Jim Ingraham

Commentary: Congrats? We’ve lost the game of celebrating

  • Thunder-Trail-Blazers-Basketball

    Columnist Jim Ingraham believes the high five has lost its appeal. But here are Russell Westbrook, right, and Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder executing one Thursday.



In baseball, after a batter strikes out and returns to the dugout, you don’t see each of his teammates come over to him and slap his hand.

In football, after a linebacker misses a tackle, you don’t see the other 10 players on the defense slap his hand.

I’ve never played or watched squash, but I presume when somebody who does play squash squashes poorly, that person does not accept congratulations from his teammates before attempting to squash again.

So why, in basketball, after a player misses a free throw, do all of his teammates dutifully come over and give him a congratulatory hand slap?

Who started that exercise in pointlessness, and why? How could it still be going on all these years later? Are we as a species that emotionally fragile? Do the participants in such bizarre ballet realize how rock-headed that looks?

The free throw shooter has just missed a free throw. He had a chance to add to his team’s point total, but he failed. Where does it say that merits a “way-to-go!” slap of his hand?

Before you offer the standard “It’s a way to show support for a teammate” defense, I’ll immediately counter with a respectful but firm “No, it’s not” rebuttal.


If your teammate is so emotionally feeble that a missed free throw, if not immediately followed by teammates rushing in to prop him up psychologically, reduces him to blubbering wimpery, then maybe basketball isn’t for him. Making it even worse is the fact that those same two-faced teammates are also going to rush in and slap hands with the free throw shooter after he makes one.

Talk about sending a mixed message. I would submit that you can’t have it both ways. You either slap the free throw shooter’s hand only after makes, or you slap it only after misses. Preferably you do it for neither, but you definitely shouldn’t do it for both. That’s sending a mixed message and the wrong message.

The message it sends is this: “Make or miss, we don’t care, we think you’re a swell guy, and just as phony as we are. So we’re going to keep slapping your hand for no apparent reason, every chance we get, no matter what, just because.”

Then there’s the high five, which is now officially the lamest expression of lameosity in the recorded history of geekdom. Especially when we commoners are exposed to it by TV cameras, cutting to the billionaire owners of professional sports teams wallowing in their luxury suites and mindlessly high-fiving fellow aristocrats when one of the hired hands takes it to the house.

If expressions of glee were bakery products, the high five would be fried dough.

The Indians once had a catcher named Dan Firova, who played sparingly — very sparingly: one game — in 1988. Firova lost a finger in high school shop class while cleaning a band saw. I don’t believe high fives were in vogue during Firova’s career, which was probably a good thing since the best he could have done was a high four.

Antonio Alfonseca had a decent 11-year career as a major league relief pitcher. With Florida in 2000, he led the National League with 45 saves, which is still the major league record for a pitcher with six fingers.

That’s right, Alfonseca was born with six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot.

High fives were in vogue during Alfonseca’s career (1997-2007), and he delivered, with interest, giving fellow celebrants a high six, or, if both hands were used, a high 12.

Most of the rest of us are limited to high fives only, and, if you don’t mind, I’ll pass. For me, high fives checked into the Hotel Lame several years ago, especially when the general public caught the fever.

Grandparents high-fiving grandchildren, or you high-fiving your mail carrier, your tax preparer, or your spouse begs the question, who do we think we are, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones? Can’t we do better than that?

High fives are perhaps not as annoying when professional athletes do it because, let’s face it, they’re better than us because they make more money than we do. But even with the pros, high fives stopped being original or clever years ago.

We know this because we got bored, and that’s when we invented the chest bump. Then, inevitably, the leaping chest bump, followed, in due time, by the military salute.

We have options, people! It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a high five, although I wouldn’t recommend a leaping chest bump with grandma.

Please don’t get the impression I’m anti-celebratory. To the contrary, I’m now just a few words away from my traditional column-completed moonwalk.

Forget your troubles, come on, get happy is what sports is all about.

The fist bump is not.

Don’t get me started.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or Follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.
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