When we say Senior Writer Curry Kirkpatrick had a large hand in this issue, we're just trying to give him a fair shake. Kirkpatrick has spent much of the last month pressing flesh, giving skin and slapping palms all over the land. The result of this study of clasping style and technique, the definitive work on the sporting handshake, begins on page 62.
Kirkpatrick has witnessed all kinds of shakery in his 15 years on the SI staff—at one time, he insists, he had the grip on every grasp. And though he says he can't remember the first high five he ever saw, he does have a theory about its origin. "Everybody thinks Magic Johnson got his name for his ball handling," says Kirkpatrick, "but after talking to people around his hometown of Lansing, I believe Johnson came out of the crib nailing everyone in sight with high fives [they were actually low fives at the time]." This, says Kirkpatrick, was perceived as the beginning of some strange magic trick. Hence Johnson's nickname. So the inventor of the shake, Kirkpatrick concludes, was Magic. Unless it was Fozzie Bear. Or a girls' volleyball team.
Kirkpatrick recalls John Thompson, the Georgetown basketball coach, advising colleagues not to try fancy shakes when recruiting in the ghetto. "Just go regular," he'd say. "The kids are starting to resent it. The shakes are their own." Besides, the recruiters were doing it wrong.
Following this advice, Kirkpatrick went regular, too, though he will on occasion unleash an unpretentious little inside slap five with fellow writer Ted Green of the Los Angeles Times. "One of us will say something clever or hilarious—usually me," Kirkpatrick says, "and it's instant skin," a practice, he notes, that tends to raise eyebrows in such places as the press marquee at Wimbledon.
February 16, 1981
Kirkpatrick doesn't know who the slaphappiest SI staffer is, though he says Photographer Walter Iooss Jr. used to have quite a repertoire. "But he has become too big a name," Curry laments. "He won't shake anymore. His hands are too valuable."
As for two of Kirkpatrick's most recent subjects, Bjorn Borg and Bum Phillips, he just gives a shake of his head at their lack of interest in or talent for the shake of the hand. Curry says Borg just goes Swedish normal. And Bum would rather tip his Stetson.
Some of the finest shaking, on the other hand, is to be found on one of Kirkpatrick's regular beats, college hoops. He disagrees with those who claim the best basketball is in the ACC or Big Ten. "The best is where the best high fives are," he says. "Probably the Southern Intercollegiate conference. They say Morris Brown goes about nine deep in great shakers."
But even on Hilton Head Island, S.C., Kirkpatrick's home, good shaking abounds. He's pictured below checking out the style of tennis player Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who lives several miles down the beach. Kirkpatrick figured she could show him some exotic Australian numbers, outshakes from the outback, so to speak. But she's pregnant again and said she's trying to stay away from heavy physical exertion.
Kirkpatrick's most important research, however, is still to come. "I'm really getting deep into my next big assignment," he says. He intends to get to the bottom, once and for all, of the touchdown spike.