The best ritualin all of sports is the postgame handshake line in the NHL, which has thehumblest players in the four major professional leagues--suggesting that a firmgrip on reality begins with a firm grip. So let's require handshake lines inevery sport. Shaq, Kobe. Kobe, Shaq.

But why stopthere? Let's take every great custom peculiar to a sport and make it mandatoryin all sports.

Baseball willbenefit from soccer's system of promotion and relegation, as the Royals and thePirates get demoted to Triple A next spring, replaced in the big leagues by theCharlotte Knights and the Round Rock Express.

Soccer playerskick the ball out of play when an opponent is hurt, knowing that the injuredplayer's team will give the ball back on the ensuing throw-in. This quaintnotion--that it's more sporting to tend to the injured than to take advantageof them--carries lessons for the world, not just the World Cup.

Adopt golf'smatch-play courtesy of conceding putts, and we'll save time by conceding dunks(to LeBron James), second-service returns (to Roger Federer) and NFL stars (toParis Hilton). Pick that up. It's a gimme.

Every leagueshould distribute the oversized novelty paychecks presented to the winners ofprofessional tennis tournaments. It's the most appropriate way to pay A-Rod hisaverage biweekly salary of $484,615.39.

Let's follow thelead of the Indianapolis 500 and toast all great victories with a milk bath,not a champagne shower. It's good for the skin, and milk allows teetotalers,like Heat guard Dwyane Wade, to fully participate in their team's celebration.You just gave 110%, enjoy a gallon of 2%. (The lactose-intolerant are on theirown.)

Speaking of theHeat: After winning the NBA Finals last week, they didn't cut down the nets--aschampions do at every other level of basketball--because a two-dollar nylonnecklace doesn't quite cut it when you have a platinum gong on a gold rope in alocker room lockbox. From now on, all teams should celebrate titles the waythey do at lower levels of the sport. This means World Series winners will goto Dairy Queen in full uniform.

As for fulluniforms: Put one on, Bill Parcells. Why are baseball managers the only coacheswho wear what the players do? If Dusty Baker requires wristbands to manage theCubs, we should also have to endure Coach K in a tank top, Andy Reid inskintight stretch pants and Bela Karolyi in a star-spangled singlet.

If the KentuckyDerby teaches us anything, it's that all postgame interviews--in every sport,no matter the venue--should be conducted by a woman on horseback.

Anyself-respecting tennis player will intentionally hit the ball into the netafter benefiting from a bad line call. If Albert Pujols knows that the lastpitch was a strike but the umpire called it a ball, he should fan halfheartedlyat the next pitch.

Likewise, ifgolfers call penalties on themselves, why can't we stick a yellow flag in thewaistband of every NFL player so that he can call himself offside? Shouldn'thonor apply in every game, whatever the shape of the ball?

Golfers removetheir hats to shake hands after a round. Spectators at all sports events oughtto remove theirs for the national anthem. Why do so many fail to do so? It'sThe Star-Spangled Banner, not You Can Leave Your Hat On.

As for thatnational anthem, it should always be O Canada, no matter what the sport, nomatter where it's played. And not just O Canada, but the version that begins inEnglish and segues seamlessly into French.

To be fair, somecustoms are singular for a reason: They're antiquated, inane or both. Golfers,you no longer get to sic your caddies on camera-clicking spectators or cursethe beating wings of a distant moth. Silence is olden. It's time you dealt withdrunken louts clapping ThunderStix, throwing batteries and shouting shockingthings about your mother as you stand over a double breaker for triplebogey.

And until therest of us get one point for blowing a layup or two for hitting the uprights,close no longer counts in horseshoes.

Some sports havealready copied the useful customs of others. Racehorses used to be the onlyathletes who got free shoes, had all their messes cleaned up for them andenjoyed a second career at stud. Now everyone does.

See, every sporthas at least one great idea. There's a glorious tradition in the Tour de Francethat illustrates trust among competitors and serves a biological imperative.After the start of some Tour stages, the entire field of competitors pulls overen masse to urinate on the side of the road.

Think about it,NASCAR.

• If you have acomment for Steve Rushin, send it to rushin@siletters.com.

If Dusty Baker requires wristbands to manage the Cubs, we should also haveto endure Andy Reid in skintight stretch pants, Bela Karolyi in a star-spangledsinglet

 

PHOTOSIMON BRUTY

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)