At this very moment, Roosevelt (Shake) Speers is in the midst of inventing his new handshake, which, he claims, will revolutionize the industry. You may remember Shake because his athletic career spans much of the last two decades, in which handshaking—Speers prefers the more plebeian "shakin' "—has become the foremost evidence of a baseball/basketball/football player's style and personality, not to mention the ultimate test of his character and manhood.
Speers, of course, perfected the jumble-thumb run, blister-wrist click as a mere urchin of a rightfielder on the baseball diamond at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion High School in the Bronx. Fats Waller may have started it, but Speers perfected it. Subsequently, as history would have it, Speers developed the amazing horizontal, interlocking, gimme-skin wringing, tingling, underhand digit drill after he was recruited to be a ball-handling guard on the hardwood at Valley of the Bear Paws Junior College in Small Sandy, Mont.
After arriving in the big time, Speers initiated some spectacular welcoming moves over the next few seasons. Do you recall the pumping knuckle-knocker? His. The overlapping, no-look, monster elbow squeeze? His. The 360-degree banana-roll butt pat? His, too. How about the Hi, Mom? While breaking all records as a scatback on the gridiron for Jackson C. Jackson University at Swine Jowl, S.C., Roosevelt (Shake) Speers became an absolute legend with the Hi, Mom.
In the pros Speers wasn't so fortunate. Soon after joining the Buffalo Bills and giving birth to the high five, the low 10, the high-low five 'n dime, the upside-down fist-pounding boogie salute and Speers' personal favorite, the vertical cuticle side-nails tap 'n slap, Cashmere Bouquet reverse facial get down, the Shakin' Man was cut from the taxi squad by Coach Chuck Knox, who said Speers didn't want to pay the price.
February 16, 1981
"You know the going rate for a Checker?" Speers asked.
Things have shaken out for the best, however. As soon as Speers has perfected his newest shake—he calls it the substation zebra, semicircle, pike 'n jive, behind-the-back relaxo twirl-out, and he says it may take upward of 47 minutes actual shakin' time—the brilliant innovator should be back in heavy demand. David Wolper already has called about producing The Shaker, a documentary film of Speers' life costarring Gary Coleman and Scatman Crothers. The Shake 'n Bake people are said to be interested in some commercials. And all the TV realism shows—Hand to Hand, Those Incredible Shakes, Network Battle of the High Fives and the Emmy Award-winning Now That's A Handshake!—are lining up for prime-time spots.
After all, greetings have become quite the rage. And Shake Speers was there at the creation.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Rare is the activity as eloquent as the handclasp in revealing mood and feeling. It originated in antiquity when the right hand normally held a weapon so that, if empty, the extended hand became a gesture of welcome, of peaceful intent. Despite many campaigns against it, the handclasp has survived.
In 1880 a report of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology by Carrick Mallery came out against "the senseless and inconvenient custom of shaking hands." Mallery said the handshake was by no means popular throughout the world and added, "The extent to which it prevails in the United States is the subject of ridicule."
In 1926 Dr. Louis Harris, health commissioner of New York City, also railed against the shaking of hands, saying, "A person who has perspiring hands most often does the most shaking." This coincided with an effort in the U.S.S.R. to ban the handshake, which was supported by N.A. Semashko, the commissar of health, who said the act was one of the most potent means of spreading disease.
Ten years later the health commissioner of Baltimore, Dr. Huntington Williams, said people should abandon the handshake in favor of the bow, in the Japanese manner, for sanitary reasons. "It is more polite to keep your hands to yourself when greeting someone," said Williams. "The germs transfer from hand to hand."
In 1954 delegates to the International Health Conference in Scarborough, England were advised of a campaign "against the silly Western habit of shaking hands on every possible occasion." Dr. G.H. Chesney said, "We should copy the people of the East who more wisely bow in acknowledgment or who pat the brow. One third of the people in this country have infections in their hands."
Squiggy to Lenny on Laverne and Shirley: "Let's shake on it." The two start shaking their bodies violently.
In El Salvador the handclasp has been superseded by a hygienic salute. In Tierra del Fuego natives welcome strangers with a huge hug and a pat on the back while jumping up and down. Frenchmen and other continentals "kiss" each other on both cheeks. Israelites of old bowed to the ground seven times. Andaman Islanders bow and blow into one another's hands with a cooing sound. Some Indians near the Gulf of Mexico blow into each other's ears. Inhabitants of the former French colony of Dahomey twist their knuckles until they emit a loud crack. On the Banks Islands in the South Pacific men hook the middle fingers of their right hands and pull them away with a crack. The Ainu people of Japan make visitors welcome by rubbing their own palms together and stroking their beards.
In New Guinea there is a ceremonial sign of respect in which a man costumed as a "mother" rubs his buttocks against a "son's" leg. Eskimos, of course, rub noses. They are bewildered by the handshake; they believe that one person is helping another hold up a hand that has grown tired. Muslims shake hands with the palms open and touch breasts, foreheads and lips, signifying endearment in heart, thoughts and words. American Boy Scouts shake lefthanded—the hand nearest the heart—with the three middle fingers extended to the wrist.
Extending only the fingertips was considered rude by the Ashanti tribe of Africa. According to John McDowell, an assistant professor of folklore at Indiana University, as far back as the 16th century the Ashanti had a handshake and even an expression: "Five must lie within five."
In olden times, the conclusion of a Dutch beekeeper's business negotiations—ritualistic handslapping, high and low—produced the derivation of the term "striking a bargain."
Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 1980: "I started the high five at Michigan State and other people picked up on it. If anybody else tells you they started it, they're wrong."
Lillian Eichler in The Customs of Mankind, 1924: "The correct acknowledgment of to-day is a firm, cordial handclasp or the friendly smile and inclination of the head. The flourish, finger-tipping, and high handshaking of the last generation have passed out with other affectations."
In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower was allotted 10 minutes in which to shake hands with a group of 440 visiting newspaper editors. He barely made it through 142, but established a world indoor record of 4.2 seconds per person.
When John Connally became Secretary of the Navy, he discovered that in an hour on the receiving line at a formal reception he could shake hands with about 1,000 people, thus breaking Ike's mark by nearly six-tenths of a second. "Generally you have to do a little visiting with each person," said Connally.
Connally shook the hands of so many people in his 1962 campaign for governor of Texas—180,000, he estimated—that he developed severe calluses on his right hand. After he was shot in the ribs, lung, thigh and wrist while riding in the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas, Connally had to wear a cast over his right hand and wrist and develop a lefthanded shake. "You have to react very quickly and apply counterpressure when handshaking," Connally said. "It's an art and a science."
"My own hand is not very comfortable in the intimate society of other hands and cannot understand the necessity for these constant visitations by strange fists, fingers, knuckles, palms, nails, lifelines, lovelines, cuticle, small bones, short bristles," wrote Russell Baker in The New York Times Magazine. "I understand, of course. It is peculiarly American, as forming queues is peculiarly English and 10 o'clock dining is peculiarly Spanish."
John Unitas: "By the time you learn all the handshakes, the season is over."
In The New Cab Calloway's Hepsters Dictionary, New York, 1944: "Gimme some skin (v)—shake hands."
The onward and upward surge of magnificent and unique handshakes is obviously a further extension of black culture into American life. Big House Gaines, the basketball coach at Winston-Salem State, says, "I really think the slap five began in music rather than sports. I remember the musicians jiving, 'Gimme little skin, man.' In sports the blacks had the power handshake with the six or seven motions and the whites picked it up. I believe the slap five is one of the major contributions of blacks to our society."
Cal Irvin, a former basketball coach at North Carolina A&T, remembers the phrase "my man" from when he was a student at Morgan State and Illinois. " 'My man' meant you did a good job, and then other players would give a slap on the rear," says Irvin. "In the cities this 'my man' came into conversations. Not just among athletes but among intellectuals. If I was having an argument, say, and I made a point that was so good that in my opinion it may have won the argument, say, I would give [another man] some skin. That was an acknowledgment that I made a very good point. Among blacks it was a method of expressing themselves apart from any system. You don't see it in golf, tennis and bowling because, first, the competitors come from a higher level of socioeconomic life. Their expressions tend to be more conventional, conservative. Then, when you make a good shot in those sports, you're all by yourself. Go back to the Mexico City Olympics [in 1968] and the raised fist. Instead of being in protest, it could be used in a positive manner."
In 1968 Dr. Harry Edwards was one of the leaders of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which gave impetus to the black-glove protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand at the Summer Games. Now a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, Edwards says, "The variations on the handshake are part of African folklore, but there is little to verify-that the various shakes began in Africa, or what they meant. I've read and heard that there were certain shakes to represent fertility in the family, or long life, or bountiful crops, or just plain brotherhood. They also talk of the simple shake as representing peoplehood.
"I became aware of different shakes in the '60s," Edwards continues. "The slap shake was practical for athletes. When running from one place to another, a formal shake would require stopping, but a slap could be done on the run. Maybe the high five is similar. I remember in 1966 at San Jose State there'd be different shakes—the soul shake was what we called one—and somebody would say, 'That's not the latest.' Who decided what was the latest remains a mystery."
Ralph Boston, the former Olympic long-jump champion, says the so-called slap five began among American black athletes on the international track circuit even before 1968. "I first remember doing it with guys like Bob Hayes and Willie Davenport," says Boston. "A guy would do something good and the others would want to congratulate him. He'd hold up his hand and the others would slap it. It was a way of saying 'Good job, well done.'
"One particular incident I recall was in the Tokyo Games in '64. Our 4x100-meter relay team had fallen behind pretty badly, and Hayes, our anchor man, ran a great finishing leg to win the race. Richard Stebbins, who had run the third leg, ran out to greet him and they exchanged the slap handshake. Lynn Davies, the British long-jumper, turned to me and asked what they were doing."
Boston goes on, "It's ethnic all the way. It's not so much for black athletes as for black people, period. I regard it as part of the black vernacular. It's sort of like jive talk. Black people can communicate with each other that way no matter what part of the country they come from. Back when I was younger I could go anywhere in the country and meet a black and talk to him in jive talk, or hip talk, and there would be instant understanding. The slap five wasn't planned. It just happened."
Boston says the high five is an extension of the slap five, but he doesn't think it will replace it as a traditional exchange. "It [the high five] is sort of entertaining," Boston says, "but the slap five is like Bach or Mozart. It will be here when the others are gone."
Jack Marin, former Duke and NBA player: "The soul shakes were a measure of a new sense of liberation, a throwing off of the yoke. But a thumb-lock just to say you're anti-America? I resented it somewhat. I was still mainstream America. I didn't feel it was genuine. It made hand-slapping as difficult as dancing with a stranger."
Jeff Lamp, University of Virginia basketball player, formerly a Louisville high school star: "The University of Louisville players think they started the high five? If they think so, O.K. I don't really care where the high five began. I have never given the high five and I never will."
Hubie Brown, head coach, Atlanta Hawks: "After every game we win, I shake all our guys' hands—all straight. A man has to stay within his personality. Give a man a man's handshake and a man will have trust."
Carl Barisich, Miami Dolphin defensive tackle, formerly an undergraduate at Princeton: "We were down-to-earth, conservative. We shook hands like real men. Not like a bunch of fags."
"It seems to me that the handshake points up a sharp difference in the white and black cultures in this country," says Ben Byrd, a reporter with The Knoxville Journal of Knoxville, Tenn. "The old, traditional handclasp is the whites' way of expressing courtesy, sportsmanship, tradition, whatever—probably a way of saying that if one can't be anything else he can at least be a gentleman. Of course, I'm white.
"I doubt if that form of expression, the handclasp, fulfilled the black athlete's needs. Generally speaking, white athletes perform with a certain restraint or reserve; blacks with more verve and outward enthusiasm. A restrained, courteous handshake scarcely fitted the blacks' mood or personality. They needed something different, something that was theirs."
George McGinnis of the Indiana Pacers agrees. "It's the way we are," he says. "Like dressing up or being very flaunty. Blacks have been oppressed for so long that when they do get something, they want to show it off. It's the same way with the slapping.
"I think a lot of people think of it as a bunch of crap, but I think it carries a lot of weight. You go to a black church and you see the same kind of enthusiasm. I don't mean flaunty-flaunty when I talk about black guys dressing up. I mean they want to show people they've got something. Take a white guy who might get $30. He'll go out and buy something conservative. When a black guy gets his hands on some money, he buys something that somebody will notice. It's all part of our history as black people. Italians are somewhat like this, but to a lesser degree. When I got my first car it made me feel good. The handshake is the same way. It's part of us and makes us feel good."
McGinnis feels the exotic handshakes are extensions of affection. "You'll get a white guy around blacks, and naturally he'll want to be like 'em," McGinnis says. "He doesn't want to be an outcast and he wants to be part of the crowd, so he'll say, 'What's happenin', bro?' Then he'll go through the whole series of moves in the handshake. I've seen times when he's done it all wrong, but it didn't matter because he was trying to be sincere."
Here's how McGinnis rates the shakes of his former teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers, who as a group were partial to pounding their fists.
Doug Collins: "He always had a thing. Whenever somebody made a good play, Doug would come over and put his hand on the guy's head and shake it."
Julius Erving: "Pretty basic. He'd shake with the thumb and the slap."
Darryl Dawkins: "Your hands could die of suffocation. If you had your hand out for a slap, you always had in the back of your mind, 'Not hard, Darryl, not hard. Don't hurt me.' I once went to shake his hand in practice and he put me up over his head like a little kid."
McGinnis himself: "Basic. Slapping, but no heavy stuff."
During McGinnis' first tour with the Pacers, then in the ABA, an interracial shake between Mel Daniels and Bob Netolicky enlightened the proceedings. "They would grasp the thumb, then do the normal shake, then grab each other's fingers and pull," says McGinnis. "To finish it, they put the tops of their fingers against the other guy's and wiggled them."
According to Dawkins, by the time certain handshakes filter down from veteran blacks to younger whites, the moves are passè. "To be honest about it, I must have started most of this stuff myself, in my first life," says Chocolate Thunder. "Me and Doug Collins began a one-finger tap into the other player's palm. One time Coldcut [Dave Colescott, a rookie guard prospect from North Carolina] came over to me sayin', 'Let's shake. Hey, brother. How's it goin', brother?' I said, 'What the hell's the matter with him?' "
Simple and faithless as a smile and a shake of the hand.
—T.S. ELIOT, La Figlia che Piange
Pit Shake. Gary Bettenhausen beat Pancho Carter at Terre Haute, Ind. to win the USAC national dirt car championship, and moments after taking the checkered flag he risked serious injury while attempting a congratulatory handshake. "Pancho pulled alongside and shoved his left hand out," said Bettenhausen. "He was on the outside of me. I tried to reach out with my right hand, but our arms were about a foot short. With those wide tires we couldn't get any closer. We bumped wheels, and that's when we realized our arms were too short and we'd better give up."
The Laughing Five. John Jefferson of the San Diego Chargers caught a touchdown pass, placed the ball in the end zone grass and spun it on one end like a top. Then he looked over at his defender, pointed at the spinning ball and started laughing. Then he turned to a teammate and they slapped hands high above their heads.
Find Your Target. "This happened to me last year," says Marques Johnson of the Milwaukee Bucks. "Quinn Buckner gave me a really good pass and I went over to give him a high slap to congratulate him, you know, to thank him. But a couple of other guys went over to him at the same time. So, just as I was reaching up to slap his hand, he turned to slap with somebody else and I slapped him right upside the head. I knocked him backwards. I felt terrible—mainly stupid."
Closet Slappers. The Buffalo Sabres slap five with their padded gloves after a scoring play in practice but they rarely slap in real games.
Cartoon. In Tank McNamara an over-zealous football player begins to high-five a coach in the locker room. The coach goes with the regular handshake. The player cannot stop in time and breaks his hand on the ceiling water pipes.
Real-Life Cartoon. At Southern University in Baton Rouge, former football Coach Cass Jackson gave so many of his players the high five after they defeated Alcorn State that he suffered a chipped elbow. "The high five just about did me in," said Jackson. "But I don't mind it. I like it."
Falling Five. After defeating Andres Gomez in a grueling five-set match in last year's U.S. Open tennis championships, Mel Purcell walked to the stands to greet some friends. "Way to go, Mel," a fan yelled. Purcell then raised his arm to give a high five, swung, missed and fell into a pot of artificial flowers.
How Many? In the Sunday supplement The American Weekly of July 29, 1956, a new teen-age fad—the "Slap Me Fifty"—was described in words and pictures, a sequence that showed five ways to touch all 10 digits.
Providential Differences. Dave Gavitt, commissioner of the Big East Conference, coach of the 1980 Olympic basketball team and former coach at Providence College, says he "used to kid my players about it [the shake]. I'd tell them, 'Let's get it out of the way early because we've already lost about three jump balls getting it all in.' " Gerry Alaimo, former Brown basketball coach, who was dead set against the shake, says, "I was one of the last to change, to accept it. And I think it was one of the reasons I'm no longer coaching. If I hadn't been so conservative, so slow to adapt to things like that, I might still be coaching."
Joke. NBA player, extending index and middle fingers: "Gimme two, man. Ain't got time for five."
No Joke. In the early 1970s two members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang in Oakland met a man who had come to their house to look at a motorcycle they were offering for sale. When the man greeted them with the thumb-clasping power handshake, the angry Angels objected and beat him to death. They were found guilty of murder on Aug. 17, 1972.
Pryor Restraint. Baltimore Colt Running Back Don McCauley once met comedian Richard Pryor. "I just assumed he was going five," says McCauley. "I don't know if it's considered a Black Power handshake or what. So I went up to him and went like this, and he gave me a regular handshake. I'm usually the first one to give a regular, but I was thinking, 'Oh, Richard Pryor.' It was kind of embarrassing."
Saturation. Late last season the Dodger Diamond Vision message board at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles advised fans, upon the appearance of the answer to the baseball quiz, IF YOU GOT IT RIGHT, HIGH-FIVE THE PERSON SITTING NEXT TO YOU.
Jump Five. When the Atlanta Hawks' 5'8" Charlie Criss has a good game, 7'1" teammate Tree Rollins holds up his hand, forcing Criss to practically leap over the moon to get a fingernail on Rollins' outstretched palm.
Veto Five. Tucson Unified School District Athletic Director Bob Jones ordered that, because of one incident of postgame violence, high school football players would no longer be allowed to line up and shake hands with their opponents.
Kiddie Five. Chris Conley, five years old, of Watertown, Mass., welcoming home his father, Spence Conley, 45, after a hard day at the office:
(Right hand in air) Up High! (Left hand at knee) Down Low! (Both hands slicing at hips) Gimme, gimme stereo!
Off The Field. Pat Walker, a wide receiver at the University of Miami, says all Hurricane football players do the same thing. "I can be walking from the laundry room on campus or coming from lunch and I pass by Jim Joiner or Jim Kelly or any of them and we just slap palms above our head as we're walking. It's like 'What's happening?' " says Walker. "I can be with my girl and he can be with his girl and we do it and just keep moving."
Champion. Ralph Garr, former outfielder in Atlanta, Chicago, California and the Dominican Republic, is the perpetrator of the 14-part handshake. Count 'em, 14. Lock knuckles, pull back, release, hit back of hand, hit knuckles, hit top of hand, both elbows, both hips, both shoulders, lock knuckles again, lock thumbs. Got it. All 14? It is said whites needed only to go through four of these maneuvers to be considered friendly and "a brother" by Garr, who once uttered this monumental ode to togetherness: "You can't change the color of your skin, but when you cut the skin, everybody bleeds red."
So What Else Is New? Matt Goukas, who played in the NBA and is now a broadcaster for the 76ers, gets a feeling of dèjà vu from the pregame intros. "When I first came up, they went to slapping hands, then to fists on the shake," Goukas says. "But I remember my father telling me about Camp Brebeuf in Vermont—it was named after St. Jean de Brèbeuf, some saint who had been a missionary in Canada—where he had worked in the 1930s. The secret handshake of the camp was exactly like the soul shake in the pros—except you pulled your thumb back like a hitchhiker over the shoulder. No, there were no black guys at the camp. Are you kidding?"
Baseball free agent Lenny Randle, the Henny Youngman of the handshake: "High five? Next year maybe it will be the low five. Or how about the Indians? They used to do it with locked wrists. Remember Jeff Chandler in Broken Arrow? He couldn't act, but he had a great wrist shake.
"Once, in an NBA game, Abdul-Jabbar and Elvin Hayes were going through their routine in the center circle when the ball went up in the air. By the time they were finished, the ball was at the other end of the court, and here they were saying, 'Let's see, we kick elbows next.'
"I've seen guys hurt a finger on the hand slap, then duck down into the dugout to scream."
Baltimore Colt Center Ken Mendenhall, the Rodney Dangerfield of the handshake: "It's just something that comes and goes, I guess. They keep inventing something different. My method is just to shake hands. Nobody shakes an offensive lineman's hands, anyway. I'm not even involved in the shaking after a TD. I'm usually getting ready for the extra point. They all swarm into the end zone and I'm not even there when the scorer is running off the field. When he runs by the huddle, I might say something, but I can't go chasing guys in the end zone."
What is wisdom? What gift of the gods is held in glory like this: to hold your hand victorious over the heads of those you hate? Glory is precious forever.
—EURIPEDES, The Bacchae
Ah, the high five. None other than. Who started it? Who cares? Magic Johnson claims he did. The Louisville Cardinals claim they did. The Los Angeles Dodgers claim Dusty Baker did. Dusty Baker claims Glenn Burke did. Glenn Burke couldn't be reached for comment. Hockey players claim that they did, that it began many years ago when they started raising their sticks on high after a goal. They're all wrong. Women did. Women volleyball teams.
"I started it in college, and I'll show you the films to prove it," says Johnson, who played two seasons at Michigan State [1977-79] which culminated in a national championship for the Spartans. "I've always been an emotional player. Back in high school we'd always give five. Then in college the front line was tall and we started to high-five. On the Lakers I like to do it with Coop [Michael Cooper]."
Earlier this season, Johnson produced one of the more elaborate high fives after Cooper blocked a shot by Houston's Moses Malone. The two Laker teammates couldn't contain themselves. They executed a leaping, crashing, roaring high five. Then another, harder. A third, still harder. A high-five series. Unbelievable. And after all that, Johnson gave Cooper a hard slap on the rear end.
"If you're not afraid to give it up, if you want to get into it, I mean I want to smack you," Johnson says. "That one with Cooper was one of the better ones. Beautiful."
Not so beautiful. Johnson nearly broke Cooper's wrist. "Magic didn't hit my hand," says Cooper. "He didn't get the meat of it. But the intensity was there. Not like the traditional shake. That went out with American-made cars."
Johnson uses the high five even in moments of anger. One night in Atlanta, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar drew what he thought was an undeserved foul and began steaming around in a fury. Immediately Johnson high-fived him. Pffft went Kareem's anger. "The high five can do a lot of things for you," says Magic. Last year the rookie also was credited with inventing the behind-the-back hug after Jamaal Wilkes converted an impossible layup in a game against Phoenix. "There's a lot of ways to high-five without high-fiving," Johnson says.
The Dodgers' theory is that Baker and Burke unveiled the high five at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 5, 1977 (what other day of the month could it have been?) in the second game of the National League playoffs after Baker ripped a grand-slam home run off Philadelphia's Jim Lonborg.
As Baker approached the dugout. Burke roared out and wound up his arm in a motion spontaneously matched by Baker as the two met in an explosion of joy. "That's right, man," Baker says. "That was it. The first high five. But I didn't originate it. It's just like a rumor. You'll never find the originator of the high five, just as you'll never find out who started the shing-a-ling. But Glenn gets the credit for that one. He was from the Bay Area, and everything starts there before it gets to the rest of the world. It was a moment of jubilation. If he had slapped me across the head, I would have done the same. In those moments you don't think about what's kosher."
The Dodgers' Rick Monday says Baker is the "supreme" high-five stylist. "He's easily excitable," says Monday. "Reggie Smith is a brute-force high five. Then you have Burt Hooton. His idea of a high five is standing up and nodding. You give Tom Lasorda a high five and you get back a low elbow. He needs 30 seconds notice to go get a pogo stick. How long will the high five last? Until everybody gets bursitis."
The high five has existed a long time in women's volleyball, at least since 1970. "It was always there," says Andy Banachowski, the UCLA women's coach. "Almost like a personal thing. Each team did it a little bit differently. In volleyball you are so reliant on one another, dependent on communication. After a spike or block it was, like, a high 10. This season our girls are trying something different yet. While one hand gives the slap coming down, the other accepts a slap coming up. Then they reverse in a mirror image. It's something."
Kathy Gregory, the women's coach at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who played college and pro volleyball in the late '60s and early '70s. remembers the high 10 being most prevalent after errors.
"It was a conciliatory gesture back then." Gregory says. "If a girl hit a ball out or made some other mistake, we just went up and high-slapped her. You know, women give so much more support to each other than men do. We get more excited. We play on a higher emotional level. Our philosophy is never to get down on a teammate. I think the young teams from Hawaii first generated this spirit, the clapping of hands. Nick's Fish-market had a team that came over to play in the USVBA tournaments in the early '70s. They were just high school girls and they high-slapped all over the place. Then we all started doing it after spikes or side outs. The men? For every one high five they did, we must have high-fived a million times. No contest."
Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard, the one an inner city black from Philadelphia, the other a white farm boy from North Carolina, are playing basketball together for the fourth season at Duke University. At present they are an undergraduate comedy team specializing in ribald humor and self-deprecating one-liners. As difficult as it may be, they can almost get serious about handshakes.
Banks speaks of the "three E's. You feel enthusiasm, and by slapping hands or shaking with someone you transfer energy and that creates excitement. E-E-E. Three E's. Of course, it's ethnic," Banks continues. "It's not just a fad. People will keep inventing new handshakes until the end of time because it's a form of expression and communication. You can't have any time limit on shakin'. It's infinite. The shakes are getting so sophisticated now that you walk down the streets of New York or Philly and people are adding dance steps. You see guys shaking hands and it looks like Soul Train."
From their freshman seasons—when Duke reached the final game of the NCAA tournament—Banks and Dennard have enlivened pregame introductions with their patented "body slams."
"We just bounced off each other," says Dennard. "No shakes necessary. But we did that, too. We were getting pumped up, fired up, juiced. We have large bodies, and us slamming gave off power. Sure it's dangerous. We've come real close to hurting each other."
Before Duke, Dennard's only exposure to the intrigue of shakes was in the sixth grade, when he was bused from his Winston-Salem suburb to the integrated Carver Crest Elementary School, where some of the students had a rhyme that went something like this:
Switchblades, knifeblades, razorblades, too, if we don't win, we gonna use 'em on you.
After one year Dennard moved to King, N.C., in the country. "I was a frustrated fat little kid growing up." he says. "Not into handshakes or any of that. I was intimidated. Initially at Duke I didn't know whether to grasp or clutch, hit my chest and salute or what. Do it, and the in crowd thinks I'm suckin' up. Don't do it, and they think I'm uncool. You don't get an identity until college. My shake was the white-boy special. Then Gene said, 'Gimme a pound,' and I learned. We'd bring it all back and...whop! It was, like, making contact. Then came the body slam, our own. All these new shakes are nothing but cloned stuff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Da-dum. You know, the elbow sex and that deal."
Banks and Dennard are working on a terrific new number—a sort of charade five—in which they fake the shake up top, continue to whirlwind their arms down low, then slap and clasp in a reverse, behind-the-back position. It's guaranteed to wow them in King. "If we don't break our arms," says Dennard.
Shake Well Before...Dept. The other day near Savannah, Coach Tom Mackey of the Cathedral Day School girls' basketball team got into an argument with Referee Jimmy George during Cathedral's game at St. Michael's School on Tybee Island. The game started on a sour note when George charged Cathedral with five technical fouls because the team was late and hadn't entered its players in the scorebook. St. Michael's missed all five free throws. Later two more T's were assessed against Cathedral by George for incorrect substitutions, although one was overruled by the second ref. At this point Mackey announced he was playing the game under protest, after which George told Mackey he would have to return to his bench.
But during an ensuing inbounds play near Mackey, he allegedly wound up and hit George, knocking him, according to an eyewitness, "four feet away." George landed in Memorial Medical Center, where later he was listed in stable condition with a basilar skull fracture. Mackey was charged with disorderly conduct by the Tybee Island Police, released on his own recognizance and ordered to appear in court.
At the time George went down, the Cathedral girls' team was leading 28-2. Cathedral wound up forfeiting, thereby losing 2-0. It was believed to be the first team sports contest in recent American history in which nobody eiher gave or received the high-five.
Former Baltimore Colt Linebacker Mike Curtis once tackled a spectator who had the audacity to enter the playing field. Curtis once went to training camp when every other pro football player of any stature was staying out on strike. Curtis once and always hated the glorified handshakes and everything they stood for. During the coin flip at midfield Curtis used to greet opposing captains in very plain language before even sticking out his hand. "Regular, dammit," Curtis said. "Regular handshake."