Last week the Lakers' Pau Gasol and the Clippers' Chris Paul got into a kerfuffle, which the Spaniard attempted to defuse with a pat on Paul's head. Paul took exception and returned the gesture with significantly more impact, creating the latest cross-cultural sports misunderstanding. Anyone who watches European soccer knows that head pats are a part of the lingua franca, even if they don't always fly Stateside. Last year the Red Bulls' Thierry Henry—a vet of England and Spain—drew a straight red card after patting an opponent's head. Henry was aghast; "inexplicable," proclaimed G.M. Erik Soler. Then again, Henry (a Frenchman), Soler (a Norwegian) and team owner Red Bull (an Austrian company) are all from Europe.
This is an article from the Feb. 6, 2012 issue