- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Still, in the sports world the five and its brethren remain in heavy rotation, timeless salutes at arenas and stadiums, and the simplest, most effective way to celebrate. But they are much more than that: They are gestures of significance, a ballet of the hands and, occasionally, changers of lives.
Watch a master at work and stand in awe. Before each start Johan Santana, the Mets' ace, struts past his teammates, smacking and fist-bumping and shimmying, as if performing a dugout Macarena, personalizing shakes for each teammate while throwing fake pitches. The innovation is ongoing (his shakes often change from week to week) and the complexity staggering—Santana is a veritable Baryshnikov of the hands, a choreographer of camaraderie.
His most emphatic greeting is reserved for fellow starting pitcher John Maine and has evolved into something akin to hug warfare. "We go to my left, then to the right three times and then three times we absolutely slap the living crap out of each other's backs," says Maine, who describes Santana as a "handshake genius." In fact, Maine says, "It's gotten to the point where, when I'm not pitching, I put my heavy jacket on so I don't feel it so bad."
Artists can be found in all sports. Just watch—sorry, witness—Santana's NBA counterpart, LeBron James, before a Cavaliers game. During player introductions, amid all manner of slapping and bumping and shoulder shaking, James engages in a solo game of charades. He salutes his teammates, shadowboxes with them, mock-bows to them and even poses them and pretends to snap a picture—or, in a variation, sets an imaginary timer and then joins them.
James and Santana are of course descendants of the soul-shakers of the '70s and the '80s, men such as former NBA giant Darryl Dawkins and former major league outfielder Ralph Garr. Garr employed a 14-part handshake, though it was said that white players need only master four segments to be considered a "brother" by Garr.
The Overheated Five
Imagine hitting a walk-off home run against your archrivals. You'd feel good, right? Real good. Well, so did Dodgers infielder Steve Sax in 1985 when he went deep against the Giants. As the crowd roared, Sax rounded second and saw third base coach Joe Amalfitano waiting, hand extended. So Sax reared back and, with one mighty low five, broke Amalfitano's hand.
"All I remember is, after I hit him, I turned around and saw him jumping up and down and I figured, Damn, he's really excited that I hit a home run!" says Sax, now a financial consultant and motivational speaker in Roseville, Calif. "I was like, Wham, and he was like, Yeeee-ahhh, and I was like, Right on, Joey," Sax says, and then pauses. "He came to the park the next day, and he had a cast on."
Indeed, one must always gauge the power of one's celebratory swat, as well as its accuracy. In February 2009, as the first half ended in a Penn State--Ohio State game, Buckeyes center Kyle Madsen hit a tough baseline jumper, turned and jogged back on defense. In a fit of jubilation, Ohio State assistant coach Alan Major stepped on to the court to slap Madsen on the rear end as he ran by—or at least he tried to. Major misjudged Madsen's speed, as a quarterback might underestimate a receiver's, and meeting no resistance for his sidewinder, toppled to the floor on his side.