Folk Ritual – Los Angeles, California

Sportsmanship Ritual

At the end of the game, whether the team had won or lost it was customary to give high fives to the other team and say good job.  Typically, guys shake hands, whereas, girls high five or slap hands.  The team lines up at home plate in a line and walk past one another, slapping hands and saying good game.

The informant said that doing this after a game exhibited good sportsmanship.  However, sometimes when they played their rivals, some of the girls would just walk past and not slap hands or say good game.  This said that they were bad losers—doing that was very unsportsmanlike, and the coaches would often get angry.

I see this tradition in a lot of sports and I think it’s very interesting how disrespectful and controversial it is to not give that final word of good game and the physical high five.  Someone in another culture might be baffled by this, wondering why it’s such a big deal that someone doesn’t give a high five.  I believe this physical and verbal assurance at the end of a game is important in establishing a comradery and understanding between the teams, an understanding that they were playing a game and that it was purely for fun.  The tradition emphasizes the idea that there should be no losers if everyone played well and had fun, which is a very child-like concept that many are taught from a young age.  While a competitive spirit is fostered in America, children are also taught to find a balance and remember that winning is not everything.  This tradition is just one reminder of that lesson.

See also:

Chandler, John and Fletcher, Jeff.  “Schools Dump No-Handshake Sports Policy.”  Los Angeles Times.  April 20 1994.  Page 1.