “Knights of Columbus handshakes,” as if they were the secret greetings of a fraternal order, a signifier of solidarity—which they often are.

Paul Molitor, for one, developed a secret handshake with his Brewers teammate Rob Deer, and he credited it in part for his 39-game hitting streak in 1987. At the beginning of that run, during a game in Chicago, the two hitters failed to shake hands, and Molitor started the outing 0-for-4. But they shook before his fifth at bat, Molitor got a hit, and off he was! (This can work in reverse, too. Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg shook hands with heavyweight champion Joe Louis in New York in 1939, and immediately he went into a slump.)

For more on handshakes, from Babe Ruth to American and Russian astronauts, CLICK HERE FOR THE DAILY COVER.

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