Sports are a medium through which athletes learn lessons of character: how to work hard towards a common goal with others, how to communicate effectively with peers and those in authority over you, and how to master excelling in the little things to achieve something great.
Perhaps the most important lesson is how to accept defeat graciously, something that Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard forgot to do on Sunday afternoon.
After losing 77-63 to the Wisconsin Badgers, Howard slapped Badgers head coach Greg Gard in the handshake line after the game. A scuffle ensued, three players received one game suspensions, and Howard received a five-game suspension and a $40,000 fine.
As can be expected, viral and unexpected incidents like these elicit numerous knee-jerk reactions, and one of them was suggesting that the handshake line at the end of games be removed completely from postgame activities to prevent incidents like this from happening.
Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo thinks this is a preposterous idea, and said so in a press conference on Monday:
“We’ve already taught these poor 18-year-olds that when you’re told to go to class and you don’t like it, you can leave. We’ve already told these kids if you’re not happy, you can do something else,” Izzo said. “We’ve already told these kids that it’s hard to hold them accountable. And now, we’re going to tell them to not man up and walk down a line on someone who’s kicked your butt and have enough class to shake their hand is utterly ridiculous…Not shaking hands is typical of our country right now."
He is absolutely right. Today’s generation of high schoolers and young adults have been taught that they are entitled to whatever makes them happy, that they can run from anything painful, and that they do not have to act maturely when things do not go their way. Shaking hands with an opponent that has defeated you is something that is an attempt to ingrain that lesson in the young men who play sports.
But because one mini brawl happened, the first solution that people come up with is removing the gesture altogether. That will not solve anything. What should be happening is that we demand better character out of our coaches and athletes, and expect that they do not act like spoiled brats when they do not get what they want. If we do this in sports - and in America at large - we will have a generation of young adults that can give us hope for the future.
Who would have thought that a college basketball coach would be able to so accurately diagnose a major problem within our country?