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5/14/2007 01:16:00 PM
Best Traditions in Sports
The NHL's handshake line is a monument to good sportsmanship.
Tim Smith/Getty Images
By John Rolfe, SI.com
Change is forever the norm in the world of sports, so a great tradition can be comforting as well as stirring. Each sport or major event has its rituals that allow us to pause, honor, or simply savor something -- like the sight of the Masters winner donning an ugly green jacket, or the sound of My Old Kentucky Home as the field for the Kentucky Derby makes its way to the starting gate. Sometimes a tradition is just a good idea that wasn't broke and didn't need fixing -- like the manual scoreboard in the Green Monster.
History matters in all sports, and traditions can bring the past back to life for a few moments, or remind you what's really great about sports in the first place.
Here are my five favorites:
5. The handshake line: It's always heartening to see good sportsmanship on display. The NHL allows you to marvel at how 40 players who have been beating each other's remaining teeth out for four playoff games or more will line up after the final horn of the series and, despite all their previous intensity and animosity, exchange handshakes instead of punches.
4. Olympic closing ceremony: The handshake line writ large. In a world so full of strife and conflict, it's good for the soul to see hundreds of the planet's best athletes break national ranks and jovially mingle after weeks of pressure and deathly-serious competition.
3. Thanksgiving football: As any tailgater worth his salt-shaker knows, pigskin was made to go with gluttony, and no day is made for gluttony like Thanksgiving. With the Lions so often in the dumper, the annual game in Detroit is usually a turkey that is done by halftime, but there are two other courses on the menu now. And in the realm of good, clean fun, it's hard to beat a game of backyard touch football before settling in front of the TV to scratch, belch contentedly and give thanks for the NFL.
2. Retired numbers: Ever since the Maple Leafs (Ace Bailey's 6 in 1934) and Yankees (Lou Gehrig's 4 in 1939) ushered in the tradition, retirement ceremonies have given teams and fans one more chance to appreciate and honor their legends by placing their numerical identities, if not their accomplishments, out of reach of other players. And those numbers on the outfield wall or hanging from the rafters are a real nice source of pride and reflection that you can be savor any time you're at the game.
1. Stanley Cup on the road: How cool is it that a major pro league allows its historic championship trophy to spend a day with each member of the winning team? The tales of the Cup's travels during the past 80 years or more are legion and legend -- at the beach, in strip clubs and bars, visiting nursing homes and players' high schools, and even floating in Mario Lemieux's swimming pool. The concept makes the old punchbowl truly the people's trophy.
OK, that's my top five. Let's have yours. Which traditions do you enjoy most?
Joe,while it is quite noble of you to recognize that deaf people should be given the opportunity to participate in sporting events ( I know he meant sing ) the drinking of milk by the winner of the Indy 500 has to rank up there. By the way , any sport that has a coxswain in it can't help you with the ladies. Just ask Rob Lowe in "Oxford Blues".
how about the champaigne shower after each F-1 grand prix, as well as the crew cheering when their pilot wins the race (personally i think its more interesting that than some milk from Indy but then again, americans think that nascar is very interesting...wow i can drive in a circle, look at me!!)
Obscure to many I'm sure, but an old one! The painting of the canoe in the infield pond at historic Saratoga Racecourse. Following completion of the annual Travers Stakes, the oldest stakes race in the country, the canoe is painted the colors of the winners silks. This year will be the 138th running (compared to this past Derby 133.) of the Grade 1 Stakes Race, affectionately referred to as the Mid-Summer Derby. Will we see a Triple Crown winner at the Travers this year???
these are going to sound weird from a guy that doesn't like hockey all that much: the tradition of the winning team not touching the conference champion trophy when they advance to the stanley cup is awesome. it shows what really matters to them.
the national anthem before a chicago blackhawks game. the crowd cheering throughout gives you chills.
tailgating at a iowa hawkeye home football game is the stuff of legends. only place i have ever seen it outdone was at a packers game. michigan, florida, ohio state, texas can't even imagine what tailgating is supposed to be. an iowa game is the only place you will see a fan haze the crap out of a visiting fan only to offer them a brat, a beer, and a chair to hang out with them. class.