"To prevent any more confrontations, the Babe Ruth League I play in has decided that handshakes will take place before, rather than after, the game."
MICHAEL WISEMAN, GLEN MORGAN. W.VA.
I agree with E.M. Swift that handshakes are an important part of sports, especially those involving young people (POINT AFTER, May 2). What bothers me is that the poor sportsmanship of youngsters is in imitation of their college and pro sports heroes.
Referees are authority figures, and when children see their heroes act disrespectfully toward those officials, they think they can show the same lack of respect toward parents, teachers, law enforcement officials et al. When college and pro sports discipline athletes and coaches with stiff penalties (multigame suspensions and sizable fines), we will begin to instill in our kids the idea that being disrespectful on the playing field doesn't pay but that good sportsmanship does.
ROB EVANS, Ridgeway, S.C.
I played Little League baseball in Los Angeles less than 10 years ago. At that time a player would be benched or suspended for taunting. And at the end of the game, if our team was fortunate enough to win, we would circle in front of the dugout after the handshake and yell, "Two-four-six-eight/Who do we appreciate?" and give a cheer for the other team. Now it seems kids would yell, "Two-four-six-eight/Who did we humiliate?"
CALEB GODDARD, New York City
Most of the lessons I learned from the sports I played as a kid came on the playground when there were no parents around. Organized sports were special, a reward on the weekend when we got to pretend to be major leaguers with real coaches, uniforms and umpires. Today it seems that the only time kids play sports is in leagues that are supervised by overly competitive parents who care only about winning. Kids don't get a chance to learn the playground lessons of working together, settling disputes on their own and sacrificing for the team.
SETH CHASIN, Chappaqua, N.Y.
Swift is way off base. I'm sorry, but mere handshakes are not going to teach kids to work together and respect one another. Furthermore, the handshakes that are forced upon these kids just add to the humiliation of a defeat for the losers. Let's face it, winning and competition are the lessons of sports. Kids don't play sports to learn valuable lessons about life. Those lessons should come from school, church and the home. Kids play sports because they want to compete and experience that unequaled feeling of being a winner. What's the point of hearing your opponents say, "Good game"? It isn't a good game when you lose. Simply put, winning is the objective whenever people step onto the playing field. If it isn't, then why keep score?
OWEN PHILIBERT, Fairfield, Conn.
I'm a 12-year-old boy, and in my youth hockey league there has been a problem of fights during the traditional postgame handshake. But can you blame the kids? After being driven into the boards by someone on the other team, no kid or adult wants to shake hands with that person. Kids are human too.
MIKE TRASK, Hamburg, N.Y.
A Fonder Farewell
As an NBA fan, and especially a Detroit Piston fan, I was appalled at the paltry two paragraphs on Isiah Thomas's last game (SCORECARD, May 2). Thomas is one of four players with 9,000 career assists, joining John Stockton, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson, and someday he will be in the Hall of Fame. He led the Pistons to two NBA championships; he was a perennial All-Star; and he was selected for the 1980 Olympic Team, which didn't go to Moscow, and for Dream Team II.
Thomas brought electricity to the game, and I will miss seeing him play.
JASON POITRAS, Baytown, Texas
Hall of Fame Dad
I enjoyed Steve Wulf's touching POINT AFTER about the son who secretly placed his father's picture in the Baseball Hall of Fame (April 4). Its curator, Ted Spencer, is quoted as saying that "the beauty of the picture lay in the anonymity. That way it's a gift to every parent who has taken the time to play baseball with his or her children."